Publishing In Zambia Part 1 ; The Publishing Process

Taking Big Shots

(Lux, Eruditio,Gloria)

Publishing In Zambia Part 1 –  The Publishing Process



I had recently been engaged with a publishing house and have come to appreciate the inner workings of book publishing and I thought it fitting to share my observations and two ngwee worth of an opinion, in a series of articles.

Publishing in this context excludes the Authorship of lyrics and other music production, it will be limited to authorship and production of books or manuscripts that are adaptable for film, television or theater.

Even with the understanding that, there is in publishing what is termed as self publishing I will  Endeavor to discuss the importance of publishing in its traditional context i.e. putting out reading material through a full time publishing house and agency. In this modern context I would be inclined to use the word professional publishing; this is implied to mean writing that goes through an independent and professional review akin to scientific research journal peer reviews, but for information that is for general and educational consumption.

The Publication Process (A general sketch)

Ideally a writer draws up a manuscript or agents of a publishing house approach an expert in a certain field to share their knowledge through publishing a book. Once the draft manuscript is ready the author presents this to a publishing house were

–           Full time and consulting experts critically review and confirm or dissuade any assumptions and claims made in the book. The reviewers make an evaluation report and the writer is expected to make corrections and resubmit the manuscript.

–           After which an approval report is made and the book proceeds for editing were language, fact checking, grammar review, proof reading, typesetting and graphic designing as it readies for publication.

–          Before print an original manuscript or book draft is given to the author for them to confirm that what is to be published is in accordance to their desires and construction, the author signs the author-publishing agreement for the book, and it goes to print.

By the time the book would be going to publishing or if the manuscript is discarded altogether the writer would have grown and developed in the process.

Printing Process (ISBN)

Most of us when we buy a book we rush to the introductory, preface  or even the meat of the book and would not care much on checking for the technical information that is mostly on the first page of the book or cover inlet. It is that information that is relevant to the book publishing process and is of concern to the author more than to anyone else.

–          When the draft is ready for printing it is queued in line for publication by registering it in a book publishing register. Most publishers can have different registers signifying different type or categories under which the book will be published.

–          ISBN (International Standard book Number)   this is much like the reg! Number for the book – to cite our Zambian Urban lingua franca. It is the serial and personal identification of the book, no other book in the world possesses such a number.

–          The meaning of the  ISBN codes  e.g. ISBN-9982-05-8245-2

  • 9982- This stands for the publishing code or ID for the country in which the book is being published in this case Zambia, much like our telephone country code +260 here in Zambia.
  • 05- This is the given code to the particular publisher and depending on the type and number of categories that they have applied for e.g. educational and non educational material, fictional or non fictional publishing will most likely have  separate set of codes under one publishing house. This as highlighted above will determine the register the book will queue in.
  • 8245- This is the serial or queue number for the book in the particular register.
  • 2- This is the check number or control number which is closely guarded on how the number is generated much like the coca cola formulae( …well, I of course am exaggerating ), in a publishing house it is mostly the publishing manager and a few selected executive who are preview on how it is formulated.




Author Publishing Agreement

When an author publishes a book with a given publisher it is evidently a partnership effort and copyrights are mostly held between the two partners. The content highlights of the agreement are; rights, third party copyrights, revision, proofs, copyright, competing work, publisher’s responsibility, publisher’s control, author’s copies, payment of royalties, termination, Arbitration and governing law. I will try to shed light on a few of the above contract headlines.

  • Publisher’s responsibilitythe publisher once they sign the agreement with the author are responsible for printing, promotional and advertising expenses, revision expenses etc.
  • Royalties – Normally an author is given a small percentage of the sales of the book say 8% this is dependent on the negotiating power of the author or his agent, that negotiating power is also determined by the profile of the author or ready audience of the material, for example a budding writer will receive a significantly lower earning than a well established writer. On the other hand if a very high profile individual would like to venture into sharing their experience in a book, they would most likely be given a significantly higher percentage on the royalties even when that will be their first book. Agents also play a significant role especially in a very sophisticated publishing market, hiring an agent would guarantee a significantly higher earning on book sales than a writer going it alone in such agreements, even though such agency services come at a fee, hence there would be need for a cost benefit analysis.
  • Licensing Agreement – Though mostly covered under royalties this very significant factor discusses the percentage of the earnings that a writer will get in the event that their material is licensed to a different market e.g. book being translated in French for the Franco-phone countries, adapted to film or television etc in such arrangements the author earns a significantly higher margin than actual book sales. These fees can be in the range of 40% to 50%.
  • Copyrights – These are mostly held by the author and any reprint, licensing, revision of the material in question should be done with the express permission of the author or his/her estate in the event of one’s demise.

Publishing Medium

Publishing material can come in the form of paper publishing (books), Audio dramatization and Electronic Files such as PDF, Kindle and others.

Paper publishing has been the near monopoly, until recently, as far as publishing material is concerned and there is just nothing more memorable, personal and gratifying than to hold your own copy of a book, were you are jotting down points, highlighting punch lines, gems of wisdom and the fact that you can build up a book shelf and eventually a library to demonstrate how much you have read (a lawyer’s Office… any one?).

However paper publishing has its limitations and because of that electronic files and audio publishing has resolved some of these challenges are:

  • Wear and Tear for paper published books; Audio and Electronic files do not suffer from such challenges,
  • Limited Convenience; with paper books you have to be in a certain position for you to consume the material which can be very uncomfortable and attention consuming but with other mediums such as Audio you do not face such limitations.

Speaking for myself I prefer buying both Audio and Paper books so that I can enjoy the best of both worlds, I am not a fun of Electronic text files such as PDF.

Online Library Subscriptions (Amazon’s Audible platform)

this is a very innovative platform in book publishing, think of it like the Netflix of Audio books, I would recommend that you add this to your book budget even though it does not give the ownership feeling that comes with buying your own copy of either paper book or even audio CD  it however can enable you to consume more books than you usually can, it has instant gratification, than the waiting period you have to endure when you learn of a wonderful book and  your local book store does not have it and you have been forced to order the book, it also has features that can recommend  the most selling books, expert and book club recommendations.



Book publishing and how well a country manages/values such a sub sector will determine the future and relevance of that country. In part two i will be arguing on the importance of telling our own stories as Zambia and as stated above the importance of Publishing in Zambia.


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