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About Publishing

Books that are published by major publishing houses are usually edited and proofread in six rounds or so.

Below is a basic description of the publishing process as provided to me by a copy editor of a top publishing house in the United States.

For textbooks, we start with a manuscript from the writers in question.  We edit it and send it to the designers to "pour" into their page-making software.  At this stage fonts/color schemes are chosen, art/photos are found according to the editors' instructions, permissions are secured, and art/photos are placed in the text.

When the designers have finished their work, they send us those electronic files—often still called "first pages" using the antiquated term from the time when the pages were physical, set by hand—one page per file, and we edit them directly into the electronic files, similar to Track Changes in Word.  When we were done editing we send the files back to the designers to incorporate our changes.  There are several more rounds of this back-and-forth.

So editors and designers edit/modify the text and layout at each of the following stages:

Manuscript (editors only)
1st Pages    (designers' round, editors' round)
2nd Pages   (designers' round, editors' round)
3rd Pages    (designers' round, editors' round)
Final Pages  (designers' round, editors' round)
(possibly one or two more rounds of extra-final small corrections, each sent as a separate page file) Overtakes (emergency corrections right before the final product goes to the printer)

Then there are 1st-printing corrections (after the book is published, before the 2nd printing), etc. sometimes up to 6th or 7th printing.

Other times the book is revised from old files to fit new theories, terminology, hair styles, whatever has changed since the book was last printed.