South African publishing houses focus on three broad market areas: Academic, Education, and Trade.
- Academic: (or higher education) publishing provides learning materials for the tertiary market (that is, all post-school levels).
- Education: publishing is aimed at the school market, from pre-school to Grade 12, and provides learning materials for learners and support materials for teachers.
- Trade: publishing provides the kinds of books that you will find at bookstores in your local shopping mall. Publishing houses generally specialise in one or two of these market areas.
Key People in the Publishing House
Systems, procedures, job profiles, and even job titles will differ from one publishing house to another, depending largely on the publishing list. The information that follows is therefore only a guide, and once your manuscript has been accepted you will have to approach your publishing house for more accurate information.
The publisher or commissioning editor is responsible for the development and maintenance of a specific list of titles within the company, e.g. Science and Medicine (academic), English as an Additional Language (education), or Travel and Tourism (trade). She also negotiates author’s contracts and manages the production process.
The editor is the person who most closely engages with the content, style, and structure of the manuscript. At the very least the editor will check the manuscript for spelling, grammar, and content errors. In the case of an illustrated book, the editor will also be closely involved in the drafting of the art brief, commissioning the artist, and securing permission for the use of copyrighted illustrative material. The editor will discuss any changes to the text with the author.
The designer is the specialist who executes the design brief compiled by the publisher/editor, ensuring a legible and accessible layout of the text and artwork. Some designers specialise in cover designs; again they will follow a brief provided by the publisher/editor. Cover designs can elicit endless debates and arguments; while there are basic design principles that need to be followed for every cover, personal taste is a highly subjective matter!
The proofreader is a freelance specialist who gives the page proofs with artwork a thorough check for errors or omissions that might have happened during the production process. The proofreader also double-checks pages and cross-references.