Specialists in print and digital publications for . . .

Our services

We provide a comprehensive range of services for print and digital media (websites, eBooks, eMags, flipbooks, CDs and DVDs):

  • Design
  • Layout
  • Typesetting
  • eBooks (ePub and Kindle)
  • Technical illustration
  • Editing and proofreading
  • Website development
  • Prepress
  • Print management
  • Multimedia management

The Seven Deadly Sins

Ask ten proofreaders or editors their seven pet hates, and no doubt you’ll end up with seventy rather than seven examples. In fact, we had quite an argument here at Sunset as we tried to narrow the list down to just seven! Here’s what we ended up with:

1. Lead/led

2. Everyday/Every day

3. It’s/Its

4. Alright/All right

5. Stationery/Stationary

6. Foreword/Forward

7. Separate/Seperate

Guide to the traditional book publishing process

Author: The Sunset Team

One aspect of publishing a book that can lead to frustration is the communication of requirements and ideas. We have been in the book business for several decades and follow the tried-and-proven processes that have been universally adopted by traditional book publishers, whether large or small. If you understand these processes, your own book-publishing path will be made smoother – though some of what you read here may not make sense until after the fact. Most first-time authors say they have learnt a lot from working with us, and know a little better what to do next time. So . . . can we eliminate all the problems and frustrations you might experience? No, we can’t, but we can give you a head start!


[Many terms below will be explained as we go, but just to clarify one thing that can confuse first-time authors: when we talk about ‘printers’, we are referring to printing companies; we are not talking about the inkjet or laser printer attached to your computer. Many printers are known as ‘offset printers’ because the process they use requires an impression of the pages to be made on a plate, and the book is printed from this impression. These days, this process can be driven directly from a computer without the need for intermediate steps – hence the term ‘direct-to-plate’. Another advance made by the printing industry in recent years is the introduction of digital printing, the printing machine itself being called a digital press. This means that the printing is controlled by a computer, ink or toner being applied to paper in a similar manner to a home-based printer, but with much finer control and much larger sheets of paper.]

Trust the system!

The following steps in publishing a book have been developed over centuries and, in more recent times, refined through the use of technology to streamline the process as much as possible, hence reducing costs and timelines. For example, since the 1990s – like it or not – Microsoft Word has become the standard tool used by authors and editors to develop the initial manuscript, and the use of emails to communicate with authors and publishers has become almost universal. Adobe’s creation of the Portable Document Format (PDF) in 1993 has allowed formatted files to be distributed reliably, so that what the receiver sees is exactly the same as the sender sees. PDF files look the same whether downloaded from the Internet or sent via email or on disk. (By contrast, Microsoft Word files may not appear the same on different computers, particularly if the original fonts aren’t available. Nevertheless, Microsoft Word is the starting point for nearly every book until it is typeset using one of the more powerful desktop publishing packages and finally converted to PDF format.)

The PDF format is not simply a means of viewing formatted pages; it is now used almost exclusively by both offset and digital printing companies worldwide when it comes time to print the book. At Sunset Publishing Services, we are able to produce ‘press-ready’ PDFs – high-resolution files containing all text and images in their exact position, page by page. These files can be emailed or, more likely, uploaded to a secure FTP site for access by the printer’s prepress staff.

The PDF format is also convenient for producing online editions of magazines, annual reports, manuals and a host of other publications. To make the viewing experience more attractive and convenient, the PDF can be turned into a flipbook (also known as an eMag). Click here for an example of an online newsletter in this format.

When it comes to books, however, print still dominates, with eBook formats such as ePub and Kindle’s AZW running a close second. But for the moment let’s confine ourselves to discussing the traditional printed book.

The book publishing process used by all book publishers (and printers) is so consistent that staff are able to move between book publishers – and even between countries – applying the same techniques. Such is the nature of this proven process.

At Sunset Publishing Services, we apply these same principles and encourage self-publishers and first-time authors to become familiar with them, as using a universal, time-honoured process makes it easier to ensure consistent outcomes every time. It can be a steep learning curve for many novices, but the reward is that subsequent books flow through much more smoothly. By the time you get to your third or fourth book, you will be very proficient at it!

We encourage you to ‘trust the system’. It works, and has proven to be the most effective and cost-efficient method of producing a good-quality book in its various forms, whether for print or digital distribution.

Steps to publishing a book

Step 1: Registering your book

With traditional book publishing, each publication is registered through the purchase of an International Standard Book Number (ISBN) and a barcode. The ISBN is used by libraries and book stores to uniquely identify each book. (You’d be surprised how many different books are published each year with the title Poems!) Most book stores will only sell books that carry an ISBN. The barcode is also required by book stores for fast and accurate sales, and for replenishing inventory. Once the ISBN and barcode are purchased, it is only a minor task for us to place them on the imprint page and back cover, respectively. Depending on the marketing and distribution of your book, it may or may not need to carry an ISBN or barcode. (See our FAQ page for more information.)

Step 2: Submitting your manuscript

The document you submit to us is called a manuscript. In days gone by it would have been handwritten or typewritten, but today it is far more likely to have been keyed in using a word processing program such as Microsoft Word. The manuscript is your intellectual property and is always treated confidentially at every stage of the production process.

You would normally only hand over the manuscript to us when you are completely happy with it and intend to make no more changes. Sometimes, however, we ask for or receive a draft of an unfinished manuscript so we can assess how long it will take to produce, and to provide some other guidance on design or marketability. In any case, only when you are happy with the manuscript does the time come to hand it over.

The reason we emphasise this is that once we start work on your manuscript, the clock is ticking. If you change your mind about something, that part will require re-working by us and we must charge you for it. In the publishing industry, this re-working is traditionally called ‘author’s corrections’ and is usually added to the invoice at an hourly rate. It does not mean that you shouldn’t change anything; it is just that you should be aware that the quoted price may well change because of your late changes. Having said that, it is quite normal for authors to change things (sometimes everything!) once they see the pages in their final form. Don’t be concerned about asking for changes – just be aware that it will cost you extra to do so. While author’s corrections during the production process usually won’t break the bank, it is important to understand that if you change your mind after the book has gone to the printer, the price can escalate rapidly; you will be paying for additional setup and machine time, both of which can be very expensive.

Step 3: Editing and proofreading

What is the difference between editing and proofreading?

In the book publishing industry, many companies will use both an editor and a proofreader.

  • An editor will read the entire document in detail, checking grammar, punctuation, chronological sequence and for factual errors, making amendments accordingly. If major grammatical issues are found, or if the author’s intent is not clear or is ambiguous, the editor may re-write whole sentences or even paragraphs. Now, that’s a thought that can be rather scary for many authors, but remember that professional editors (the only type we employ at Sunset!) have had many years’ experience, and their opinion is worth listening to. If uncertain, the editor will query the author and/or make suggestions, and will make contentious changes only when the author has given permission to do so.
          The editor will always keep in mind that the author has spent months – and in some cases years – researching, writing and re-writing the manuscript. On the other hand, the editor is usually the first professionally trained person to have reviewed the document, so his or hers is the first set of ‘fresh eyes’ to inspect the writing. Remember also that the editor has the experience to check for incorrect use of language and possible ambiguity or factual errors in the content. Keep in mind also that the editor will have worked in the publishing industry for many years and will be conversant with current style guides. A close author–editor collaboration will vastly improve the author’s initial work, but, never fear, it’s the author who makes the final decisions.
  • The task of the proofreader is to check through the entire document and mark all spelling, punctuation and grammar errors. Usually this is done after the first set of proofs is prepared, but in the case of a heavily edited document, it may be done before the pages are assembled. Professional proofreading makes a vast difference to the accuracy of the final product. A professionally trained proofreader will unearth many issues in even the best-written manuscript. The process of the editor and author working jointly on the manuscript, followed by typesetting and subsequent changes, can lead to mistakes creeping into the process. The proofreader will thoroughly check the first set of proofs and mark or query anything that needs to be brought to the editor’s attention.
          This is the traditional editing and proofreading process, but variations do occur.
          Some book publishers combine the task of proofreading and editing into the one role, so the editor checks his or her own work. This is becoming more common as publishers try to minimise costs, but it may also happen simply because the publication does not require a higher level of scrutiny.
          Other book publishers will use the proofreader in the first stage of the publishing process, checking for any errors in the author’s manuscript and bringing them to the editor’s attention. This process frees up the editor’s time to concentrate on the broader issues rather than the fine detail.
          In some cases, an editor may end up re-writing (‘ghostwriting’) the entire manuscript. This may occur if the author has a great concept or unique perspective on a topic but doesn’t have the writing skills to truly engage the reader. Examples can be found in many biographies of sports people or well-known celebrities. The editor will usually conduct an interview and often record the conversation, using the recording and any existing manuscript, diaries, notes or other sources as the basis for a book which is essentially the editor’s own work. Ghostwriting is also common when an author uses English as a second language only, and the manuscript really needs a complete re-write.

In summary, to distinguish between the different levels of content-checking and align these tasks to our pricing:

  • Proofreading: The correction of ‘typos’ and misspelt words, the correction of punctuation, and the standardisation of capitalisation, italicisation and word usage. The proofreader may also correct grammatical errors.
  • Standard editing (copy editing): In addition to proofreading corrections (see above), copy editing will definitely include the correction of grammatical errors. Attention will also be given to rewriting unclear phrases, and improving the tone and style of the work. Standard editing also includes checking the content for any gaps, redundancies, inconsistencies or inaccuracies, and making comments and suggestions for improvement. It may also include checking the manuscript against a house style – for example, when the document is a journal article.
  • Substantive editing: Substantive editing includes all of the above tasks, with a focus on problems of style, structure and clarity of expression; it also include a check of the content for factual errors, through use of the Internet or other research tools. If doubt arises about factual information, a query will be raised with the author.
  • Heavy editing: This means a partial re-write. For example, if you are writing in English, and English is not your first language, it is likely that many sentences or whole passages will need to be completely re-written. It is also likely that the editor will face many issues of interpretation, requiring regular contact with the author. Heavy editing also includes ghostwriting, where the complete manuscript is re-written using the author’s manuscript or a recorded conversation as the basis.

Step 4: Book design – cover and internal pages

You have probably noticed that the majority of books in traditional book stores are placed on shelves with the ‘spine out’ to save space, while the better-selling books or those that are being heavily promoted are placed ‘face out’ on the shelves at the front of the store. This is quite logical, as most buyers are looking for brand names to purchase, and the store owner wants to make it as easy as possible for potential buyers to locate the big sellers.

Thus, if you do get your book into a store, because you are unknown the book is likely to be placed at the back of the store and display only the spine. In a traditional book store, the cover and spine are all-important. They must attract attention and make it compelling for the potential buyer to pick up the book and look closer.

On the Internet the sales process is quite different, yet there are lessons to be learnt from the traditional methods:

  • The cover and spine design has to have impact for the book to be noticed.
  • The title and, to a lesser extent for a ‘first-timer’, the author’s name have to be prominent.
  • The ‘what is this book about’ text, i.e. the blurb that appears on the back cover of the book, is extremely important. Publishers go to a lot of trouble to write this short piece of text, as it ‘sells’ the book; therefore, it has to be short, but sharp and impactful. Once you’ve read the blurb, however, the publisher’s marketing team doesn’t want you to put the book back down. The team members ask themselves what you are likely to do next. Chances are, you’ll flick through the inside pages to see how they look and assess whether the book is worth buying. If it has a table of contents, you may check through the list of chapters. In any case, you are noticing the readability of the pages and will put the book back if it doesn’t look professionally produced.

So . . . design and layout are important for both the cover and inside pages.


Cover design

Our approach to cover design is to follow the author’s inclination. Authors have been thinking about their overall concepts for much longer than we have, so it is likely they will know roughly what they want (or don’t want). We will follow that lead if it can be expressed easily in words, rough sketches, or copies of other similar books for us to follow.

If you have no idea, we can send samples of designs we have produced for other clients, or you can search for suitable examples on the Internet. The main thing is that we – and you – would like the cover to look professional and not like those ‘dime-a-dozen’ book covers you see advertised on the Internet. The cover we produce will be unique, targeted, and will aim to satisfy all of the points raised in our discussion with you. We will send two or more sample designs, so you have a choice, and then use or modify the one that comes closest to your requirements. (We do price our cover designs based on two samples; however, we can produce more if requested. The main point to remember is that we are trying to match expectations of price and budget, and two sample designs are usually enough to work from.)

Internal pages

Similarly, for the internal pages we need to know what the author is thinking before we commence. We will work with you to choose a page size, font and point size, headings, table style, etc., to match your expectations of the layout.

We will also help you decide whether you need a back page ‘blurb’. Remember our discussion above? Is your book going to have text on the back cover? If not, you will still need to prepare a blurb for your promotional material or website. In fact, this may become the whole front page of your website, so the design and layout do matter. The blurb has to sell the book – just as it would in a traditional book store.

Step 5: Typesetting and layout

Once the internal design is signed off and the editing is complete, it is time to typeset the book according to the agreed internal layout (i.e. we need your ‘sign-off’ at this stage before major costs are incurred).

We will follow the agreed design and layout, and ensure every page conforms to the overall look; however, we must emphasise that we differ markedly from design studios and the like. Unlike them, we place great emphasis on readability, accuracy, consistency and interpretation. We understand the rules of typography and the English language. In our books you won’t find spacing that varies for no reason, hyphenated words that have bad breaks, or widowed and orphaned lines. We take pride in our profession and apply our skills and experience to ensure every publication we prepare is professionally typeset – and is exactly what you would expect to see in a quality book store.

When the typesetting and layout process is complete, we prepare the first set of page proofs in PDF format. These pages will be as close to the final product as possible. We may have questions for the author (some instructions may not have been clear, some words or headings may not quite fit, or some extra text may be required to fill a gap), but generally the pages will be fairly close to their finished appearance.

A proof, or set of page proofs, is the manuscript content as it appears after formatting in a desktop publishing package such as Adobe’s CS Suite. It gives a good impression of the way the final printed version will appear, although the actual wording and layout may change through several rounds of proofing. (We need to point out that there are two types of desktop publishing packages: the professional ones developed for use in the publishing industry, and the entry-level software developed for ease of use by anyone at home or in business. Needless to say, we work exclusively with the professional packages. Microsoft Publisher and similar programs have severe limitations in their ability to produce quality publications, and most printing companies refuse to accept PDFs created by these packages. Nevertheless, if your manuscript exists in Microsoft Publisher, we can extract it for processing in a more advanced package.)

Step 6: Author’s corrections (i.e. author’s changes)

While mistakes we make are corrected free of charge, we always provide an hourly author’s correction rate in our quotations. For this reason, it is very important that you check that your manuscript is as near to correct as possible before you give the go-ahead for typesetting.

In the majority of cases, there will be some changes required when the first set of proofs is returned. Occasionally they will be our mistakes (for which we will not charge), or sometimes the author will look at the document and notice a few things that don’t quite work or were missed in the manuscript before the typesetting go-ahead was given. It is most important, however, that you review your manuscript and your instructions before giving us that go-ahead, because we will have to charge for subsequent changes.

Step 7: Finalisation and preparation of final files

Once we have been through one or two rounds of sending proofs to you – and you say everything looks good – we will send you the final press-ready PDF files or send them to the printer if you have have requested that we manage the printing. Again, this final work is usually provided for in the initial pricing; however, there may be special requirements for your files that we need to take into account.

If, for example, you are arranging your own printing, we will create press-ready PDF files using the default Adobe press settings that most printers use, but sometimes the printer may require slight changes to these settings. If this is the case, we need to find out from your printer what their settings are and make the necessary adjustments when we create the PDF files. Most large printers have these settings available on their websites for download.

If the requirement is unusual, we may have to make an additional charge for the work involved – and we may have to liaise directly with the printer. Of course, we would advise you of all this as soon as we became aware of it.

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