World of Books

Find out what goes on at a book publishing house.
By TFK Kid Reporter Abhijay Potluri
A boy and woman standing in front of bookshelves, smiling
TFK Kid Reporter Abhijay Potluri meets with Barefoot Books CEO Nancy Traversy and her team at the company’s office in 2024.

Have you ever wondered what happens to a book before it appears on a shelf? 

Barefoot Books is an independent children’s book publisher. Founded in 1992, the company started with a mission to create beautiful and meaningful books for kids. Nancy Traversy is the company’s CEO and one of its founders. “Our mission was to open children's minds and hearts and inspire their curiosity and imagination,” she told TIME for Kids. 

In book publishing, different teams and departments work together to create a successful product. Let’s learn about a few of them.

Finessing the Story 

The publishing process starts with the editorial team. This team makes sure the story is the best it can be before readers see it. Different editors focus on different things. Some look at the big picture, like the characters and plot. Others check for grammar and spelling mistakes. “The editorial team’s job is to make the book clear, enjoyable, and free of mistakes, helping the author create a great reading experience,” associate editor Bree Reyes says.

Editors at Barefoot Books wear many hats. They find and choose manuscripts. A manuscript is an author’s draft of a book. It is pitched to publishers by the authors and the author’s agent. Editors use it to imagine what a book will look like, as well as when and how it can be published. 

Barefoot’s editorial team is also involved with art directing. This is senior editor Lisa Rosinsky’s favorite part of the process. The editors help pick the illustrator and oversee the artwork being done. It’s like “taking care of my baby all the way until it grows up,” Rosinksy says. 

If you want to become an editor, reading a lot is a good place to start. Consider why you like some books and dislike others, Rosinksy recommends. Writing is important too. Develop a strong grasp of grammar and spelling. Practice giving constructive feedback on friends’ stories and essays. Join a school newspaper or writing club to gain experience. Editors often work under tight deadlines, so time-management skills are key.

Bringing the Books to Life 

The design team is responsible for making books visually appealing and engaging. Designers put together the author’s words and the illustrator's images. They also create images for marketing and publicity campaigns. 

Graphic designer Lindsey Leigh and junior designer Tatiana Guel work in Barefoot’s design department. Leigh works closely with the edit team. First, she copies the edited text into a layout. She chooses fonts and colors, and creates a cover that matches the manuscript’s theme. She inputs illustrators’ images and ensures they work with the book. Guel works more closely with the marketing team. She helps create graphics to promote the books on social media. 

If you dream of becoming a designer, both Leigh and Guel emphasize attention to detail. Leigh suggests making your own books. It will help you learn how to play around with layouts. Guel agrees. She suggests, “If you have a book you like, imagine a different book cover on it.” It’s a great way to test your eye for design. 

Getting the Word Out 

Once books are complete, the marketing team helps people find out about them. Marketing director Jeanne Stafford says one of her team’s main goals is to “spread the word about our books and how awesome they are.” 

The marketing team helps organize book signings with authors, or works to get reviews from popular websites and magazines. It also designs advertisements and works with bookstores to make sure the book is displayed where people will see it. Trade-marketing associate Rachel Sammons works closely with the design team. She uses their graphics in videos and sneak peeks on social media. 

Being a part of a marketing team isn’t specific to the degrees you have, Stafford and Sammons explain. Everybody on the team “has really cool backgrounds and skills that you wouldn’t necessarily think of as qualifications for publishing,” Sammons says. It’s more about enthusiasm and creativity. Marketing changes so much with new trends, it’s best to learn on the job. But both agree: the ability to collaborate is important. 

Bringing It All Together

It takes a lot of people to polish a manuscript into a well-crafted book that readers will love. Each player on the Barefoot Books team plays a crucial role. 

“It’s not just about making books and hoping you can sell them,” Traversy says. “You have to have a clearly defined mission. And you have to do it because you love it.”