Saturday, June 04, 2005

print publishing

with the pervasiveness of today's instant publishing environments (e.g., this blog) it's tough for some people to understand the process for traditional printed media. for example, with the Halo 2 Hacks book still a number of weeks away, a lot of the contributors are asking me what is taking it so long to get out.

the project has only been going for about four months. although, I've seen books produced that fast, it certainly isn't odd that we're still a few weeks away from distribution. what has happened thus far? well here's the deal...

Writing - as with online publishing, the writing schedule for non-fiction books is tight. Halo 2 Hacks was more reasonable than The Unauthorized Halo 2 Battle Guide, but it was still relatively fast. even with a single author, books are expected to be written in two or three months.

Technical Review - once the author has produced a draft, technical experts are asked to check the facts. this is often the only opportunity for contributors to check the technical accuracy of the chapters.

Copy Edit - once the manuscript is reviewed for technical accuracy, the publisher will ask one or more editors to suggest changes based on potential problems with grammar, style, etc.

Gallery Proofs - after the formal edit, the book is converted to proofs. once these are done, it becomes too costly to make even moderate changes. for example, if a serious error is discovered, the mistake is usually corrected using the same number of characters -- this preserves the existing layout and pagination work.

Distribution - distribution is relatively straight-forward, however it certainly is one of the most notable taxes that is applied to printed material. obviously, online publishing has a much simpler distribution process (i.e., keep the server running). printed books can take months to get to stores.

all of this may be straightforward to most people, but there are often other considerations. for example, if a schedule is tight (e.g., for the battle guide) each chapter might go to proof while the next one is being written. this makes it even tougher to catch errors. quite often, corrections are made when the book goes to its second printing.

it isn't the ideal scenario for an author, but print media often has to be compete with online publications. on the web it's simple and cheap to make edits -- at least it should be if the site is setup in a sane manner.

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