There are some aspects of the book production process that are not obvious, particularly to first-time authors watching their books go through the mysterious steps from manuscript to printer. The following chart presents an overview of the steps of the book production process. The first column shows the steps for manuscript and page proof, the second column for the art program, and the third column for the index.
Manuscript & Page Flow
Prior to author submission, it is customary for samples of the book to be sent to a book designer, who designs and specifies the layout of the interior of the book. The author has approval of the design.
The author submits the files for the book, along with a double-spaced hardcopy manuscript produced from the files.
The publisher logs in the materials and forwards them to the project manager.
The manuscript is sent to the copyeditor for editing. This may be a light copyedit, just to catch typos, missing commas, misplaced hyphens, and other technical errors. Or it may be a heavier copyedit to ensure that everything is understandable and that elements such as figures and tables are accurate.
The author reviews the copyedited manuscript to ensure that the copyeditor has not introduced any errors. This is also the time for the author to make any last-minute corrections and small clarifications. The author should be sure to mark the manuscript with a pen or pencil color different from the copyeditor (and not light blue).
The author forwards the manuscript to the compositor, whose job it is to enter all the changes and corrections from the manuscript into the files. Once this is complete, the compositor does page composition, which includes determining where all the elements should go and laying out the pages in the most readable manner possible. The result of this step is called first pages.
The manuscript and a hardcopy of the first page proof is sent to the proofreader. The proofreader reads the first pages against the manuscript to ensure that all the changes and corrections were made correctly. The proofreader also checks the art against the manuscript, reviews the page layout chosen by the compositor, and performs any other checks that the project manager specifies.
The marked-up first page proof is forwarded to the author for review. This is the first time that the author is seeing pages as they will appear in the final book, and is the last chance to make any minor corrections. Such corrections cannot affect the text flow on the pages, because they have already been laid out. Again, the author should be sure to mark the page proof in a color different from the proofreader.
The author returns the first page proof to the compositor, who makes any final corrections marked by the proofreader and author. This is also the time that the compositor prepares the front matter, which includes the title page, copyright page, dedication, table of contents, preface, etc. The result of this step is called second pages.
The author reviews second pages, usually in the form of PDF files rather than hardcopy. This review is only a sanity check; no changes are allowed except in an emergency. The publisher also reviews the front matter carefully.
The compositor makes any last-minute corrections discovered by the author or publisher. The result of this step is called final pages.
A PDF file of the final pages is delivered to the printer for use in preparing the plates for the printing press.
Printed books are delivered to the warehouse.
A copy of the manuscript is sent to the artist, along with a specification of the art style. The artist begins to draw the figures.
The author may get the chance to review the art while reviewing the copyedited manuscript, although this is not usually the case.
The artist delivers the art to the compositor, who places it on the composed pages in the appropriate places.
The proofreader checks the art along with the text.
The author reviews the figures at the same time as the text.
The compositor informs the artist of any corrections marked on the first page proof. The artist makes those corrections and sends new art files to the compositor.