Editing Course: Book Publishing and Design

Unit 3 of the course is mainly theory. Luckily for me I worked as an Office Manager for a printing company for five years so I have a good understanding of the content. And, as it happens, G is a printer by trade so if I don’t understand anything I can ask him to clarify things for me.

Here are my notes:

Unit 3, Topic 1: Book Publishing and Design

Taking a book from the raw manuscript through to the finished product is a time-consuming process. It is important that the publisher/self-publisher understands the stages involved.

There may be extensive marketing research prior to starting a non-fiction book to ensure there is a market for the book.

Other questions will include the size of the publication, the format it will take (ie digital, paperback, hardcover), the length of the book, the potential audience and the retail price.

The design of the interior and exterior are also critical. These details need to suit the audience and must be reader-friendly.


This means to copy something so that it imitates or resembles the original.

The stages from creation to printing is as follows:

1. The document is created by the author.
2. The document passes through the pre-press stages.
3. The document is printed (or reproduced).

These stages are pretty basic, but there are a number of aspects to each of them. Some of them can overlap.

Naturally, the author will take care of step 1 and the substantive editor, copyeditor and proofreader will help revise and refine the work until it is as best as it can be.

Step 2, pre-press, refers to everything done prior to printing. This includes book design (cover, layout, typography, formatting, punctuation, images and illustrations), colour corrections and separations, proofing, conversion and whatever else needs to be done.

Step 3, printing, covers the printing stage, including print runs, paper used, method of printing, cost and binding type.

More on the Pre-Press Stage

Graphics and Illustrations

The following is a rough guide for resolution required for graphics in publication. DPI stands for “dots per inch”.

  • Websites require images to be 72dpi for on-screen viewing and 72-150dpi for ebook printing.
  • Newspapers and in-house publications require graphics to be 72-150dpi.
  • Magazines and colour advertisements require resolutions to be at least 150dpi.
  • Professional publications and brochures require resolution to be 300dpi.
  • Large posters and displays require resolutions of 600dpi or more.

Graphics can be captured using a digital camera or flat-bed scanner but for more professional publication, the images may need to be sent to a digital pre-press studio for high resolution scanning.

Proof Checking

Throughout the entire process the book will undergo several rounds of revision by a copyeditor and proofreader. If the book needs indexing, this can be a detailed and time-consuming process.

If proofs are printed in-house on a laser printer, they are referred to as page proofs (formally galley proofs).

Once the copy is finalised, it is sent to the printer for laying up (imposition) and the printer will make up a set of proofs. These proof sheets, set up as economically as possible, will be 4 up or 6 up on an A3 or larger sheet (it varies depending on paper size and finished print size).

The first set of proofs (master proof) will need to be thoroughly checked. The second set (revised proof) and any other set will only be checked to ensure corrections previously marked up have been taken up.

Some things to check, other than the content itself, are:

  • Top and bottom margin (also known as head and foot) – ensure they are consistent.
  • Inner and outer margins (also known as back and foredge) – the inner margin forms the gutter and may need extra space for binding.
  • Folio (also known as page number) – make sure they are consecutive and that odd page numbers fall on the pages on the right (recto) and even numbers fall on pages on the left (verso). This is also known as “pagination”.
  • Page headers and footers (also known as running heads and running feet) – ensure they are consistent.
  • By-line (the name of the author) – make sure the name and spelling is correct.
  • Bio (biography of author) – if included, make sure it is correct and is exactly how the author provided it.

More on the Printing Stage


Once the master proof or revised proof has been finalised and signed off, the job will progress to the printing stage.

If printing is to be done externally it is common practice to get three quotes. Printing costs can vary considerably depending on the job and requirements.

Things to be considered are method of printing, number of copies required, layout and paper. Colour printing will always be more expensive than black and white printing. Specialty papers will also be more expensive. As will satin art paper or semi gloss. The requirements will depend on the project. For example, a picture book usually required coated paper due to young children and their sticky fingers whereas a novel for adults would not have this requirement.

Differences in absorbency of the paper can also make a difference to the final product and this must be considered too.

Book Binding

There are a few options:

  • perfect binding
  • stapled binding
  • looseleaf binding
  • case binding

Perfect binding is when the pages are glued to a card stock cover that is wrapped around them. Most paperbacks use this method.

Stapled binding is when the pages are printed double sided and stapled together, often with a card cover and backing sheet. This method is used for tutorials and documents with less than 100 pages.

Looseleaf binding is when a person uses a method such as spiral binding, comb binding and ring binding. The pages actually remain separate.

Case binding is usually labour intensive and quite expensive. Methods used are hand binding, saddle-stitching and other prestige binding methods.

Book Promotion and Distribution

Once printed and bound, the book must then be marketed and distributed.

Many publishers and self-publishers have a marketing campaign…and budget! The extent of the campaign will largely depend on the budget available. Marketing can include advertisement on TV, radio and in newspapers and magazines. Or more traditionally the publisher/author will arrange book readings, book tours, author interviews and create a solid web presence. They will also use marketing material such as leaflets and bookmarks.

Distribution can be taken on by the publisher and self-publisher or they may decide to out source the work to a book distributor. Again, this will largely depend on finances.

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