How a book is published

Writing a book is just the first step toward getting it into libraries and bookstores.

First, you send it out to publishers to see if any of them like the manuscript. (Some people have an "agent" do this.) This can take months, even years. In Gail Carson Levine's case, it took nine years for "Ella Enchanted" to be accepted by a publisher.

Once a publisher accepts a book, the writer works with an editor to make it better. A copy editor also reads the manuscript to check for grammar, syntax, spelling, and consistency.

An illustrator is hired to design the cover of the book. Sometimes books have pictures, too.

After writer, editor, and copy editor are happy with the text, a special paperback version is printed. This is called the "galley." Sometimes the galley has a plain, thick-paper cover. Sometimes it has a full-color cover with the book-jacket illustration on it.

Writer and editor read the galley and look for any mistakes they might have missed. A copy editor reads it again, too.

Meanwhile, galleys are sent (free!) to book reviewers at newspapers, magazines, and elsewhere. The publisher hopes that the reviewers will read the book and write about it - but not before the book's publication date! That's when the book officially goes on sale. (Advance copies of the finished book are sent to reviewers as well.)

After the last change has been made in the galley, the book is printed.

Books are not printed one page at a time. Many are printed 16 pages at a time! Sets of pages are printed on big sheets - first one side, then (after the ink dries) the other.

The "imposed" (printed) sheets are machine-folded into "signatures," groups of pages. The pages are arranged on the big sheet so that once it is folded and cut, the pages are in the correct order. After the signatures are sewn together into a "book block," they are "trimmed" (cut). Now you can turn all the pages.

"Headbands" and "tailbands" come next. These are small strips of cloth at the top (headband) and bottom (tailband) of the spines of thick hardback books. They're just for decoration. They cover the joint where the signatures meet the binding.

Now the signatures are "cased" - glued to cloth-covered cardboard covers. A cloth reinforcement helps hold the signatures to the binding. Another machine adds the book jacket. And - voil! - the book is done!

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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