Books have existed since the early years of human civilization. Historians trace the origin of written literature way back to 3000 BCE when the ancient Egyptians used papyrus scrolls.
Over the years, the art of writing and bookbinding has been refined to what it is today.
The year is 2021 and bookbinding is a process done by both men and machinery. The procedure from writing to printing has evolved into a meticulous and precise art, and the product is enjoyed by more than millions of people worldwide.
How books are made today is comparably quicker and cleaner than it was decades ago.
Books in the modern world are diverse. You see titles with different sizes, thickness, paper quality, and cover material.
But the fundamental steps in creating a book from scratch are almost always the same.
Here is the step-by-step process of how books are made.
Step 1: Initial editing
Step 2: Copyediting and Proofreading
Step 3: Book design and layout
Step 4: Typesetting
Step 5: Another proofreading
Step 6: Printing and binding
Step 7: Shipping and marketing
Let’s get into details!
Step 1: Initial Editing
Let’s say you’re an author and you’ve finished writing your first manuscript. Great!
You submit your manuscript to a traditional publisher and, with luck, you have struck a deal to have your work edited. In this first stage, your editor will shape your work into what you both envision.
Editing in this stage will focus more on the bigger picture. For fiction writers, this means subjects such as themes, the plot, and the characters.For non-fiction writers, this means the organization of ideas, the tone, and the message.
Editing can take weeks and multiple rewrites. But once you and your editor are satisfied with the text, the editor will ship your manuscript off to the next stage of the process.
Step 2: Copyediting and Proofreading
After you’ve finished making the final version of your manuscript, a copy editor will take your work and review it for any mistakes and improvements with the grammar.
In this stage, expect a lot of back-and-forth and nitpicking, as the copy editor tries to find every glaring mistake made in the manuscript and communicates these errors to both you, the author, and the editor.
Copyediting is a crucial step in the creation of a book because one small hiccup can mean the end of an author’s reputation. Every small grammar mistake and inconsistency are checked to avoid printing a mistake.
Copyediting is a tedious project that can last around three to six weeks. But once the manuscript has been thoroughly checked by the copy editor, it goes through the next step.
Step 3: Book Design and Layout
The writing and editing phase is complete, so it’s time to finally move on to actually making the physical book. Behind the scenes, the creative team and editor are hard at work in creating the overall design vision for the book.
Things such as the book’s cover, the graphic and photographs (if there is any), the ISBN application, the layout of each page, and the typeface are ironed out in this stage. Pages are also arranged in chronological order so that it won’t be a hassle to print.
The design of the book will dictate how the book will be printed later. The author and other members of the production team are given “dummy” books to have a feel of what the finished product would look like. During this time, minor edits and corrections can be made.
Step 4: Typesetting
Every book wants to look unique and professional. That’s when typesetting comes into play.
As a part of designing the appearance of the book’s interior, typesetting is when the original layout of the manuscript is reformatted into a printing template. This is the stage when the size and style of the font are determined to create the best reading experience.
Asides from choosing the right font, the typesetting phase is also the time to fix the margin, alignment, word spacing, and paragraph layout.
A book shouldn’t only appeal to the reader’s mind, but also to the reader’s eyes. Typesetting is an important part of designing the book because the appearance of the text will help convey the message.
Once everyone is satisfied with the looks of the book, a small step before printing takes place.
Step 5: Another Proofreading
This isn’t as taxing as the proofreading done before the designing process. Rather, this is a brief overview of the whole work to see if some mistakes had slipped through the cracks.
Revisions are usually done as a clean-up rather than an overhaul of the whole book. This is not the time to introduce major changes to the book.
In a scenario where any huge mistakes were found in this stage, it can always be saved and revised in a future edition.
Step 6: Printing and Binding
The time has come! Everything in the book has been checked, not once, not twice, but three times.
Everything from the design of the covers to the layout of each page has been finalized. It is now time to send the final PDF version of the book to the printing press.
Printing houses work on the clock to produce plenty of books at once. The workers and machines work all day and night to keep a steady flow.
The process starts with workers preparing metal plates. These plates are like blueprints for how the pages of the book will be printed.
Then comes the actual printing of the pages. Reels of paper are used, and the words are printed on these sheets. After a lengthy process of inking and damping, the paper reels will be cut into individual pages, folded, stacked, and bundled together.
The book cover is then printed on a separate printer and is ready to have the pages glued onto it. Each section of the book is divided into smaller stacks and is organized correctly. They are then glued to the book.
After some final trimming around the edges, a book is finally made!
Alternatively: You Can Have Your Manuscript Be Turned into an E-book
E-books go through a similar process to traditional printed books. They are edited, proofread, and designed. The major difference of an e-book, though, is that there is no physical book to be made.
E-books do not go through the long task of printing and binding. Instead, the PDF file of the finished manuscript is converted to a file that is compatible with digital e-readers and is published by either a publishing house or by the author themselves.
Step 7: Shipping and Marketing
You have waited for so long, and eventually, the day has come. You are now holding a physical copy of your book!
You, the author, as well as the editor and the publishing agent, will get an advance copy of the book. Early copies of the book will be given to the media and the marketing department as well.
In this stage, your book is now being shipped across the globe. Within a month, that book is now being stocked on shelves internationally.
During this time, your book is also being marketed. You will see advertisements for your books, especially if you are a well-known author.
Congratulations! You have published a book in 2021.
Some Key Things To Remember During the Process
- Publishing a book takes a long time. I am not just talking about days or weeks. Publishing a book can take a month, maybe even a year. Don’t be disheartened if you, an author, are feeling like your book is going nowhere. Editing, designing, and printing take time. And if you are a reader and a big fan of an author, do know that the process they and their team go through just to write that book you are reading is very long. It is far from a walk in the park.
- Books are expensive to make and print. A lot of money goes into making a good book that has a fantastic cover and is free of any sort of typos. If you are aspiring to be a writer and traditionally print a book, you have to prepare to shell out some cash to pay your team, the printing, and the advertising.
- And finally, printing a book is a team effort. Everyone who is part of the printing team is doing it together. Nobody works alone when it comes to editing, designing, and bookbinding. Printing any book takes a lot of effort from the author, editors, and designers. Everyone plays an important role.
A lot of work goes into the creation of books, but modern machinery has made the bookbinding process easier. But while the advancement of technology has speed things up, the process of perfecting the content of a book remains to be long and arduous.
Writing, editing, designing, and printing a book takes a lot of time, effort, and money. It is a task meant to be done by a team of dedicated people who all wants to see a book succeed.
But the outcome is, more often than not, worth it, not only for the author but for the whole team behind the printing of the book.
Humans have come a long way from handwriting words on delicately woven paper. Innovations have come and impressively changed the world of literature over the centuries.
While e-books are slowly rising in popularity, physical books are still in demand and very popular. I guess there is just something so rewarding about holding a physical copy of a book, especially now that you know just how much effort was put into the creation of this art.