The PubLaunch
Learning Center

Roles and stages

When publishing a book project, you’ll have a lot of people working with you to produce your final product. Although you won’t necessarily work with every single one of the people we have listed (especially if you’re a self-publisher who’s decided to forgo certain team members), here is a list of all the people you could possibly work with while preparing your book project for publication and what they do.

Stage 1: Editing

Editors polish your work and help you transform your manuscript into its best possible version.

Structural/stylistic editor 

Also known as a “developmental editor,” this editor will look at your manuscript as a whole and evaluate it based on big-picture principles. In fiction, this means looking at your plot, characters, setting, voice, themes, etc. For a non-fiction manuscript, issues like the thesis, organization, tone, and pace are assessed. This is an important first stage. Often, when you’re the only one that’s been working on a manuscript, you won’t notice inconsistencies and holes in the same way that a trained professional with fresh eyes will.

Copy editor

Once the book’s structure has been improved, the copy editor will take a close look at your manuscript sentence by sentence, correcting things like grammar mistakes, awkward phrasing, and inconsistent spelling.

Stage 2: Layout

Interior designer

Once the editing process is complete, the interior designer will put your words into a book layout. This will account for things like the trim and margin size on your printed book and any images you’ll be including in the interior of the book. They’ll also create a print-ready PDF that can be sent straight to your distributor and/or printer. We’ll be explaining what those terms mean later in the guide.

Stage 3: Quality control

Proofreader

Once everything has been laid out, the proofreader will check the finished document for typos and layout inconsistencies. They’ll go over your document with a fine-tooth comb and catch things you may not notice on your own.

Stage 0 to 3: Cover design and illustration

Cover designer

While the editing processes are being completed, the cover designer and illustrator (assuming one is being used) will be creating the visual components of the book. The cover designer should create two final versions of your cover: one that’s compatible for print and includes a spine and back cover, and one for ebook and the web. (Note that the print cover is a separate file from the book’s interior and is uploaded separately to your printer/distributor.)

Illustrator

Meanwhile, the illustrator will create any illustrations or graphics being used for the inside of your book, following the specifications of your printer/distributor. Once the work has been approved, the illustrations get sent to the interior designer for the layout.

What’s the difference between a cover designer and an illustrator?

The difference between illustrators and cover designers tends to come down to their backgrounds. Illustrators usually come from an art background and may have a BFA under their belt. They specialize in creating original artwork specifically for your cover or story.

Cover designers usually come with a graphic-design background. Graphic design differs from the fine arts in that it is essentially visual communication. Think of your book cover. A cover designer/graphic designer would have laid out the cover in an eye-catching and pleasing way, chosen the font, and chosen where to put the information so that it’s easy to find for the reader. Graphic designers, depending on their skill set and your budget, tend to work with existing or stock images.

Think this (just the graphic designer) versus this (cover using an illustrator).

Stage 4: Ebook conversion

Once your book is fully laid out and your cover has been created, it’s ready to be converted into an ebook (we’ll explain formatting below). Whether you’re using a free conversion tool or hiring an ebook converter, the process boils down to adding code to your words (similar to coding a website) so that it can display properly on an e-reader, tablet, and smartphone.

Stage 5: Printing and distribution

Once you’ve received your completed files (your print-book interior and cover and your ebook and ebook cover), you’ll be able to upload them to your printer/distributor. We’ll explain more about that process below.

Stage 6: Post-production marketing and publicity

Publicist or marketer 

Although we list this at the end of the workflow, your work with a marketer or publicist can start at any time during the process. Although the services will vary, it will often involve social media marketing, website development, email blasts, blog tours, and potentially even media pitches.