What is publishing?
Publishing is the activity or trade of a publisher or publishers, including the commissioning, production and marketing of material. For book publishers that material includes books in all formats (eg hardback, paperback, ebook, audiobook) as well as website content, social media, catalogues and other promotional materials. For a quick overview have a look at:
- our Books Uncovered booklet and
- Floris Books’ flow chart showing How Publishing Works (pdf).
The Publishing Process
All books (whether fiction, non-fiction, educational, academic or professional) start with an idea but their paths after that can be quite different.
Generally a typical fiction book that you see in a bookshop could have involved: an author writing a book and sending a speculative sample to a publisher or literary agent, a commissioning editor championing and costing it, the sales and marketing team considering where and how they could sell and promote it, and design and production working out how it could look and feel (which will affect costs).
If it makes it to the next stage then the author and publisher will sign a contract, the book will be edited, the text will be typeset and the cover designed, the paper and printer chosen, the book printed and delivered to the warehouse, and then it will be distributed to retailers including bookshops.
While the book is in production, sales will be selling the book into retailers (negotiating numbers, promotions and discounts), marketing (and the author) will organise promoting the book through social media, broadcast and print media, events (book festivals, launches etc) and word of mouth, and rights will negotiate selling translation and other rights (eg film, audio or tv).
In bigger publishing companies (like Canongate Books or Edinburgh University Press) there may be a quite a lot of people and departments involved. In small companies (eg 404 Ink and BHP Comics) there may be only one or two people doing most of this themselves (but usually with the help of freelancers). Publishers also work closely with other organisations in the book industry including literary agents, printers, bookshops, distributors, data managers, festival bookers, libraries. Find out more in The Book Sector.
The main industry changes in recent years have been the impact of technology on production (eg print on demand) and retailing (especially online sales). The rise of social media and remote working have also had a huge impact on how readers get to know about books and authors, and how and where people in publishing work. Find out more in work in publishing.
There are around 100 publishers in Scotland. Some of them are very big and part of global corporations (like HarperCollins in Bishopbriggs) and others are very small (like Charco Press in Edinburgh). Many are based in the two biggest cities, but location is no bar to running a successful publisher and having an international outlook. Sandstone Press, based in Inverness, have twice won the Saltire Society Publisher of the Year, and one of their books won the International Man Booker Prize 2019. There are publishers in the Borders, the Western Isles, Dundee, Caithness and lots of places in between. You can find out more about them on our Publisher Members listings.
The printed book as we know it – with its consecutive pages in a binding – is such a great design it is hard to improve on it (though there have been some attempts eg the Flipbackbook). Wikipedia has a good page on the design of the book: see Book Design.
Publishers in Scotland are proud to publish books about Scotland and books by Scottish authors along with a huge range of other books and writers from around the world. You can see a great selection of Scottish books on our BooksfromScotland.com website. BooksfromScotland also does a monthly Issue with reviews and extracts of new books and you can sign up for that newsletter to be sent direct to your inbox.