Whether it's a traditional publishing entity, a university press or an ebook distributor, the structure of a publishing company is essentially the same. Taking a manuscript from concept to production, however, is either the collaborative task of multiple departments or the job of a single individual, depending on the available resources and the volume and diversity of titles being offered.
The acquisitions component of a publishing house is responsible for seeking out commercially viable projects to develop and produce that are consistent with the company's vision. Although this generally focuses on reviewing proposals and manuscripts submitted by authors or literary representatives, an acquisitions editor may also work with ghostwriting agencies as well as actively seek out marketable talents through referrals, social networking, contests and newsworthy stories. Acquisitions editors work closely with the publisher's legal staff to draft contracts related to payment and delivery schedules, project parameters and subsidiary rights and licensing.
Once a book has been accepted for publication, the company's editorial department works with authors to ensure their material is brought to the highest level of polish and professionalism. The editor assigned to each project engages in line-editing, copy-editing and fact-checking in addition to making recommendations to the writer on issues such as context, consistency and tightening chapters that meander. Editorial staff members work closely with the company's production department to make sure that revisions are processed in a timely manner that will not jeopardize the release date of the book.
Whether a project is slated for release in hardcover, paperback or an electronic medium, its "look" must conform to the standards and specifications that have been set by the company for its existing titles. In an earlier era, this involved complex typesetting equipment and printing presses. Today, the production division of a publishing company performs the layout, pagination and graphic design tasks on computer monitors and often works from text files submitted electronically by the authors themselves. Depending on the size of the publishing house, production is either done in-house or outsourced to printing companies. Cover designers often work with freelance graphic artists, photographers and modeling studios.
Like many industries in a troubled economy, publishing houses have been forced to downsize and trim their expenses. Marketing departments -- even at prominent venues -- have been the hardest hit by these decisions. In turn, publishers have begun placing a greater burden on authors to promote their own books and, in some cases, base the award of their publishing contracts on whether a writer is already a well known commodity or has created an aggressive marketing platform. Where marketing divisions still exist, their function is to generate press releases, purchase advertising in relevant media, and assist authors in arranging book tours.