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What Is Publishing? The Seven Processes Of Book Publishing

What Is Publishing? The Seven Processes of Book Publishing

Anyone who sets out to publish a book needs to understand the seven processes of publishing. If you’re scratching your head or you’ve never heard of them, don’t worry. ALLi Director, Orna Ross is here to explain each of the process and why they should matter to you.

ALLi Director, Orna Ross

Tell someone you’re an author and the next question they’ll ask is “are you published”? What they probably mean is: “Has somebody else invested in your book?” (Subtext: “Are you actually an author or are you really a deluded no-good?” )

Few people outside the business understand that being “published” is not a matter of somebody else deciding your book is good enough. Book publishing is seven processes divided across three functions: making a book, selling books and licensing rights and formats.

Whether these are done by you, the author, or somebody else we call “a publisher”, is irrelevant to the reader–so long as the processes are properly done.

Knowing the seven processes of publishing is useful because it allows you to see which ones you are good at and which you need to improve if you want to become a better publisher.

And we can all be better publishers. Like writing, publishing is an art and a craft that is never perfected. And technology has led to an explosion of tools and opportunities for authors which give room for endless improvement and expansion.

The Seven Processes of Publishing: Three Formats

Let’s begin with formats. In the old days, books began as print and any electronic or audio version was handled as a “subsidiary” of that core format. Today’s indie authors use digital tools to produce books in three formats: ebook (electronic), pbook (print), and abook (audio).

We all have our preferred reading format and many older readers, in particular, are romantic about print, loving the feel, the smell and the weight of a print book in the hand.

A good publisher knows that how we, ourselves, like to read is irrelevant. Our job is to get our books into as many formats as possible so that the readers can choose their preferred format, not ours.

If it is your first book, ALLi recommends you move through the making and selling functions with an ebook, as that will set you up fastest for book sales. Ebooks are easiest and cheapest, and once you’ve mastered ebook production, you’ll have much of the materials and skills you need to produce print and audio, which are tricker and more expensive.

The production and sales processes across the three formats is similar, so once you’ve proven to yourself that you can make and sell ebooks,  reinvest some of your profits into making the print book and audiobook editions, as soon as you afford to.

The Seven Processes of Publishing: Three Functions

The three functions of publishing are making a book, selling it, and managing the rights that are bound up in that piece of intellectual property we call a book.

Function One: Making the Book(s)

Process 1: Editorial

Process 2: Design

Process 3: Production

Function Two: Selling the Book(s)

Process 4: Distribution

Process 5: Marketing

Process 6: Promotion

Function Three: Rights Licensing

Process 7: Selective Licensing of rights and formats

The Seven Processes of Publishing: Three Functions

During the three phases of book publishing, very different questions arise.

Making the Book: Publishing Questions

This function includes editorial, design, and production: getting the text edited, the front cover and interior layout designed and produced. The kinds of questions we ask during the making phase include:

  1. How do I master the editorial, design, and production tasks I can, need, and want to do?
  2. What skills do I need to improve?
  3. What skills can I improve, and which ones do I need to accept that I need help with?
  4. Who do I get to help me? Where do I find good self-publishing services? (Hint: you can start with the ALLi Directory)
  5. If I am self-publishing for the first time, will I use a full-service self-publishing company or assemble my own team of freelancers and publish directly to Amazon and/or others?
  6. Where do I get feedback on my book, the cover, and other production matters?

Having mastered the intricacies of making a book, the author-publisher’s attention then turns to reaching readers, book marketing, and promotion.

Selling the Book: Publishing Questions

This function includes distribution, marketing and promotion. Distribution is about who’s going to take your book out to the world, make it available. Then marketing and promotion are about ensuring it is discovered.

Book marketing and promotion are often confused, or spoken of together, but they are not the same thing. Marketing centers on what the book publishing business calls “discoverability”, ensuring that you and your books can be found by the right readers. It includes your author platform, your book covers and descriptions and reviews, your email list and digital funnels,  and encompasses your promise to the reader. It’s your marketing that allows readers to know what to expect from you and your books and it’s an ongoing, ever-growing process.

Book promotion is time-based, a particular sales drive around a particular book. Promotions take many forms, including book launches, virtual or real-life book tours, advertising, and other purchased promotions. You are limited only by your imagination, time and money.


  1. Which distributors and retailers am I going I use?
  2. Who is my ideal reader?
  3. What genres do I write in and who else writes in these genres?
  4. What is my USP, the one thing I do that other authors don’t do?
  5. How do I best reach my ideal readers?  What is my marketing plan?
  6. How do I balance marketing and promotion tasks with writing more books?
  7. How do I integrate the creative heart of my books into my marketing materials and sales pages?
  8. Where do I best invest my resources of time and money?

Once authors are selling well in English in one format, typically e-book, their thoughts begin to turn to the big wide world and they begin to explore the opportunities in licensing publishing rights.

Selective Rights Licensing: Publishing Questions

Indie authors are the creative directors of our businesses as well as our books, so we are careful about the contracts we sign and do what we call “selective licensing”, limiting the term and territory and time for which we license our rights to any trade publisher, or any other rights buyer.

The kinds of questions we ask around rights management include:

  1. What partnerships and collaborations can I make to increase my books’ impact, influence, and income?
  2. How might I sell my books abroad?
  3. How can I profitably get my books into physical bookstores?
  4. What do I do if I’m approached by a trade publisher?
  5. What about subsidiary rights like radio, film, and television? Which do I self-publish, which do I trade?
  6. How do I best exploit my intellectual property?

This is an extract from Creative Self-Publishing by Orna Ross. Pre-order your copy here.

What are the seven book publishing processes? @ornaross explains #selfpublishing #IARTG #ASMRG #amwriting #writingcommunity #writetip Click To Tweet


What stage of the publishing process are you at? Have you faced any barriers or hurdles trying to get to the next process?

If you enjoyed this post, you might like these from the ALLi archive:

Orna Ross

Orna Ross is an Irish novelist and poet and Director of the Alliance of Independent Authors.

This Post Has One Comment
  1. Very interesting/informative since I finished my fictional novel and am looking to publish (new years resolution!). Have been and will continue to scour the ALLI Directory for quality independent publishers. Joined ALLI as Associate Member and will be accessing as many resources as my schedule allows (work 3 jobs on top of writing endeavors). While doing all of the above described activities (in addition to continuing to participate in local writers groups), my intention is to regularly reach out (targeted outreach) to publishers on the ALLI Directory. Wanted to run this by you as a strategy. Best wishes for 2020!!!

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