How do books get published?

The book publishing process can be either formal and commercial, or personal and private.

In the formal and commercial world of book publishing, a writer crafts a manuscript which a publishing company acquires. (The acquisition process is a separate answer to a separate question.)

Once acquired by the acquisition editor, the manuscript is vetted and polished. This process might include fact checking, a structural re-arrangement of the concepts and ideas (this process is especially useful for non-fiction manuscripts), and a grammar and spelling proofing process. In some cases, the editor and the writer collaborate to re-write or recast some of the manuscript. This is true of both fiction and non-fiction manuscripts.

Some of these processes take enough time that the time lapse between acquisition and publication can be close to a year.

At some point the manuscript is converted into a digital form, so that the text can be 'worked on'. The publisher's art department chooses a type font and size, page size, book size, paper weight, cover and binding type, all depending on how the publisher chooses to market the manuscript.

The publisher decides on a marketing strategy for the manuscript -- now called a title -- so that the appropriate distribution channel, marketing programs, and author promotional tours can be defined and finalized.

Once the marketing strategy is defined, the publisher decides how many copies of the book to print.

On a specific date, the book is printed and shipped to bookstores and other elements in the distribution channel, and the book is considered published.

In the personal and private world of publishing, an author can collaborate with a technology-rich vendor to publish a book privately. In this situation, the author can pay for as many of the steps described above as s/he chooses.

In this case, all business choices necessary to get the book onto bookseller's shelves, or onto e-book lists, are made by the author.