Publishing has changed forever in the 21st Century.

Print Media (Magazines, Books, Newspapers) no longer has the dominance it once had. With the coming of computers, and in particular the internet, it is now possible for virtually anyone to publish their own electronic publication. Even printed publications are easier and cheaper to publish than in the past, using a computer to write and compile pages, and either a computer printer (for small print runs) or a commercial; printer (for larger print runs) to produce the hard copy.

Book and Magazine publishers have suffered since the late 1990's as these changes have provided increasing competition. Large Print Media publishers are unlikely to disappear though, for several reasons.

Commercially viable Publishing involves a range of skills, and it is rare to find individuals who can do the lot. Producing the work is only part of the job. Marketing and physically moving a publication from publisher to consumer are huge tasks requiring a great deal of expertise.

Publishing Processes

Publishing is a fast paced and constantly evolving business. New technology is introduced constantly changing the processes and products used in the industry at an extraordinary rate. There are many facets to the publishing industry and the terminology used varies accordingly, a project editor for example at a book publisher may be called the managing editor at a magazine or web site. The most important issue however, is that the client and the publisher interprets the client’s instructions correctly and that they are implemented in the way the client would expect.

Following is a production process for a non-fiction publication in the form of a book. Newspaper or magazine publishers would use a slightly different process.

The development stage; the editor works with the writer in developing a concept into a manuscript. This may include writing a proposal, and sometimes also an outline followed by several drafts. At this stage the manuscript will include specified photographs and art-work. For complex subject matter an expert (for the particular subject) or technical editor may also be involved.

Co-authors, and a design artist may also be involved at this stage.

With the advent of modern technology authors now submit manuscripts on disk

A type setter is therefore no longer required to re-type the manuscript, this means that there should fewer typing mistakes; however it is still the function of the copy-editor to ensure that errors are not over-looked.

Manuscript preparation and design; the manuscript is prepared for production by several editors under the direction of the production editor or a copy editor in a newspaper. The production editor works to ensure that production costs are kept down by eliminating as many problems as possible at this stage as later in the process changes to text and graphics becomes very costly. The work is checked for accuracy and consistency in style as it is passed on to each editor. Modern publishers, using the latest technology, speed up the editing process by performing this function online. The designer works in collaboration with the production or technical editor and bases the design of the manuscript on art specifications and small parts of the manuscript that best represent the whole. The manuscript is coded for typesetting or formatting by the designer before being passed on to the production team.

Production; once the manuscript has been planned the production editor ensures that the plans introduced at the design and preparation stage are correctly implemented. Now that the document has been formatted for production the proof reader checks it against the manuscript to ensure accuracy and add any corrections required. The corrections are made by the relevant person i.e. the typesetter, illustrator or printer. Several proof readers may be used to ensure accuracy at each stage. Much of the work needed to create bibliographies, contents pages, formatting and indexing, is now done with specialised soft-ware. This can help to speed up the production process. At the completion of this process the manuscript is ready to print.

More Thoughts about Change

In the mid 20th century, the writing market was more straight-forward than it is now. Many professional writers in the past were employed and paid by publishers of printed books, magazines or newspapers that generated an income both from selling publications and from selling advertising. Broadcast media also paid writers (largely with revenue generated from advertising). Public organisations would provide financial support to writers, with funding coming from the public purse. Commercial businesses would provide other opportunities, such as writing marketing materials, product manuals etc. Newspapers and magazines had a large team of staff writers – people that were employed and paid a salary to write articles for these publications.

Today’s world is a different world for the media industry, as well as politically and commercially. Government finances are under more pressure than in the past. Traditional media is unable to generate income through advertising to the same levels, or in the same way as in the past. The print media has seen reductions in revenue from advertising and so on.  This revenue funded writers and other aspects of print media.  With the advent of the internet more and more newspapers offer online forums where people can subscribe to their paper or actually receive it for free. There will also be adverts on their websites as well.

There is also online news from other organisations, such as the BBC, Sky News and so on, they also offer written word online newspapers. This has reduced the need for people to buy a printed newspaper.  This is not to say that people don’t buy newspapers or magazines, but at a lower rate than in the past. Before the internet or television, newspapers were really the only way to get the news; apart from being told by someone else verbally.  So at that time, the print media had an almost exclusive monopoly on advertising.

Many other things have changed. Writers need to recognise not only that changes have occurred in the writing market, but that they will continue to occur.

The opportunity to work in newspapers or magazines as staff writers on a salary diminished from 2000 to 2012; but opportunities to sell writing for electronic publishing on the internet increased. Writers who were "in the know" have found opportunities in emerging media, and been able to find new places to sell their skills. The freelance writer is much more in demand and more likely to write articles for various media publications now than they ever were in the past. In other words they have taken the place of staff writers to a great extent.

The world continues to change, and the rate of change that has occurred over the past decade is only likely to accelerate over the next. Professional writers should be asking themselves how the writers’ marketplace might change over the coming years, and they should be adapting to meet these changes as they occur.