Self-Publishing Advice Center from the Alliance of Independent Authors

What Is Publishing? The Seven Processes of Book Publishing

Orna Ross

Orna Ross, Director of ALLi

Anyone who sets out to publish a book needs to understand the seven processes of publishing. If you're scratching your head or you've never heard of them, don't worry. In this extract from her book Creative Self-Publishing , ALLi Director Orna Ross explains each process and why they matter to indie authors and other publishers.

Tell someone you're an author and the next question they'll most likely ask is “are you published”?

What they usually mean by that is: “Has somebody else invested in your book?” (Subtext: “Are you actually an author — or are you really a deluded wannabe?” )

Few people outside the business understand that being “published” is not a matter of some other business deciding your book is good enough. But publishing is not just the act of making a book, with an appropriate cover and properly edited text. It’s not getting a book printed. It’s not the moment when you press the “publish” button on a self-publishing platform. And it’s certainly not when a commercial publisher in London or New York decides a manuscript deserves a contract.

So what is it?

Whether these are done by you, the author, or somebody else we call “a publisher”, is irrelevant to the reader–so long as the processes are properly done.

Knowing the seven processes of publishing is useful for all publishers, especially indie authors who can get confused — especially in the early days of their publishing business — about where the writing ends and the publishing begins.

Understanding the discrete nature of each process allows you to see which ones you can (or must) tackle yourself, and which you can hand over. And where you need to improve if you want to become a better publisher.

We can all be better publishers than we are today. Like writing, publishing is both art and craft, and that mean it's never perfected. But today's technology has made possible things that were never possible before –and gives authors scope for endless improvement and expansion in each process of publishing.

The Seven Processes of Publishing: The Formats

Before listing the seven processes of publishing, a quick look at formats. In the old days, books began as print and in a publishing contract, electronic or audio editions were handled as “subsidiary” to that ore format. Hence a whole section in publishing contracts covering subsidiary rights.

Today's indie authors use digital tools to produce books in three formats: ebook (electronic), pbook (print), and abook (audio) and most authors now start with the cheapest and easiest format which is ebooks.

We all have our preferred reading format and many older readers, in particular, are romantic about print, loving the feel, the smell and the weight of a print book in the hand. A good author-publisher knows that how we ourselves like to read, as a reader or writer, is irrelevant. Our job as a publisher is to get our books into as many formats as possible so that the readers can choose their own preferred format.

If you are currently publishing your first book, ALLi recommends you begin with making, supplying and sell an ebook first, as it's the easiest and cheapest format to work with. Ebooks will set you up fastest for book sales and allow you to make your inevitable mistakes more cheaply, and in a way that is easiest to rectify and change.

The elements and processes of publishing are the same across the three formats.  Once you've mastered ebooks, you can build on those skills to produce print and audio, the tricker formats that need more investment.

So what are those elements and processes?

The Seven Processes of Publishing: Three Elements

The three elements of commercial book publishing are: book making , books supply and book sales . These three elements encompass seven key processes that make up the craft of publishing.

Publishing Element One: Book Making

Publishing element two: book supply, publishing element three: book selling, the seven processes of publishing: questions that arise.

During the different processes of book publishing, very different questions arise.

Making the Book: Questions

This function includes editorial, design, and production: getting the text edited, the front cover and interior layout designed and produced. The kinds of questions we ask during the making phase include:

Having mastered the intricacies of making a book, the author-publisher's attention then turns to reaching readers, book marketing, and promotion.

Supplying the Book: Questions

This function includes distribution and marketing. Distribution is about who's going to take your book out to the world, make it available. Then marketing is about ensuring that it is discoverable.

Book marketing and promotion are often confused, or spoken of together, but they are not the same thing. Marketing centers on what the book publishing business calls “discoverability”, ensuring that you and your books can be found by the right readers. Marketing includes your author platform, your book covers and descriptions and reviews, your email list and digital funnels,  and encompasses your promise to the reader. It's your marketing that allows readers to know what to expect from you and your books and it's an ongoing, ever-growing process.

Book promotion is time-based and sales-based, and usually a drive around a particular book. Promotions take many forms, including book launches, virtual or real-life book tours, advertising, and other purchased promotions.

Selling the Book: Questions

Indie authors are careful about the contracts we sign and do what we call “selective licensing”, limiting the term and territory and time for which we license our rights to any trade publisher, or any other rights buyer. The kinds of questions we ask around rights management include:

This is an extract from Creative Self-Publishing by Orna Ross.


What stage of the publishing process are you at? Have you faced any barriers or hurdles trying to get to the next process?

' src=

Author: Orna Ross

Orna Ross is a bestselling and award-winning author of historical fiction and inspirational poetry, and a creativity facilitator. As founder-director of the Alliance of Independent Authors, she has been named one of The Bookseller’s Top 100 people in publishing. 

This article was helpful as a new author who has yet to publish. Thank you for making the information digestible and not too overwhelming.

Very interesting/informative since I finished my fictional novel and am looking to publish (new years resolution!). Have been and will continue to scour the ALLI Directory for quality independent publishers. Joined ALLI as Associate Member and will be accessing as many resources as my schedule allows (work 3 jobs on top of writing endeavors). While doing all of the above described activities (in addition to continuing to participate in local writers groups), my intention is to regularly reach out (targeted outreach) to publishers on the ALLI Directory. Wanted to run this by you as a strategy. Best wishes for 2020!!!

Leave a Reply Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed .

Latest advice, news, ratings, tools and trends.

Writing A Series

Writing a Series With Dan Parsons and Melissa Addey: Beginners Self-Publishing Podcast

Member Milestones: Celebrating Your Success

Member Milestones: Celebrating Your Success

publishing books meaning

Self-publishing News: Could Carbon Labels Be Coming to Books?

Origin of publishing

Words nearby publishing, words related to publishing, how to use publishing in a sentence.

If you are in the publishing space, you will want to ensure that you understand these specific manual actions.

She comes to us from MediaPost where she had been covering the publishing industry and managing the Publishers Daily newsletter.

The company said the publishing ecosystem has been experimenting with new ways of creating rich Web Stories, but based on what it has seen, users do not want teasers where they’re being asked to click through to get the full story.

In the adult publishing world, nonfiction sales are strong because when readers have the power to select their own books, they often choose nonfiction.

A streamlined publishing schedule can help boost conversion because while the audience gets high-quality content to engage with, they can also rely on the brand to keep coming up with similar content to keep things moving.

Reprinted by permission of Kingswell/Disney Publishing Worldwide.

Soon, for the first time since its 1914 founding, the magazine stopped publishing unsigned editorials.

I had graduated NYU just a few years earlier and begun a career in publishing , but the addiction got the best of me.

The point of publishing all the scary stats is not to dissuade people from being professional musicians.

I was told they had removed my blog and that I must apologize for publishing it.

The promoters went his security and put up the cash into the bargain, and he went back to the publishing house victorious.

But Mr. Howard, dupe or rogue, was extremely busy in publishing to the world the particulars of this extraordinary case.

Approximately one-half of these employees work in the printing and publishing of newspapers.

During the war both the printing and publishing businesses suffered from shortage of personnel, of metal, and of paper.

Hughie tells me you have gone into the publishing business, whereat I was much shocked.

Looking to publish? Meet your dream editor on Reedsy.

Find the perfect editor for your next book

1 million authors trust the professionals on Reedsy, come meet them.

Last updated on Feb 07, 2023

How to Publish a Book in 2023: 10 Steps to Success

If you’re a writer, a dreamer, or anyone with something important to say, you’ve probably thought about writing and publishing a book. But while writing a book is a huge achievement in and of itself, getting it in front of readers is another matter — and figuring out how to publish a book can present a real challenge for first-timers!

Indeed, with more publishing options than ever before, today's authors have a lot to take in. We're here to cut through the fog and show you exactly how to publish a book in 2023. In this comprehensive guide, you’ll find concrete tips, publishing resources, and all the professional guidance you’ll need to get your book out into the world.

Here's the simple step-by-step process to publish a book :

1. Choose a publishing route

2. edit the draft, 3. get feedback from editors and critique circles, 4. title your manuscript, 5. format your book for publication, 6. design a book cover that converts readers, 7. write a 'publisher-ready' book description, 8. create a book launch plan, 9. publish your book on online retailers, 10. market the book to increase sales.

Again, modern authors have many publishing routes from which to choose. There’s no one “right” way to publish a book — so the steps in this guide should be seen as best practices, rather than mandatory actions.

That said, your path to publishing a book will inevitably affect your approach here. Before you proceed, you need to decide:

Is self-publishing or traditional publishing right for you?

Takes one minute!

This quiz should point you in the right direction, but at the end of the day, only you can determine which publishing path is right for you. If you haven’t looked into it yet, check out the posts linked above! But for those who just want quick takeaways on self-publishing vs. traditional publishing, we’ve summarized them in the table below.

Pros and cons of three different publishing routes

How to publish a book | Pros & cons of self-publishing, small press publishing, and traditional publishing

Got a solid sense of the best publishing route for your book? Great! Now we’ll cover advice that every author should take into account, regardless of how they choose to publish. 

The greatest gift any author can give their manuscript is a thorough edit. Yes, this is true whether you’re self-publishing or submitting your book to agents: either way, people will be reading it, judging it, and making decisions that impact its success.

Never edited a book before? Fear not — you can download this self-editing checklist below, and we’ve also written a step-by-step guide to how to edit a book to get you through it! That post contains detailed editing tips for every major story element like plot, characters, and conflict, as well as finer aspects like dialogue and descriptions.

publishing books meaning


Get our Book Editing Checklist

Resolve every error, from plot holes to misplaced punctuation.

Here are also a few pointers to get you started:

How to publish a book | Editing example (The Great Gatsby)

Do I really need to edit my book?

In short, yes. No one wants to read a book full of typos or plot holes, and no self-respecting author would publish an unedited draft anyway. Unless you’ve already signed a book deal, you’ll need to find someone to iron out your manuscript — and short of training to become an editor yourself, that means hiring a professional editor to do the job.

What kind of editing does your book need?

Need a deep-dive developmental edit? A careful copy edit? One final eagle-eyed proofread? Professional editors take care of every detail to ensure your book is practically perfect before it goes to press.

publishing books meaning


Polish your book with expert help

Sign up, meet 1500+ experienced editors, and find your perfect match.

Whether you hire an editor or not, thoughtful third-party feedback is invaluable. So throughout the editing process (most authors go through multiple rounds of revisions ), share your manuscript with trusted collaborators to see what they think.

To help your participants provide more honest feedback, ask them to submit an anonymous form with their thoughts on specific elements — namely, plot, characters, pacing, and prose. You might include a rating system to make it easier for them. Also, to make sure their feedback is constructive, ask them to propose a solution to each problem, not just point it out.

How to publish a book | Sample feedback form

Where should I look for feedback?

If you feel comfortable asking friends and family for their notes, you should. However, this can be a delicate process, and it may be better not to involve anyone you know personally. Here are three more ways you can get reliable feedback on your book:

⭕️ Critique circles are fantastic places to get feedback. Not only do they allow you to get notes on your book, but they also help hone your own critical skills! Check out that post to learn more about critique circles.

🖊 Writing communities can also be useful. Many of these communities have built-in critique circles, but it’s worth checking their individual forums to see if anyone’s looking for a critique partner — or, if you’re lucky, offering free critiques.

🤓 Beta readers are a third way to get detailed, candid feedback from people who are invested in your book. For context, most authors use beta readers after they’ve done some self-editing, but before they pass their book off to an editor. You can read through that post to learn more.

Having come this far, you may have already chosen your book’s title. But if you haven’t quite settled on it — or if the editing process changed your manuscript so much, you feel like you need a new title to match — now’s the time to nail it down.

FM8hI6BFhfo Video Thumb

We have some amazing resources to help you out with this, including our book title generator (which offers over 10,000 possibilities!) and our post on how to choose great book titles . But whatever title you choose, you’ll be fine if you take the following to heart:

Stuck in the mud with your title? Give that book title generator a whirl!

Now that you have your manuscript fully polished, you’re ready to format your book with chapter headings, aligned text, and page numbers. Again, this is crucial whether you’re self-publishing or sending your work to agents: either way, you want to make a good impression with a professionally formatted book.

For those sending their book to agents, all you need is to format your manuscript in a standardized, readable way. We actually have a manuscript formatting template just for the occasion! Simply plug in your text and send the file on its way.

If you’re publishing solo, this step gets a little trickier — you have to format your book so it’s 100% ready to upload to your chosen self-publishing platform . And many authors are understandably apprehensive about formatting; after all, design is a very different skill set from writing.

That’s why we created the Reedsy Book Editor — a simple, intuitive, and best of all FREE tool to format your book for publication. Try the Reedsy Book Editor for free today .

How to publish a book | Reedsy Book Editor

More book formatting options

🙌 Free formatting software. Other than the Reedsy Book Editor, you can try Kindle Create and Apple Pages, both of which provide formatting templates for free. However, each software caters to its own store, so converting your files for other retailers may get messy.

💸 Paid formatting software. You can also spring for more elaborate formatting software like Scrivener ($45) or Vellum ($200). The nice thing about these programs is that you can try them for free and, if you like what you see, pay the license fee to format as many books as you want.

👩‍💻 Hire a professional typesetter. Another good option, especially for those planning to print on demand , is to hire a professional typesetter . This is the most expensive route, but it ensures immaculate interior design — which matters a great deal if you’re printing your book , since you don’t want the text to be unevenly spaced or sucked into the binding.

Now take a moment to stop and think!

So far, this guide has applied to all methods of how to publish a book, but this is where things diverge. From here, the steps to publishing a book will depend on your preferred path:

publishing books meaning


How to Self-Publish a Book

Learn to set yourself up for success as an indie author.

The next thing you’ll need to successfully publish your book is a strong cover . Your book cover provides readers with a vital first impression of your work, which means it must not only to attract your target audience’s attention, but also let them know that this book is for them.

To do this, your cover design should be:

How to publish a book | Photo-based, illustrated, and typography-based covers

How to publish a book | Genre covers - romance, poetry, and thriller

As with formatting, all this might sound pretty intimidating to non-design-savvy authors. But unlike interior layout, which most authors can DIY with the right tools, your cover should really be designed by a professional. You shouldn’t take any risks with your number-one marketing tool , and a professional cover designer has the talent, experience, and industry knowledge to help your book succeed!

What will it cost you to get a professional book cover?

Find out here! Takes 30 seconds.

With your unique vision and their design skills, the two of you can work together to create a cover that not only converts readers, but also makes a lasting impression on them.

Meet Book Cover Designers

Dazzle readers with design

Create a book that’s beautiful from cover to cover. Sign up to meet designers.

Your book description is another major factor in getting people to buy your book. Luckily, it’s easy to optimize your description for better sales. Our post on how to write a book description that sells is the most helpful resource for this, but the basics of writing a strong description are:

When in doubt, look at the descriptions of bestsellers in your genre and try to emulate them. Read five-to-ten of these descriptions and you’ll likely see a pattern start to emerge — from there, your description will practically write itself. Like this:

How to publish a book | Successful book description (The Martian)

What about keywords and categories?

While not contained in your book description, keywords and categories are two more important parts of your online book listing. For those who don’t know:

The best way to choose keywords and categories is to put yourself in your target reader’s shoes. What would they search in order to find your book? What similar books might they be reading, and into which categories do those books fit?

A nice thing to remember about your book description, keywords, and categories is that you can always tweak them later. That said, you should still try to optimize these elements before your book launch and hit the ground running. Speaking of which, the next step is...

kXr7WLVAD4I Video Thumb

Your book isn’t going to sell itself, and the first few days are make-or-break. So one thing you need before you publish (and which you should start working on as early as possible!) is a killer launch plan . 

This plan should raise awareness, tap into your existing audience, and kick up a fuss about your book. The book launch guide linked above explains everything in detail. At this point, we also recommend downloading our book launch checklist to make sure that you've ticked off every box so far. 

publishing books meaning

Reedsy’s Book Launch Checklist

Launch your book successfully with our tried-and-true strategies.

And now, let’s quickly cover four actions you should definitely include in your launch plan:

👯 Form a street team . This will consist of friends and collaborators who promote your book on their own platforms . Remember, joined forces and social proof are much more powerful than a single, self-serving effort!

👩🏽‍💻 Build a website and mailing list . You’ll need an author website with a clear signup area for your mailing list to acquire readers. Get on WordPress or hire a web designer, and start learning all you can about mailing lists.

📖 Get book reviews . If your title has zero reviews when it launches, people will assume it’s not worth reading. Avoid this ill fate by reaching out to reviewers early and often — make sure you’re targeting reviewers and bloggers in your niche.

🎉 Throw a virtual launch party. Not just on social media , but on your author website (if you have one), and by guest-posting on other people’s blogs. Make it a big event; shout about your book from the rooftops, so as many people as possible will hear about it!

How to publish a book | Congrats, you're ready to publish your book!

Congrats! You’re finally ready to publish your own book.

You’ll be glad to know that the act of self-publishing a book is actually pretty easy. Amazon and other retailers take you through the upload process step-by-step, and as long as you have your materials prepared, you should have no trouble.

Here’s what you can expect to do, in order:

Should I publish outside Amazon?

Perhaps the biggest question when it comes to self-publishing is: should you only self-publish through Amazon , or “go wide” with other stores like Apple Books, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo?

For first-timers, going Amazon-exclusive is often the best option, simply because it offers so much in return. KDP Select (a program that requires Amazon exclusivity) allows you to run those price promotions we mentioned, plus add your book to the Kindle Unlimited library, where even more readers can find it.

Wondering whether you should give all your ebook distribution rights to Amazon?

Answer these 5 questions to find out!

However, disregarding other platforms may not be a good idea if your target readers live in an area where Amazon has less sway over the online book market (like Germany or Canada).

It’s also not ideal if you want to make your book “permafree”, since Amazon only allows limited-time free promos, or if you don’t think your book will get many readers through Kindle Unlimited . (Some genres do better than others on KU — find out more in that blog post.)

The bottom line: Do your research to figure out what’s right for you. We’ve written another post on ebook distribution and the fine print of Amazon exclusivity, so if you’re weighing your options, that’s a great place to start.

-6ohrGy8x_0 Video Thumb

Your book is polished, published, and hopefully pulling in readers already! But that doesn’t mean your work is done — far from it.

The final step of how to publish a book is marketing it to the fullest . You’ve already gotten the ball rolling with your launch plan, but here are a few more essentials to take into account:

🤝 Do more blog tours and connect with authors. Guest-posting to promote your book isn’t just for your launch plan! Even after you’ve launched, continue reaching out to relevant blogs, especially those written by other authors who might want to cross-promote.

🤑 Make the most of price promotions. Unless your book is permafree, the price can always be better for customers. If your downloads are dipping and you haven’t run a price promotion in awhile, try that next.

💁🏻 Employ third-party promotional services. Burnt out on self-marketing, or simply don’t have the mass influence you’d like? Book promotion services can help you out. Look for services that cater specifically to your book’s target audience.

💪 Always be prepared for opportunities. You never know when you’ll have the chance to promote your book in a life-changing way! If you were to run into Reese Witherspoon tomorrow, you should have a preview of your book ready to AirDrop onto her phone.

Final thoughts

Publishing a book is always an enormous undertaking, whether you choose self-publishing or not. The good news is that if you’ve read this far, you now know exactly what your options are, plus the pros and cons of each.

We can’t publish your book for you — however, we’re confident that you have everything you need in order to achieve this lifelong goal! Keep your eyes on the prize, enjoy the journey, and send us a postcard when you get there. We're so excited to see where you end up.

Still craving more info on how to publish a book? Check out the following resources:

Rick Pacal says:

19/02/2020 – 19:08

Great information here. I really appreciate these tips on self-publishing. I have completed 13 short stories and am currently writing my 14th, with a 15th on the horizon with an idea. When they're all finished I hope to self publish. Thanks to your suggestions, I will go back to my first story and begin editing once again. Since my book will be a compilation of 15 short stories, I don't have a title for the book as yet. Perhaps it will be the title of one of the stories...or something else. My grandson is a pretty good artist/cartoonist and I might call upon him to design the jacket cover. Once again, thanks for all your help, advice and suggestions.

Comments are currently closed.

Continue reading

Recommended posts from the Reedsy Blog

publishing books meaning

5 Ways to Save on Your Self-Publishing Budget

If you want to self-publish a book without breaking the bank, here are 5 tips to ensure you still get the best result possible.

publishing books meaning

30 Great Book Dedication Examples to Inspire Your Own

A list of 30 of the best book dedications in the business, that'll have you crying, laughing, and crying laughing.

publishing books meaning

Expository Writing: The Craft of Sharing Information

Expository writing is a fundamental part of how we learn and make sense of the world. Learn all about it in this post.

publishing books meaning

How to Make Money by Writing Books: 8 Tips for Success

If you want to be an author who makes a living from books, here are eight tips to help you make money as a writer.

publishing books meaning

What is an Imprint? A Division of a Larger Publisher

We’ve asked three Reedsy editors with experience working for ‘Big 5’ publishers, and compiled everything you need to know about imprints in this post.

publishing books meaning

How to Research Your Market: An Author's Guide [Checklist]

Ensure your book finds its readership even before you write a single word of it. Download our market research checklist for authors

Join a community of over 1 million authors

Reedsy is more than just a blog. Become a member today to discover how we can help you publish a beautiful book.

1 million authors trust the professionals on Reedsy, come meet them.

Enter your email or get started with a social account:

We made a writing app for you

Yes, you! Write. Format. Export for ebook and print. 100% free, always.

Definition of published

Example sentences.

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'published.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

1796, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Dictionary Entries Near published

Cite this entry.

“Published.” Dictionary , Merriam-Webster, Accessed 9 Jun. 2023.

More from Merriam-Webster on published

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for published

Nglish: Translation of published for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of published for Arabic Speakers

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!

Play Quordle Game

Can you solve 4 words at once?

Word of the day.

See Definitions and Examples »

Get Word of the Day daily email!


You've used more than you might think

words for things you didnt know have names vol 2 approach

When 'thingamajig' and 'thingamabob' just won't do

merriam webster time traveler

Look up any year to find out

semantic bleaching text on white background

How 'literally' can mean 'figuratively'


A simple way to keep them apart. (Most of the time.)


And who put it there, anyway?

illustrated notebook that says everyday vs every day

A simple trick to keep them separate


Can you tell the "sommeliers" from the "spelunkers"?

Take the quiz


A quiz that’s all bark, no bite.

Name That Thing

You know what it looks like… but what is it cal...

winning words from the national spelling bee logo

Can you outdo past winners of the National Spelli...

Copyright © 2023 Entrepreneur Media, Inc. All rights reserved. Entrepreneur® and its related marks are registered trademarks of Entrepreneur Media Inc.

Top 3 Ways to Publish a Book — and the Pros and Cons of Each What's the best path to getting your book published? Here's what entrepreneurs should know.

By Tom Freiling • May 10, 2023

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

As a lifelong book publisher who coaches entrepreneurs and business executives who want to write and publish a book, I'm often asked which is the best path to getting published. Getting published and finding readers is certainly an impressive way to expand your reach as an entrepreneur. It gives you added credibility and authority as an expert in your field. But before you get published, you should carefully consider the best and most appropriate publishing model.

In this article, we will explore the three most commonly used ways to publish a book . There are traditional routes to taking a book to market, DIY approaches, and hybrid publishing models. While there's no single best way to publish your book, there are certainly advantages and disadvantages to each strategy. Depending on your unique situation, and with a little due diligence, you can effectively reach readers and expand your influence.

Related: Top 7 Questions About Publishing a Book That Every Entrepreneur Needs to Know

Traditional publishing models

Traditional publishers offer book contracts that cost nothing to the author. In fact, the publisher pays the author for the rights to license their words and publish their book. Examples of traditional publishers include Random House, Harper Collins and Simon and Schuster. A traditional publishing contract can be lucrative for the author. When you show people that you've been published by a large, traditional publishing house, that can be quite impressive.

There are, however, several disadvantages. First, it's exceedingly difficult to get an offer from a traditional publisher, and it usually involves a years-long process. Second, while you will get paid, it's usually not much money. The average royalty paid to authors by traditional publishers is less than 20%, which means you may earn quarters per sale, not even dollars. Finally, you will lose control over your words and book. Traditional publishing contracts are inflexible in this way. As an entrepreneur, you may not like to be contractually boxed in.

Self-publishing models

Self-publishing , also referred to as DIY publishing, has fast become a credible alternate path to getting published. When you self-publish a book, you manage the entire process from writing and editorial to design to print production to distribution by yourself. Many self-published authors find help from individual contractors who specialize in publishing or from self-publishing companies. The primary benefit to self-publishing is that the author controls the process and retains all rights and ownership of their book. There are many self-publishing pitfalls , however, which often derail a DIY self-publishing project. Book publishing is a complex, time-consuming and ever-changing industry. If you don't thoroughly understand what you're doing, you'll waste resources and never find readers.

As a busy entrepreneur, you may not want to spend the time needed to manage editors, designers, printers and distributors. You certainly don't want to be embarrassed by your book, if indeed it doesn't look professional or read well. So, while self-publishing might be an attractive alternative, it might be wise to find publishing professionals to make you shine. Still, you may find success by self-publishing .

Related: 10 Steps to Self-Publish Your Book Like a Bestseller

Hybrid publishing models

A third path to getting published is commonly referred to as the hybrid model, which combines the best of traditional publishing and DIY self-publishing. Hybrid publishing companies behave like traditional publishing companies in all respects, except that they publish books using an author-subsidized business model, as opposed to financing all costs themselves and, in exchange, return a higher-than-industry-standard share of sales proceeds to the author. A hybrid publisher makes income from a combination of publishing services and book sales.

Although hybrid publishing companies are author-subsidized, they are different from self-publishing models in that hybrid publishers adhere — without exception — to certain criteria, including (and most importantly) a high-quality book with worldwide distribution. Hybrid publishers are different than self-publishers in that they aim to publish books that sell well in the marketplace.

Which is the best publishing model for entrepreneurs?

Writing and publishing a book is a lot like starting your own business. You have to do your own discovery and due diligence before you decide how to take your book to market. There's not necessarily a best book publishing model for any author, including entrepreneurs. You may want to wait and pursue a big publishing contract from a respected publishing house, you may want to work fast and furiously on a self-published book, or you may want to find a quality hybrid book publisher that can take your book to market in a high-quality and professional manner.

Whichever way you ultimately publish your book, you can be assured there is probably no better way to build a platform and increase your influence. People place authors on pedestals, and even the media often seeks out authors for interviews and as authorities to comment on topics relating to business and entrepreneurship. It's a surefire way to market yourself and your business — and since books will never go out of style, once you publish a book, you can enjoy the benefits for many years to come.

Related: Self-Publishing or Traditional Publishing: Which Is Best for You?

Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor

CEO and Publisher, Freiling Agency

Editor's Pick Red Arrow

Related topics red arrow, most popular red arrow, kevin o'leary slams martha stewart's comments on remote work: 'nobody wants to work in these places'.

The "Shark Tank" star is a firm believer in remote work.

Sustainability for Entrepreneurs — Why It Matters (and How to Achieve It).

Consumers expect businesses to match their values today, showing a rising preference for ethical brands. Being a sustainable entrepreneur is good for your business.

'Do You Hate Me?': High School Teacher Shares Wild Emails He Receives From Students

Jordan Baechler teaches high school students in Ontario, Canada.

This Is Barbara Corcoran's No. 1 Tip for Finding the Best Up-and-Coming Neighborhoods to Buy Real Estate In

The real estate mogul shared her advice on Instagram.

The Top 5 All-Time Best Productivity Hacks You've Never Heard Of

Want to combat chronic procrastination? Use these top five productivity hacks to put an end to this debilitating nuisance.

How to Build a Thriving Community That Will Skyrocket Your Business

Build a strong community, and transform your business with these proven strategies.

Successfully copied link


Cambridge Dictionary

Meaning of publishing in English

Your browser doesn't support HTML5 audio

publishing | American Dictionary

Publishing | business english, translations of publishing.

Get a quick, free translation!


Word of the Day

aurora borealis

a pattern of coloured lights that are sometimes seen in the night sky in the most northern parts of the world

On its last legs (Describing the condition of objects, Part 1)

On its last legs (Describing the condition of objects, Part 1)

rich mom energy

Learn more with +Plus

Add publishing to one of your lists below, or create a new one.


Something went wrong.

There was a problem sending your report.

Copyright Clearance Center - Copyright & Licensing Experts

What AI Will Mean To Book Publishing

By Christopher Kenneally 9 June 2023

Publishing consultant  Thad McIlroy  suggests that “ AI Is About to Turn Book Publishing Upside-Down ” in a  Publishers Weekly  column this week.

“The latest generation of AI is a game changer,” McIlroy writes. “I believe that every function in trade book publishing today can be automated with the help of generative AI. And, if this is true, then the trade book publishing industry as we know it will soon be obsolete.”

Click below to listen to the latest episode of the Velocity of Content podcast.

Such a dramatic prosect shouldn’t be cause for fear, but for excitement, he advises.

As PW’s  Andrew Albanese tells me, McIlroy raises critical questions that the book world cannot avoid for long: What will publishing look like after generative AI has been fully assimilated into our current workflows? What will reading look like?

“What Thad McIlroy has done is reframe the discussion in a way that pierces some of the fear and gets to some of the possibilities,” Albanese says.

Subscribe to CCC’s blog

Don’t miss a post

publishing books meaning

publishing books meaning

What Does It Mean To Publish ?

Go to the homepage

Example sentences book publication

This list includes compositions written in the 1920s that are considered standards by at least one major fake book publication or reference work.
The state has also planned key book publication projects and established prizes for excellent books to promote the development of the publishing industry.
The chapbook marked the first book publication for each author.
In the humanities, a major book publication may be a prerequisite for defense.
One of the attributes of this epoch was book publication .

Definition of 'book' book

IPA Pronunciation Guide

Definition of 'publication' publication


COBUILD Collocations book publication

Browse alphabetically book publication.

Quick word challenge

Quiz Review

Score: 0 / 5

Wordle Helper

publishing books meaning

Please rate your experience using this page

Thank you we appreciate your feedback., help topics.

Have feedback? Can't find your answer in our Help pages?

Start publishing with KDP

What types of content can i publish through kdp.

Am I able to use KDP for content currently published elsewhere?

Learn more about our publishing requirements/guidelines.

Helpful Resources

Did this page answer your question yes | no.

Make More Money Reach More Readers

KDP Select Global Fund

April 2023

$46.1 Million

publishing books meaning

Reach more readers through Kindle Unlimited

Please sign in to continue

illustration of the different aspects of publishing, from editing to delivering and reading

What does a publisher do?

At Penguin we make books for everyone, because a book can change anyone.

But what exactly do we mean by the word ‘make’? Like TV, film, theatre and all other creative industries, a huge amount of work goes into the creation of the final, glossy product - in our case, a book.

 So, what happens exactly between an author completing their manuscript, and the finished books that you find on your shelves at home and in your favourite shop?  

What does a publisher actually do?

When people think of publishing they usually think of an editor poring over a manuscript, writing notes to the author in the margin. But, while that's true to some degree, the publisher's role (and indeed, that of the editor) is much broader and much more intensive. From the start of the process to the very end, a publisher invests a huge amount of time, money and expertise in ensuring that each book is the very best it can be. And everything is done with the intention of getting authors' brilliant work into the hands of as many readers as possible.

The process from receiving the manuscript to delivering the finished book will often take the best part of a year (sometimes longer, sometimes shorter), and will always involves dozens of experts along the way: from marketing to technology, and sales to social media. 

There's a huge amount of work that goes on behind the scenes; all equally important to a book's success.  If an author signs with a publisher, they can expect that publisher to do everything; from copy editing, to media training authors and illustrators, creating marketing materials to promote the book, deciding which retailers to approach to stock the book, and persuading newspaper and magazine editors to run reviews.

"Publishing is a team effort," says Joel Richardson, publisher at  Michael Joseph . "It relies on such a range of different expertise. The best book in the world might never be read if it didn’t have a great cover to make you want to pick it up, a skilled publicist to make sure you know about it, and a brilliant distribution team working tirelessly to ensure that the book is actually there to buy, whether on a shelf in a bookshop, or in the warehouse of an online retailer. The most successful publications see all these different teams working in sync, with everyone’s individual skills and experience required to create a bestseller."

Here are just some of the teams who are involved in bringing each and every one of our books to life:

Colour matching with the Production team at Penguin Random House

What roles are there in publishing?

How does a publishing house work.

Publishers may be made up of divisions or publishing houses , which are like small companies within a larger company. At Penguin Random House, for instance, we are made up of eight publishing houses, each of which is creatively and editorially independent and made up of its own team of publishing experts, including editors, designers, marketers and publicists. We also have a specific division focused on producing, recording and releasing audio versions of our books from their state-of-the-art studios in our office.

Many publishing houses are made up of imprints, which are small publishing units, and may have a certain identity or publish a certain type of book.

Joel explains more, "Having lots of imprints tends to come about for one of two reasons: either because multiple small publishing companies joined together at one point in time but preserved their own identity, or because a new imprint has been set up within a company, with a specific remit to look for a certain kind of book. Either way, the easiest way to think of any imprint is that it has a specific brand identity within the publishing world, in terms of the kinds of books they publish."

For example, some imprints may be geared towards literary fiction, while others might publish certain non-fiction categories (for example, our Yellow Jersey imprint focuses on brilliant sports writing). Some imprints, like Penguin or Puffin, are world famous and recognised by their distinctive look and logo.

Authors will usually work with one editor, who will work for a particular publishing house. Sometimes an editor will work for a single imprint, and sometimes they will work for multiple. Some editors may have the job title of ‘Publisher’ which means roughly the same thing as editor, but with a little more experience and responsibility for the strategy of their imprint.

Whatever the structure or shape of the publisher that you end up working with, the important thing to know is that you'll be working with experts in their field. From a combination of research and experience, publishers know their readers inside out. In a fast-changing world - one which is full of distractions and competing forces for people's time - they know how to cut through the noise and get people truly excited about new stories and ideas. 

Illustration: Mike Ellis for Penguin

Sign up to the Penguin Newsletter

By signing up, I confirm that I'm over 16. To find out what personal data we collect and how we use it, please visit our Privacy Policy

To revist this article, visit My Profile, then View saved stories .

Lost Illusions: The Untold Story of the Hit Show’s Poisonous Culture

By Maureen Ryan

‘Lost Illusions The Untold Story of the Hit Shows Poisonous Culture

“I got chills.”

A woman I’ll call Theresa was telling me about the early days of the Lost writers room, before the ABC drama premiered in September 2004. She knew in her bones it was special, long before huge ratings confirmed it. The story of plane crash survivors on a surreal tropical island—including Jack, a doctor transporting his late father’s body home, and Locke, a flinty survivalist in a wheelchair—was going to be, she was sure, deeper and wilder and more entertaining than the audience could possibly imagine.

“Someone would say, ‘Well, what if Locke walks?’ ” Theresa remembered. “ ‘What if the coffin is empty?’ As all that was going down, literally you got chills. We started doing the wave in the room, like, holy shit! I’d never seen anything like it in my career—that miraculous creative energy. The writers in that room were great.”

“It was heaven,” said a Lost veteran I’ll call Gretchen, describing an atmosphere in which ideas could come from anyone, regardless of rank.

When it came to the highlights of that gig—the big swings, the fusing of sci-fi mythology, adventure, and rich character building—the only thing Theresa could compare it to was seeing the original Dreamgirls on Broadway. When Jennifer Holliday gave her all to “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going,” “people were floating in their chairs,” Theresa said. “When something hits a certain frequency and you know it’s magic—that’s what was going on in that room.”

I knew that feeling. I had been writing about pop culture for years before Lost premiered, and when it debuted, I was a full-time TV critic. My whole life there had been good and fun and enjoyable TV, as well as programs that were important. But something big shifted in the early aughts thanks to daring shows like The Sopranos, Sex and the City, Battlestar Galactica, and The Shield.

For a long time, the more cautious broadcast networks struggled to keep up with this cable-driven revolution. Lost changed that. Its pilot, which cost a reported $13 million and was directed by cocreator J.J. Abrams, made excellent use of its Hawaii locations. And dozens of copycat dramas would never quite replicate the magic of its early seasons, which were bolstered by a brilliant structural device. Most Lost episodes focused on one individual, interspersing flashbacks to that person’s previous life. Viewers saw the mistakes and the disappointments many were fleeing—the show’s title was both an adjective and a metaphor—and when Lost was firing on all cylinders, we came to care deeply about not just what was happening but to whom it was happening.

Like the characters themselves, we wondered how a polar bear ended up on a tropical island. We were freaked out by a mysterious metal hatch amid the jungle foliage, and by the shadowy doings of a faction known as the Others. And everybody (especially me) wanted to know what was up with the trippy Dharma Initiative, an organization that left evidence of its weird research all over the island. But what helped Lost win awards, and what kept some folks watching even through slow patches and narrative misfires were Lost ’s deeper levels. Through the flashbacks, which evolved into flash-forwards and even “sideways” flashes, the drama asked why these specific human beings arrived in such rough shape, personally or psychologically, and whether they could not just survive this strange island but also transcend the worst things that ever happened to them. The show was allowed to continue down this wildly ambitious path because it was a giant hit. Lost and Desperate Housewives, which also premiered that fall, turned around the fortunes of an entire network.

A Groundbreaking Queer Oscar Winner and Its Very, Very Complicated Legacy

By Katey Rich

Shiny Happy People Goes Way Beyond Duggar Family Secrets

By Eve Batey

Zack Snyder Goes Galactic: Exclusive First Look at Rebel Moon

By Anthony Breznican

Early on, when Abrams and others on the creative team gave Harold Perrineau the full-court press in hopes of convincing him to join the cast, he had been in two Matrix films and Romeo + Juliet. He also played a key role in TV’s brave new golden age: He was part of the ensemble on HBO’s provocative prison saga Oz. Lost was not going to be as edgy as shows like Oz, but securing Perrineau was, as they say in the industry, a big get. “Harold had one of the biggest careers of all of us when Lost began,” noted Daniel Dae Kim, another member of the cast. “He’s a very talented actor. And I thought his work was some of the best on the show.”

Part of the reason Perrineau took a chance on the ABC drama was because the creative team said they wanted to tell a story that “was really equitable” in terms of the time it spent on its array of characters. He’d been around long enough to know, as he put it, “where the lines were, and what the ceiling was” for Black actors. But he was encouraged by what he was told and by the cast that was assembled. “We were all really hopeful about it,” Perrineau remembered. “It was a bigger try than I had ever seen on broadcast TV.” When he talked to the press in those early days, his enthusiasm was palpable: “I was shouting about it from the rooftops,” he said. “I was such a believer.”

For a number of Lost sources I talked to, the creative highs that counterbalanced the hard parts of the job evaporated fast. A wave of dismissals (the first of many) came not long after the arrival of executive producer Carlton Cuse, an industry veteran who had worked on mainstream ’90s dramas like The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. and Nash Bridges. When Lost cocreator Damon Lindelof was starting out as a TV writer, one of his first jobs was on the staff of Nash Bridges. Lost was an enormous undertaking and Lindelof was overwhelmed by his vast new responsibilities, so he asked his former boss Cuse to work on the ABC program with him. Given that Lost was at the forefront of pop culture, Cuse and Lindelof were among the most well-known showrunners in American television for quite some time—avuncular, funny figureheads, fanning the flames of conjecture about certain mysteries, teasing upcoming developments, and, at times, attempting to defuse anger or confusion regarding some of the drama’s twists and turns. There was drama behind the scenes too, and it was also dark and complicated.

Based on conversations with more than a dozen people who worked on Lost in various capacities, it’s clear that the landmark series played right into Hollywood’s most long-standing patterns, in which auteurs wield enormous power with very little oversight. Later, you will hear from Lindelof and Cuse at length regarding the allegations and issues their former colleagues raised with me. I talked to people across all six seasons, half of whom were people of color and more than half of whom were women. Every person I spoke with is justifiably proud of the work they did on the drama, but by all accounts, they worked very hard on a job that could be quite grueling. And scarring.

“All I wanted to do was write some really cool episodes of a cool show. That was an impossibility on that staff,” said Monica Owusu-Breen, who worked on Lost ’s third season. “There was no way to navigate that situation. Part of it was they really didn’t like their characters of color. When you have to go home and cry for an hour before you can see your kids because you have to excise all the stress you’ve been holding in, you’re not going to write anything good after that.”

On set in Hawaii, much of the cast got along really well, at least at first. “A lot of us grew very close,” said an actor I’ll call Sloan. “The thing that kind of created a rift in the cast was money.” Perrineau and Sloan told me that the cast had discussions about holding firm and asking for equal pay when salary renegotiations with ABC Studios began. According to both, promises were made to present a united front. Almost a decade earlier, the cast of Friends had done just that and wound up with equal pay for all six leads. But at Lost, the united front quickly crumbled. Ultimately, the cast ended up in a series of compensation tiers, and Perrineau and Sloan said the highest tier was occupied solely by white actors.

“That affected relationships,” Sloan said. But the actor had no relationship with Cuse, who, Sloan believed, “didn’t seem to think much of me.” At least, during a work-related conversation, Cuse never berated Sloan to the point of tears for being “ungrateful,” which happened to another Lost actor Sloan knew.

As the 25-episode first season progressed, Perrineau noticed that a few of his castmates got the majority of the storytelling attention: “It became pretty clear that I was the Black guy. Daniel [Dae Kim] was the Asian guy. And then you had Jack and Kate and Sawyer,” all of whom got a good deal of screen time, as did Terry O’Quinn’s Locke. Indeed, a writer I spoke to who worked on Lost during the middle of its run said that the writing staff was told repeatedly who the “hero characters” were: Locke, Jack, Kate, and Sawyer, all of whom were white. “It’s not that they didn’t write stories for Sayid [an Iraqi character] or Sun and Jin [Korean characters],” the source added. Still, they recalled comments like “Nobody cares about these other characters. Just give them a few scenes on another beach.”

To ensure that his colleague would understand that this observation was not just actor jealousy rearing its head, Perrineau pointed out the storyline disparities to a Lost producer on set in a fairly mild way. He told me he said, “I don’t have to be the first, I don’t have to have the most episodes—but I’d like to be in the mix. But it seems like this is now a story about Jack and Kate and Sawyer.” Perrineau said he was told, “Well, this is just how audiences follow stories,” and those were the characters that were “relatable.”

Malcolm David Kelley and Harold Perrineau in the season two finale.

That assertion raised the obvious follow-up question: Why were white people relatable and his Black character, Michael, was not? Perrineau had felt a similar frustration on photo shoots where, especially in the early seasons of the show, actors of color were often asked to stand in the back row or at the edges of the frame. Conversations and experiences like these made the long days seem even longer. “You can feel the energy,” Perrineau said. “You can feel, like, ‘Oh, you’re not as important as these other people.’ ”

When Perrineau paged through the original draft of the second episode of season two, “it was too much,” he said. At that point in the Lost saga, several castaways’ attempt to flee the island on a raft has gone awry, and Walt, Michael’s son, has been kidnapped by a shadowy group called the Others. In this version of the script, Michael is pulled onto the remains of the raft by Sawyer (Josh Holloway), and the episode’s flashbacks revolve around Sawyer. Within those pages, Michael asks about his son early on, just once.

In that version of the script, Perrineau recalled, “Michael’s asking Sawyer questions about his past, about how he feels, but he never again mentions Walt.” Perrineau’s reaction was, “I don’t think I can do that. I can’t be another person who doesn’t care about missing Black boys, even in the context of fiction, right? This is just furthering the narrative that nobody cares about Black boys, even Black fathers.”

He knew the risks of talking to his bosses about any of this. “That was the thing that was always tricky. Any time you mention race, everybody gets—their hair gets on fire, and they’re like, ‘I’m not racist!’ ” Perrineau said. “It’s like, ‘Nope. Because I say that I’m Black doesn’t mean I’m calling you a racist. I am talking to you from my perspective. I’m being really clear that I’m not trying to put my trauma on you, but I am trying to talk to you about what I feel. So can we just do that? Can we just have that conversation?’ ”

Despite the risks, he expressed his concerns about the script to Lindelof and Cuse in a phone call. Then he brought up the onscreen equity he had been led to expect when he accepted the job. “At the beginning, it was, ‘Hey Harold, we love you. We love what you’re creating in the industry. We really want you and what you do,’ ” Perrineau recalled. But as a viewer, it is easy to see Perrineau’s point of view: Michael does not get the depth, complexity, or careful storytelling that other characters receive. In that phone conversation, he told his bosses, “If you’re going to use me, let’s work. I’m here to work. I’m good at my job and I’ll do anything you want. Except be ‘the Black guy’ on your show.”

He said Cuse and Lindelof told him that the episode was not about his character. “ ‘Cool, it’s not about me. I’m not making it about me,’ ” he remembered replying. “ ‘I just can’t have this father not care about his son. Could we put in some more lines that show he cares about his son?’ They didn’t. I ad-libbed some lines. I didn’t give a shit at that point.” Weeks later, he got a revised script—the flashbacks were now about Michael’s pre-island life. Perrineau had two days to shoot those scenes, as opposed to the several days devoted to the Sawyer flashbacks. “It was 14-hour, 18-hour days. I was like, ‘If you think I’m gonna fuck this up, I’m not. I’m gonna be really good.’ But I felt like suddenly they were mad at me,” Perrineau said.

As it turned out, soon enough, the problems Perrineau had—with that script and with the writing for his character—were no longer issues he had to contend with. A couple of weeks before shooting began on the second-season finale, Perrineau said, Cuse told him his character would not be returning. Perrineau told me he was taken aback and questioned Cuse about this, and the showrunner said he did not know if Michael would ever come back.

“I was fucked up about it. I was like, ‘Oh, I just got fired, I think,’ ” Perrineau recalled. “I was like, ‘Wait a minute, what’s happening?’ [Cuse] said, ‘Well, you know, you said to us, if we don’t have anything good for you, you want to go.’ I was just asking for equal depth.” According to Perrineau, the response from Cuse was, “ ‘Well, you said you don’t have enough work here, so we’re letting you go.’ ” I observed that the response seemed to indicate royal displeasure. Perrineau agreed: “It was all very much, ‘How dare you?’ ”

When Perrineau’s character exited the core Lost narrative for good, he gave an interview to a reporter who he said quoted him fairly and accurately about various topics. “She asked me something, and I said—I don’t remember exactly the quote, but I’m gonna give you a roundabout version of it. I said, ‘You know, for me, as a Black person, the idea that Walt winds up living with his grandmother and not living with his father, that feels like one of those clichés—Black kids who have been raised by their grandparents because neither of their parents are around for them. I would’ve liked to have seen something a little better happen, but that’s not the way it went down.’ ”

In that 2008 interview, the reporter asked if Perrineau was disappointed that Michael and Walt didn’t reconnect before his character left the show. Perrineau replied, “Listen, if I’m being really candid, there are all these questions about how they respond to Black people on the show. Sayid gets to meet Nadia again, and Desmond and Penny hook up again, but a little Black boy and his father hooking up, that wasn’t interesting? Instead, Walt just winds up being another fatherless child. It plays into a really big, weird stereotype and, being a Black person myself, that wasn’t so interesting.”

When that interview came out, it set off a furor among some Lost fans, but the consternation behind the scenes was worse. Perrineau said he was accused by some of playing “the race card.” No one wants to be defined by one aspect of their identity, but neither do people want to feel forced to suppress who they are so that others never feel any discomfort. Perrineau was thrown because, once again, there were no good options on the table for him. “Time out—I get to talk about being Black, you know? ’Cause I am Black. You can ignore it. But I get to talk about it. The response from ABC was like, ‘Oh, we always loved Harold, but he may be just angry that he left the show,’ ” he recalled. “I’m not angry that I left the show. Like, that’s what I think as a fan. ”

For weeks, Perrineau went round and round with ABC, which wanted to issue a retraction of some kind. “Me mentioning the color of my skin—that just sent everybody off the rails. We came up with something, but it took weeks, because I was like, ‘I didn’t say anything wrong. And she didn’t report anything wrong. Nobody did anything wrong.’ But societally—people so loved the show. They couldn’t hear one thing against it.”

Perrineau had come up against one of the unspoken rules in the entertainment business: You don’t question the dudes in charge. Lost employee Gretchen added that in her experience, under Lindelof and Cuse, the workplace grew less flexible and more autocratic and uncomfortable: “Toward the end of the second season, after all the accolades came, I could see where it could be unbearable for some people to be there,” especially as an industry norm she was familiar with—that those ruling a workplace could be “vindictive” at will—was cemented into place. Lindelof and Cuse had the power to hire and fire, no matter the reason, she noted. “And they used it.”

As her career progressed, Owusu-Breen heard rumblings that things were not great at Lost. Other writers on the show tried to warn her and her then writing partner, Alison Schapker, about the atmosphere in those offices. But having worked at other male-dominated shows, Owusu-Breen told me she thought they could handle it. And she loved what she had seen of the show. She was especially excited to play in the show’s “global sandbox,” said the writer, whose father is from West Africa. “I never got to write for cultures similar to those of my immigrant family. I was like, ‘Oh, my God, this feels so different!’ ”

Yunjin Kim Daniel Dae Kim Evangeline Lilly and Naveen Andrews strategize in season one.

In that third season, however, all was not well on Lost. Mr. Eko was among a set of characters called the Tailies, who were introduced in season two and got a rocky reception. When the third season rolled around, the show contained some slow patches and time wasters. Behind the scenes, it did not take long for Owusu-Breen to realize that a lot of people at Lost viewed her and her writing partner as, essentially, Tailies. It became a wry running joke between them, Owusu-Breen told me: “Everyone was real nice to us for the first few days. And then they wanted us dead.”

Most people I’ve spoken to for this book are veterans of film and television productions where off-color humor, barbed banter, and incisive, even stinging, comments are common. None have a real problem with those things, in the right settings and proportions. In fact, humor is not just a form of creativity, it can serve as a necessary pressure-relief valve. And a large percentage of people in the industry, when they go too far, apologize and alter their behavior.

However, even for experienced professionals, what occurred at Lost crossed or obliterated most lines. There was “a coterie” of people who would find it very amusing if a comment or joke was “offensive,” one source told me. “Everything was said with a sort of sarcastic ‘this whole thing is funny to me’ vibe—and also a ‘your discomfort is funny to me’ attitude.” Multiple people said that this sensibility was a cover for bullying or inappropriate remarks of all kinds, as well as comments on race and gender that crossed lines. Laughing at and adding to that kind of commentary, said one, “was how you got to be part of the group. That was the terms of belonging.”

Both showrunners tolerated or even encouraged the overall atmosphere, but its descent into a realm that many sources described in very negative terms appeared to arise from a couple of powerful factors: the “sense of humor” that Lindelof appeared to enjoy and the showrunners’ status as all-powerful entities no one could cross. When Cuse arrived, “that’s when everything changed, in my opinion,” a female source said. “It was Carlton coming in and acting like, ‘I want my people and I want control of those people.’ ” Regarding Cuse, she said, “I don’t think people really had respect for him among the writing staff,” but from “Damon’s or the studio’s perspective, it was like, ‘Oh, we have someone who’s going to put everyone in line.’ ” Over time, this meant that the culture of Lost “turned back to the old Hollywood way.”

But an extreme version. “I can only describe it as hazing. It was very much middle school and relentlessly cruel. And I’ve never heard that much racist commentary in one room in my career,” Owusu-Breen recalled. Here is a partial roster of statements sources heard while working at Lost. The first four were heard by Owusu-Breen, as well as another individual I spoke to:

When someone on staff was adopting an Asian child, one person said to another writer that “no grandparent wants a slanty-eyed grandchild.”

When actor Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje’s picture was on the writers room table, someone was told to remove their nearby wallet “before he steals it.”

When Owusu-Breen and others were riding in a van on a trip, in answer to a question about the luggage, one writer—using a Yiddish word—said, “Let the schvartze take it.”

The only Asian American writer was called Korean, as in, “Korean, take the board.”

When a woman entered the writers room carrying a binder, two sources said, a male writer asked her what it was. She said it was the HR manual for the studio, and he responded, “Why don’t you take off your top and tell us about it?”

There was apparently some discomfort around the show’s cleaning staff using the bathroom in the Lost offices, and there were “jokes” about “putting up a Whites Only sign.”

Finally, when Perrineau’s Lost departure came up, Lindelof said, according to multiple sources, that the actor “called me racist, so I fired his ass.”

“Everyone laughed” when Lindelof said that, Owusu-Breen recalled. “There was so much shit, and so much racist shit, and then laughter. It was ugly. I was like, ‘I don’t know if they’re perceiving this as a joke or if they mean it.’ But it wasn’t funny. Saying that was horrible.” She began leaving the room when she couldn’t take it anymore: “I’m like, once you’re done talking shit about people of color, I’ll come back.”

But an inability to accept the vibe was regarded as a failing, Owusu-Breen noted: “My writing partner was told, ‘The problem is, you don’t think racism is funny.’ ”

Owusu-Breen and Schapker were assigned the episode in which Akinnuoye-Agbaje’s character, Mr. Eko, is killed off. The actor wanted to leave the show, a situation that can be an inconvenience to producers but is a relatively normal event. The conversation that took place when Owusu-Breen and her writing partner got feedback from Cuse on their episode was not normal. The showrunner, it seemed, had been thinking about how Mr. Eko should die.

“Carlton said something to the effect of, ‘I want to hang him from the highest tree. God, if we could only cut his dick off and shove it down his throat.’ At which point I said, ‘You may want to temper the lynching imagery, lest you offend.’ And I was very clearly angry,” Owusu-Breen remembered. Another person who was present also recalled Cuse offering violent imagery of Eko’s death in the trees in a way that immediately made them think of lynching. This person said they definitely heard the remark about the character’s genitals but does not recall if Cuse said it or if it was said by another Lost writer when the staff discussed the episode.

It’s possible, Owusu-Breen observed, that in that moment, Cuse was trying to think up a “painful death” for the character and did not intentionally bring up imagery that evoked lynching—but that in itself could serve as an indicator of just how damaging and toxic the Lost culture was. Racist, sexist, and insensitive remarks were made so casually and so frequently by so many, Owusu-Breen said, that it would not surprise her if Cuse brought that up offhandedly and then forgot he said it. “No one had the ability to call them on this stuff,” she told me. “And it’s terrible to this day that they get credit for any kind of racial sensitivity or inclusion. It sucks to be a person of color in rooms like that.”

“I really felt sick at the thought of a Black actor who was giving a performance of real power and stature” being discussed in this way, one source said. “To toss about his death with this air of gleeful, malicious punishment” was troubling in terms of the treatment of the character and for Lost ’s track record on representation. How Eko’s death appeared onscreen was “toned down” from what was discussed, this person said, but the entire experience was deeply “uncomfortable,” in part because, in this person’s opinion, the showrunners “were vindictive toward their actors.”

In any event, not long after that conversation, “we were put in the casting room, and then we were fired,” Owusu-Breen said. She and her writing partner were told by the showrunners, “You don’t fit,” she told me.

Owusu-Breen has been a showrunner herself, and she knows what that pressure cooker is like. “It brings out the worst in you. The person I was in my first showrunning gig is not the person I am now. I have apologized to people, because the stress is hard,” she said. “But this was racism. I don’t know. That doesn’t feel like the kind of thing that happens just when you’re stressed. There was a blood sport” aspect to how that room functioned. Owusu-Breen said her choices on Lost consisted of: “I become a dick and start making jokes at people’s expense, or I’m the humorless fuck who no one could have fun around.”

About four months in, when Schapker found her in the bathroom late one Friday and said the bosses wanted to see them, she knew they were being let go. “I was so happy to be fired,” Owusu-Breen said.

The environment on Lost drove Javier Grillo-Marxuach to quit the show after its second season. He was the only person from the show’s original nucleus of writers still in the writers room in season two. Despite the show’s massive success, Grillo-Marxuach had reached his limit. He told me the writers room “was a predatory ecosystem with its own carnivorous megafauna.” Two years of what could be called the “Tallahassee mentality” was enough for him. The term comes from characters on the show poking fun at the Florida city. One day, the Lost offices got a letter from the mayor of Tallahassee, who gamely invited the show’s personnel to visit and enclosed brochures touting the city’s attractive qualities. “In response, Damon told the writers room to double down on Tallahassee, and when asked why, he replied with a straight face that the only thing funnier than punching someone in the face for no reason is punching them harder when they ask why,” Grillo-Marxuach said. “If you can imagine that as a management philosophy, you can understand what it was like to work on Lost. ”

“Damon once said, ‘I don’t trust any writer who isn’t miserable, because that tells me you don’t care,’ ” according to writer-producer Melinda Hsu Taylor. During her time at Lost, Hsu Taylor learned to keep eyeliner in her desk at the office: “You don’t want to have to go to the bathroom to redo your eyeliner. If you cry at work, you don’t want people to see that you’ve been crying.”

By the time she arrived for the drama’s last two seasons, she’d heard stories about how it wasn’t unusual for high-level writers to speak “fake Korean”—gibberish that they pretended was Korean—and laugh about it. Given what I know about TV writer culture, I’d guess that sort of thing happened in other writers rooms at the time. A different experience of Hsu Taylor’s—being reprimanded by Cuse after she seconded one of Cuse’s instructions to a director—was also probably sadly common. “He just totally put me in my place,” she recalled. “He said, ‘I don’t need you to comment on anything I’ve said.’ ”

It was the kind of place where the lines of authority were clear. In some ways, that was beneficial. Multiple people told me that Lindelof banned Cuse from rewriting him—a decision they actually agreed with, because most sources said they thought Lindelof was a talented writer and Cuse was not. “At least Damon knew what he wanted,” a writer-producer I’ll call Christopher told me. That said, the Lost room was a “boys’ club” atmosphere that was “cutthroat,” Christopher added.

An editor once made a minor suggestion regarding a story, and according to a Lost employee I’ll call Seamus, Lindelof made it clear her job would be in danger if she ever did it again. “She wrote an almost offensively effusive mea culpa letter—‘I’m so sorry,’ ” Seamus said. Offering storytelling input to Lindelof, Seamus observed, was “an absolute no-fly zone.”

These revelations explain a lot—namely, why a show promising an inclusive, globe-trotting adventure ended up being, in its final season, about a small group of men on interlocking epic quests. This is not a critique of the show’s reliably excellent actors; this is about who got the onscreen focus and why. Of course, characters of color had notable or heroic moments, but over time, they were generally shipped off the island or killed off, and white male characters like Ben Linus and the Man in Black became ever more vital. The showrunners’ “cold” treatment of Michelle Rodriguez and her character certainly stuck with Gretchen: After Rodriguez was arrested in a drunken driving incident, “instead of having empathy or sympathy for her situation, they were just like, ‘Well, we’ll just get rid of her.’ ”

I wasn’t the only critic to point out how uneven the island saga had gotten as it entered its home stretch, but many of us agreed that “Ab Aeterno” was a blast: The episode’s credited writers, Hsu Taylor and script coordinator Greggory Nations, crafted a rousing adventure tale that filled in the backstory of fan favorite Richard Alpert (Néstor Carbonell). The only “problem” was that an episode without Lindelof’s and Cuse’s names on it was so well received.

Hsu Taylor, like most Lost veterans I’ve talked to, is quick to point out that working on the show was an intensely collaborative effort. The grind of making 14 to 25 episodes of TV per season, as the Lost team did, was so demanding that it was not uncommon for a number of writers to work together to get a script across the finish line. That’s what happened with “Ab Aeterno.” “We had such a talented staff,” Hsu Taylor said. “I am so grateful for everything that everybody did—but my name and Gregg’s name were on the script. And I did do a pass to stitch it all together and smooth things out. I wrote a bunch of the scenes too, and I was really proud of the results.”

That’s why she was thunderstruck when, in the anteroom to Cuse’s office, she heard him on the phone with Carbonell. In Hsu Taylor’s recollection, Cuse said to the actor, “Oh, yeah. I wrote that. I wrote most of that script.” “I mean, it was a flat-out lie,” Hsu Taylor said. “My jaw dropped. I just turned around and walked away.” She was devastated.

At one point, the “Ab Aeterno” saga took a turn for the ridiculous: Cuse and Lindelof called Nations and Hsu Taylor into a room, and she recalled that they “basically [told] us how much we owed them for letting us have our names on that script. And they implied it would probably be good if we got them a little present.” So Hsu Taylor went out and bought gifts for her bosses. She can’t recall what she got Lindelof—probably something Star Wars related, given his love of that franchise. She said she bought Swarovski pencils for Cuse.

“As the episode got more and more praise, they started to get more and more tense about it,” Hsu Taylor recalled. “I was up next in the rotation—I was supposed to write one of the upcoming episodes. We were in the writers room. I remember Carlton walking around the table” while doling out script assignments. Hsu Taylor recalled feeling that he was making sure everyone was fully aware that he was skipping her. Later, when the bosses weren’t around, the other writers were sympathetic, she told me: “They were like, ‘Yes, you’re absolutely being punished for having cowritten that script.’ ”

To this day, Owusu-Breen is extremely cautious about what jobs she takes. She talks to assistants, support staff, anyone she can get hold of. “I can’t work for certain people and do good work. I’m a Black woman, and if you don’t accept that…I can’t change,” she said. Lost, she added, was the most “nakedly hostile” work environment she’d ever experienced.

When Owusu-Breen and her writing partner joined the ABC drama Brothers & Sisters, they were required to attend a seminar on avoiding and preventing racial and sexual harassment. Afterward, they went up to the people who ran the seminar and said, “Have you done this on Lost ? Because they actually need to be reminded of all this,” Owusu-Breen recalled. “They just walked away from us, like that meme of Homer Simpson disappearing into the bush. They were walking backward, like, ‘No, no, we haven’t done that yet. We’re going to.’ You could tell everyone knew it was a toxic work environment. But it was a huge hit.”

After they were fired from Lost, they had one other deeply surreal experience connected to the show. “We were taken out to lunch by executives and told there was no racism—it was just bullying,” Owusu-Breen told me. “It was fascinating to me, because what do you think racism is?” As she sees it, “We were discriminated against on the daily. Maybe they just didn’t like our writing, but it’s hard to tell if you’re discriminated against on the daily.”

Why dredge all this up years later? Because working on Lost harmed a lot of people, and some are still dealing with the aftereffects of that personal and professional damage. “It’s the sort of place where the voices still ring in your head, even now,” Hsu Taylor said. “You don’t know you’re in an abusive relationship until you’re no longer in an abusive relationship,” said Seamus. In a separate interview, Gretchen said almost the same thing, word for word.

Another reason to go into all this is because, well, Lost is still around. Thanks to the streaming revolution, the shows of the golden age are available with a click or two. Complicating and adding necessary context to the show’s influential legacy is important. Plus, the tendency to engage in hero worship of “geniuses” is very much alive and well. If we don’t question the more damaging aspects of our conception of genius, we are doomed to repeat the past ad nauseam. And we’ll get shittier entertainment.

“This sort of environment doesn’t only poison the dynamic behind the scenes, it shows up onscreen in the attitudes of the characters, their dialogue, and the stories themselves,” said Grillo-Marxuach. “It’s no surprise to me that the main Latinx character in the show was frequently portrayed as feckless, ignorant, and gluttonous—and therefore the butt of countless fat jokes. It’s very easy, especially 20 years after the fact, to think, Well, it can’t have been that bad or someone would have done something. Let me say it loud and clear: It was that bad, and no one did anything because retribution was a constant and looming presence.”

What remains a foundational pillar of the industry is the fact that those responsible for huge hits often get enormous passes regarding their actions, attitudes, and management styles. Very few people who are put in positions of power get the training or oversight they need to make the workplace a positive—or at least non-miserable—experience for everyone involved. If some powerful people want to act like despots and cruel dictators, no one will stop them, despite the fact that being a decent and accountable human being in this industry is “not all that hard,” Owusu-Breen observed.

“Simple decency and managerial experience,” Grillo-Marxuach said, “are not mutually dependent.”

I’ve known Damon Lindelof a long time. My career has prospered over the years for a number of reasons, but one thing that has certainly helped is knowing that powerful people like him tend to return my call, text, or email. They want to promote their projects and they hope for good coverage, but in many cases, there’s more to it than the merely transactional. We often wonder about the same things: why some stories work and some don’t; why some careers prosper and some founder. We can lose hours gossiping about various industry trash fires. In any event, having conversations with industry people is not just useful, it’s often pleasant and even illuminating.

We had two conversations for this book; all in all, he spent a couple of hours talking about what went very wrong at Lost. “My level of fundamental inexperience as a manager and a boss, my role as someone who was supposed to model a climate of creative danger and risk-taking but provide safety and comfort inside of the creative process—I failed in that endeavor,” Lindelof said when we spoke in 2021. In that conversation, he also addressed Hollywood tokenism that was common at the time—and is still not hard to find.

That’s “what I saw in the business around me,” Lindelof observed. “And so I was like, okay, as long as there are one or two [writers] who don’t look and think exactly like me, then, then I’m okay. I came to learn that was even worse. For those specific individuals, forget about the ethics or the morality involved around that decision, but just talking about the human effect of being the only woman or the only person of color and how you are treated and othered—I was a part of that, a thousand percent.”

After that first conversation, I kept talking to Lost veterans, and I heard awful things. It was not an easy process because airing all of this out can feel, as Owusu-Breen put it, like revealing “Santa doesn’t exist. People just love Lost so much.”

I talked to Lindelof a second time, in 2022, and shared additional allegations I’d heard, many of which touched more deeply on matters of race and gender. Multiple sources—including some who heard it said in their presence—had told me they’d heard Lindelof say he fired Perrineau because he felt accused of racism by the actor. I told him the two versions of this remark that I’d heard ended with “so I fired him” or “so I fired his ass.” “What can I say? Other than it breaks my heart that that was Harold’s experience,” replied Lindelof, who said he did not recall “ever” saying that. “And I’ll just cede that the events that you’re describing happened 17 years ago, and I don’t know why anybody would make that up about me.”

Lindelof said the rapid growth spurt of Malcolm David Kelley, the actor who played Walt, Michael’s son, factored into the showrunners’ thinking about what to do with both characters. When I shared Perrineau’s comments about Black families, missing Black boys, and Hollywood stereotypes, Lindelof replied that there was “a high degree of insensitivity towards all the issues that you mentioned as it relates to Harold.”

Lindelof added that by the second season, “every single actor had expressed some degree of disappointment that they weren’t being used enough.... That was kind of part and parcel for an ensemble show, but obviously there was a disproportionate amount of focus on Jack and Kate and Locke and Sawyer—the white characters. Harold was completely and totally right to point that out. It’s one of the things that I’ve had deep and profound regrets about in the two decades since.” All in all, Lindelof said, “I do feel that Harold was legitimately and professionally conveying concerns about his character and how significant it was that Michael and Walt—with the exception of Rose—were really the only Black characters on the show.”

Lindelof told me he didn’t remember any negative incident with an editor, adding that he seeks out input from collaborators and that he’s “never threatened anyone’s career.” Lindelof also said he had no recollection of anything Hsu Taylor said about events connected to “Ab Aeterno.” He said she was a “great writer who executed at a high level” and he’s “stricken” that she was made to feel the way she felt at that time.

Regarding the other allegations leveled at him and the show, Lindelof said he had no memory of the incidents and comments I related. He told me he was “shocked and appalled and surprised” by the incidents I described to him, and said more than once that he did not think anyone was making anything up. “I just can’t imagine that Carlton would’ve said something like that, or some of those attributions, some of those comments that you [shared]—I’m telling you, I swear, I have no recollection of those specific things. And that’s not me saying that they didn’t happen. I’m just saying that it’s literally baffling my brain—that they did happen and that I bore witness to them or that I said them. To think that they came out of my mouth or the mouths of people that I still consider friends is just not computing.”

For his part, Cuse said he was not present for, nor did he hear, the litany of offensive comments that I brought up, and he added, “I deeply regret that anyone at Lost would have to hear them. They are highly insensitive, inappropriate, and offensive.” Cuse (who supplied written answers to my questions through a PR representative) also stated he had never made an actor cry.

Cuse’s comments were similar to Lindelof’s on the matter of Kelley’s growth spurt and how it collided with the island drama’s plot. Kelley’s rapid growth created continuity problems for Lost, hence the need—cited by both showrunners—to write him out of the narrative. And if Walt was gone, Cuse said the only thing to do with Michael was to make finding the boy his “primary mission.” However, since Kelley was not coming back, that was not a storyline they could “resolve for the character,” Cuse added. “We did not know how to solve this problem other than to resolve Michael’s story at the end of Season 2.”

Cuse also stated that he never discussed matters touching on race at any time with Perrineau, and that race had “nothing to do” with the character’s storyline. “I do not believe he is in any way personally to blame for the way his role changed,” said Cuse, who also noted that Perrineau’s feedback about that script was relayed to him by Lindelof—Cuse did not recall discussing those specific concerns with the actor—and that revisions of the script were in part intended to address Perrineau’s input. “We heard his concerns and made changes to address them in the second episode of Season 2, and as we moved through Season 2 we reflected Michael’s character as caring deeply about finding his missing son at every possible opportunity,” Cuse wrote.

In his responses, Cuse disputed that Perrineau was fired; he said the actor was bumped down to recurring status, but that does not line up with Perrineau’s recollections. The actor said after season two, he was released from his Lost contract and took other jobs. As the opening credits show, he was not part of season three at all. Perrineau did appear in several episodes of the strike-shortened fourth season, and he also appeared once in the final season.

As for Cuse’s remark to Owusu-Breen about Mr. Eko’s death, this was Cuse’s response to a query about it: “I never, ever made that statement above, and this exchange never happened. To further add to this lie and suggest that someone was fired as a result of a statement that I never made is completely false,” adding that the implication is “completely outrageous.”

Hundreds of people were employed in various capacities by Lost. Some had, at times, genuinely positive experiences, and that was and is a good thing. But in the engine room of the show—where decisions about theme, story, and focus were made, where characters and plots duked it out for attention—the atmosphere was often demeaning, unpleasant, and confounding. At least to some. One person said of their bosses and some of their coworkers, “I think they were having a different experience of reality, which was, ‘Wow, I just have a bunch of funny people I work with.’ ” This source felt “silenced,” because it felt as though every pathway—other than accepting the cruelty, sexism, and racist commentary—was blocked.

I kept a running list of words sources used to describe the show’s work atmosphere, a word cloud I shared with Lindelof and Cuse. Among the adjectives that came up a lot: cruel, brutal, destructive, racist, sexist, bullying, angry, abusive, and hostile. “It breaks my heart to hear it. It’s deeply upsetting to know that there were people who had such bad experiences,” Cuse wrote to me. “I did not know people were feeling that way. No one ever complained to me, nor am I aware that anybody complained to ABC Studios. I wish I had known. I would have done what I could to make changes.”

I also asked Cuse the following question: “It’s my understanding that there were several tiers of compensation among actors on Lost and that, after negotiations during the show’s run, white actors were in the top compensation tier. Why was that?” Cuse wrote that he and Lindelof “steadfastly believed” that the actors’ “compensation should all be the same. While we did not support changes to how the actors were compensated, ultimately those decisions were made by ABC Studios.”

He wrote that he did not recall withholding a script from Hsu Taylor, whom he called “an invaluable asset” to Lost, nor did he remember claiming credit for “Ab Aeterno” or implying that she should buy presents for the showrunners. (He called the latter claim “absurd.”) “Regardless of our level of rewriting on ‘Ab Aeterno,’ we never sought credit for our work on the episode,” Cuse wrote. As for the high writer turnover—which he acknowledged especially affected early seasons—he wrote that the complexity of the show’s narrative, themes, and logistics made it “very difficult for us to find writers who could accomplish all the many things we felt we needed from them. Looking back, I can understand that the high degree of writer turnover caused hurt, resentment and frustration, and I am sorry for that.”

After I read the word cloud to Lindelof, he was silent for about a minute. He finally answered, referring to his behavior in the present: “The way that I conduct myself and the way that I treat other humans who I am responsible for and a manager of is a by-product of all the mistakes that were made.… I have significantly evolved and grown, and it shouldn’t have had to come at the cost and the trauma of people that I hurt on Lost. ”

Lindelof asked, “Would it shock you to learn or believe that, despite the fact that I completely and totally validate your word cloud, that I was oblivious, largely oblivious, to the adverse impacts that I was having on others in that writers room during the entire time that the show was happening?” He also asked, “Do you feel like I knew the whole time and just kept doing it?”

I gave him a variation of an answer I have given—or wanted to give—to powerful people many times: I think he knew enough and chose not to do anything about it. But in our culture, phrases like “I didn’t know,” “there was so much going on,” and “mistakes were made” are common ways to frame terrible patterns of behavior, many of which are the result of terrible decisions, not the work of the disembodied hand of fate. Especially if the person at the center of those “mistakes” is a high-status individual, a lot of hedges and rationales are rolled out, and they are often couched in the passive voice. In the past decade alone, how many times, and in how many important spheres, have we seen wealthy or powerful people—especially white men—depicted as stumbling bumblers who knew not what they did?

But someone in their early 30s—as Lindelof was when Lost took off like a rocket—is not a child. Lindelof and Cuse were adults when the show began, and both had been in the industry for years. They were the two people within that workplace who had power, and they bear the responsibility for the culture you read about here—one that endured for six seasons. Nothing that happens consistently across the making of more than 100 episodes of television happens by accident. Whether or not Lindelof and Cuse were present for every damaging incident, the workplace environment at Lost was created, rewarded, and reinforced by them.

I said as much to Lindelof.

“Of course,” he replied. “Yeah. Full stop. Of course, you’re right.”

Toward the end of that second conversation, Lindelof began speculating about what would happen to his career as a result of this book. He sounded as demoralized as I felt.

“It’s not for me to say what kind of person I am,” he said. “But I will say this—I would trade every person who told you that I was talented—I would rather they said I was untalented but decent, rather than a talented monster.”

That is a false binary: People can be talented and decent. Lindelof’s framing is one I encounter a lot, and it belies, or at least hints at, the fundamental belief that if you’re a genius, you’re more or less required to be a monster. But at its heart—and at its best, it has a palpable, beating heart— Lost tries to say that none of us have to be defined by our pasts. We’re at the beginning of the entertainment industry’s shift to better models, and to make the necessary changes a lot of people must work hard on a number of fronts for a long time.

But what choice do we have? As the Lost saying goes, live together, die alone.

From the forthcoming book BURN IT DOWN: Power, Complicity, and a Call for Change in Hollywood by Maureen Ryan. Copyright © 2023 by Maureen Ryan. To be published by Mariner Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. Excerpted by permission.

More Great Stories From Vanity Fair

The Weeknd Remade Pop Music. Will The Idol Remake The Weeknd?

The Untold Story of Lost ’s Poisonous Culture

Succession’s Ending, Explained: The Roy Family Bloodbath and New CEO

The Medical Medium and the True Believer

The 25 Best Shows on Netflix to Watch Right Now

The Best Movies of 2023 , So Far

Caroline Calloway Survived Cancellation—Now She’s Doubling Down

From the Archive: Diana and the Press (1998)

Maureen Ryan

“We Were Very Stoned”: Pete Davidson Learns A Hard Lesson About Online Shopping After Buying That Staten Island Ferry Boat

By Kase Wickman

Report: Donald Trump Is Completely F--ked

By Bess Levin

Why The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Politico Didn’t Publish a Seemingly Bombshell Report About UFOs

By Charlotte Klein

Report: Trump Has Been Indicted Again, This Time by DOJ for Mishandling of Classified Documents

By Cristian Farias

Walton Goggins on Tarantino, Justified, and His Fearless Career

By David Canfield

Article Contents

Entertainments from a medieval minstrel’s repertoire book.

James Wade, Entertainments from a Medieval Minstrel’s Repertoire Book, The Review of English Studies , 2023;, hgad053,

National Library of Scotland, Advocates’ MS 19.3.1 (the Heege Manuscript) is a large, late-fifteenth-century English miscellany manuscript from the border of Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire. Its first booklet, which existed independently of the manuscript’s other eight booklets throughout much or all of its medieval life, contains three texts: the tail-rhyme burlesque romance The Hunting of the Hare , a mock sermon in prose, and the alliterative nonsense verse The Battle of Brackonwet . This essay proposes that Richard Heege, the booklet’s scribe, copied these texts from the repertoire of a local entertainer, be that a gifted amateur or, very plausibly, a travelling minstrel working a regular beat. In this light, the booklet’s comic, crude, and sometimes frivolous contents take on new significance in the history of English literature, as they provide close evidence for what made up the entertainments of English oral culture—or minstrelsy—at the end of the Middle Ages.

More than 30 years have passed since the publication of Andrew Taylor’s ‘The Myth of the Minstrel Manuscript’, and in that time we have seen no fresh claims to the discovery or identification of a single medieval English manuscript with plausible connections to an actual medieval minstrel. 1 It is a serious lacuna, a major category of lost literature. 2 Records survive, including accounts of payments issued, that reference real-life medieval minstrels, harpours, gestours , and rimours , 3 yet aside from first names, instruments played, and very occasionally places of association, little evidence of their lives or work exists in written record. 4 Literary texts are peppered with descriptions of minstrelsy and performing minstrel characters, yet no single text survives that we can confidently tether to a medieval minstrel, as composer, owner, or performer. Many medieval works contain ‘oral’ or ‘minstrel’ tags, which address or otherwise refer to a live audience, yet all supposed ‘oral’ literature survives in manuscripts that have no demonstrable, obvious, or sometimes even plausible connections to authentic oral culture. 5 Perhaps, some might find this state of affairs not too surprising. After all, oral literature, by definition, does not depend on a material medium for its existence or transmission. What we can surmise about medieval oral culture is that it was founded in community and survived through memory, either by convention or necessity, or both: if performers were usually unlearned peasants, possibly even illiterate, and they made their bread in the markets of live performance, there might have been little point investing in the materials of the book. Indeed, the rise of the vernacular literary manuscript across the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries may well have been seen as competition. What place is there for the storyteller when prosthetic technologies of the archive encroach on their terrain? How can a jongleur keep the cup passing round when private houses could have their own minstrels with nothing more than a book and a single literate individual? 6 Walter Benjamin’s periodized narrative of the decline of the storyteller, of the traveller’s tall tales eclipsed by the informatics of the novel, of communal entertainment giving way to the solitude of private reading, might be said to find compressed and localized expression in the literary milieu of later medieval England. 7 Still, the lack of any survival of an authentic minstrel text is surprising, and it leaves the student of medieval popular literature on shaky ground, reliant on post-medieval minstrel manuscripts, or depictions in fiction, or speculations based on texts with supposed ‘oral’ markers. 8 In this context, any evidence that connects medieval textual witnesses to authentic minstrelsy would be illuminating, both in terms of oral communities and storytelling culture, and in terms of identifying the actual entertainments minstrels performed.

This essay does not claim to identify a manuscript written by a medieval minstrel. It does, however, make the case that a booklet in a fifteenth-century manuscript (complied c .1480) was copied directly from a minstrel’s repertoire, or from the repertoire of a local performer adopting a minstrel’s role, either from live performance or, more likely, from a now-lost book of performance pieces. The manuscript is National Library of Scotland, Advocates’ MS 19.3.1 (the Heege Manuscript), and it has been extensively studied, most notably by Phillipa Hardman. 9 The booklet in question, which is both a single quire and a separate unit of codicological production, is now the first in the manuscript, though its order may be incidental to its medieval context, since, as Hardman has shown, the nine booklets that now make up the manuscript would likely have been unbound throughout most or all of their medieval lives, and existed as a medieval ‘library in parvo ’. The booklets were bound into their current single-volume form only after their re-discovery in the early nineteenth century by Robert Southey, who got them into the hands of Sir Walter Scott, who in turn lobbied for their acquisition by his fellow Advocates. The first booklet contains three texts: a tail-rhyme burlesque romance, now called The Hunting of the Hare , a mock sermon in prose, and The Battle of Brackonwet , a nonsense verse in alliterative long-lines. The scribe of these texts is one Richard Heege, whose surname no doubt derives from the village of Heage in Derbyshire, where (or near where) the manuscript originated. In what follows I set out the case for Richard Heege’s copying of this booklet from the texts of a local minstrel or amateur performer, most likely from the minstrel’s own repertoire book. I then reflect on what this might suggest to us about minstrelsy and popular entertainment in England at the end of the Middle Ages.

The ‘library in parvo ’ that is now MS Advocates’ 19.3.1 a highly miscellaneous collection of popular and, in some cases, lowbrow writings. Among its 51 items you will find nothing from Chaucer or Gower or Hoccleve, or any author whose name might have carried some literary cachet in the fifteenth century. There is some Lydgate, but its presentation suggests that his authorship was either unknown or deemed irrelevant. 10 Looking into the manuscript you are also unlikely to find anything you might consider obviously or explicitly philosophical, or continental, or freighting any prestige from Greco-Roman antiquity. Nor will you find anything that would tie these texts into wider European literary traditions: nothing from the Matter of Britain; nothing from the Matter of France; nothing from the Matter of Rome or Troy. In short, it is not a book of high art, and it does not seem to have been made for the cultivation of sophisticated or polite tastes.

In this sense it could not be more different from the manuscript with which it is most often compared: the Findern Anthology (Cambridge University Library, MS Ff.1.6). 11 Comparisons between these books have been pursued on the grounds of their geographic proximity (both were provincial productions from the north-east Midlands), on the grounds of their chronological connection (both were made in the second half of the fifteenth century), on the grounds of their codicological congruities (both are large booklet-based assemblages of various texts), and on the grounds of their presumed gentry status (both were originally owned by families at or near the bottom of the aristocratic pile). No doubt the Findern Anthology was a large collaborative project, containing the writings of at least 40 different hands, and, potentially, original compositions from some of them, but most of the manuscript’s booklets are anchored by texts from recognized literary figures, including Chaucer, Gower, Lydgate, Hoccleve, and Richard Roos. Of its 62 literary items, nearly all are lyrics or courtly love poems, and its one romance, Sir Degrevant , is a markedly genteel expression of the genre, participating with the lyrics and the other courtly love poems in giving the sense that this is a book of and for the world of fin amore , of polite society, and of fashionable literature. 12

In the Advocates’ manuscript, by contrast, we get a different cast of romances, such as the profoundly savage Sir Gowther (item 4; fols. 11 r–27 v); we get gruesome afterlife tales, such as Tundale (item 35; fols. 98 r–157 v), and St Gregory’s Trental (item 50; fols. 213 r–216 r); we get crudely comic tales like The Hunting of the Hare (item 1; fols. 1 r–7 r); we get nonsense verses that dwell in largely lowbrow registers; we get instructional texts on the basics of hygiene and manners, like Stans puer ad mensam (item 5; fols. 28 r–29 v); and we get proverbs, devotional texts, and writings of religious instruction, like The Lay Folks’ Mass Book (item 9; fols. 57 r–58 v). Not wishing to discount the miscellaneous nature of the collection, and the potential for individual texts to be used in multiple and various ways, the whole book, taken together, has a strong flavour of the functional and the popular.

There is a consistency, then, in the cultural milieu and the broad tenor of the whole booklet-library, just as there appears to be a congruity in its textual archaeology. Aside from the first booklet, the contents of all the other booklets appear to have derived from, and no doubt participated in, informal networks of manuscript circulation and exemplar reproduction. The other eight booklets contain 35 ‘major’ texts (i.e., excluding short charms, prayers, and medical recipes usually occupying ‘filler’ positions in the manuscript). Of these major texts, 32 survive in at least one other manuscript from the Middle Ages, and many of them in multiple copies, such as the 10 witnesses of Sir Isumbras (item 22; fols. 68 r–84 r), or the 19 witnesses of the lyric ‘Ihesu þi swetnes who myght hit se’ (item 37; fols. 170 v–173 r). Such a culture of textual exchange and vernacular (often amateur) book compilation undoubtedly led to the many so-called household books, vernacular anthologies, miscellanies, and commonplace books that survive from the fifteenth century. Scholarship on the Heege Manuscript nearly always situates it in the context of these textual communities and conventions, with attention to exemplar circulation, educational and entertainment aims, and the aspirational ambitions of its first gentry owners, the Sherbrooke family. 13 Richard Heege, the scribe of most items across the booklets, was likely the family’s tutor as well as the household cleric, and it seems clear that he created his booklet-library by accumulating texts copied out from existing manuscripts or other booklets.

The manuscript’s first booklet, however, is different. The three texts it contains betray no evidence of links with exemplar networks, and indeed, on the contrary, they exhibit many features that suggest origins in live performance and minstrel traditions. All three texts survive only in this booklet. All three are in some ways sui generis, or at least generically irregular (burlesque romance, mock-sermon, nonsense pastoral). All three are composed in forms suited to and conventionally aligned with live performance (tail-rhyme, prose sermon, feast meta-comedy). All three are short enough to be suitable for interludes or after-dinner entertainment. All three contain ‘minstrel tags’ and otherwise directly address and anticipate a live and interactive audience. All three are entertaining and light-heartedly humorous. All three are locally orientated, using local place-names, alluding to local traditions, or situating narratives in the context of present or neighbouring villages. And finally, all three (gently) mock peasants and kings alike, and show a playful awareness of possible mixed audiences, or the possibility of audiences shifting depending on location, from the village fair to the baronial hall.

At the head of the booklet’s first item, Heege inscribes the title—‘Þe Hunttyng o‹f› þe Hare’—presumably in order to establish a horizon of expectations that will soon be subverted. 14 There is a hare, but it makes only a brief appearance in the story, and the point is that there is really not much hunting going on. Instead, in just under 300 lines, we get a mock or burlesque romance, with jokes, punchlines, or absurd high jinks in just about every one of its six-line tail-rhyme stanzas. Walter Scott, who discusses The Hunting of the Hare on several occasions, described it as a parody of the serious romance, being ‘studiously filled with grotesque, absurd, and extravagant characters’. 15

Similar romances are The Tournament of Tottenham and the Feast of Tottenham . 16 In the Tournament , the refined, highly ritualized, and extremely expensive courtly pursuit of the tournament is hammed up by the bumpkin peasants; in the Feast , of course, it is the refined, ritualized, and expensive performance of the courtly feast that is absurdly acted out by the peasants, and in the Advocates’ text it is the refined, ritualized, and expensive courtly hunt that is turned on its head by the blundering common folk. 17 The story is as simple as that: a bunch of peasants try to course a hare but end up in a massive tangled brawl with each other and with their mongrel dogs, and in the end the wives show up to cart off the dead and wounded in wheelbarrows. The violence here is pointless and the comedy is crude—jokes about incontinence, for instance 18 —so in addition to the colophon displacing blame by implying that it might be all made up, the poem’s opening lines refuse to name or give the location of the village it describes, for fear of it someday getting the performer into trouble: A letyll tale y wyll yow tell, Y tro[w]e hit wyll lyke yow well, Þerat ye schall have gud game. Bot were it was y dare not say, For [appyly] anodur day, Hit myght turne me to blame.     (ll. 1–6; fol. 1 r).

Who knows, the village full of idiotic peasants might be nearby, or indeed it could be seen as humorously targeting the audience: the unpindownable locale allows for its performance in multiple villages while maintaining the comic implication that the present audience’s village is the one being lampooned. In either case, the poem’s narrator implies local knowledge shared with his audience, which might—‘appyly’, meaning ‘possibly’ or even ‘unfortunately’—land him in hot water down the road on what was likely a relatively small and circular beat. 19 Unlike a play such as Mankind , in which the place-names tether it to specific local geographies of Cambridgeshire, Norfolk, and Suffolk, this is a poem with performance context flexibility written into it. 20 This is a poem adaptable to locale—a poem made for taking on the road.

Here we have, too, an example of a poem about peasants written for peasants, or at least one that anticipates audiences of mixed or varied estates—unless of course we see the entire performance-centred set-up of the poem as a construct, as faux folklore. Of course, it is entirely understandable that minstrels would develop performance materials that would chime differently with different audiences, and that would simultaneously resonate broadly with audiences that span the highborn/lowborn, learned/lewd spectra. Ample evidence survives for occasions in the fifteenth century when minstrels would have performed in front of mixed-estate audiences. Dame Alice de Bryene’s household accounts from 1412–1413, for instance, tell us that the Suffolk widow paid for minstrels on at least six occasions that year, all connected to visits by both distinguished guests and her labourers and tenants. On 29 April 1413 she hired a minstrel to entertain her harvest reeve, 10 ploughmen, and other labourers. On New Years’ Day 1413 she put on a massive spread of food and minstrelsy for over 300 tenants and other locals. When her half-brother, Sir Richard Waldegrave, came to visit 10 days later, he sent a minstrel in advance. 21 Such is the socio-cultural context of the provincial gentry household: the calendar year punctuated with festal and even saturnalian occasions in which labourers rub shoulders with landlords, facilitated by the comic estate-based ribaldry of entertainments such as The Hunting of the Hare .

In The Hunting of the Hare we also have an evocation of, and comic revelling in, the anonymized local setting. The peasants who end up in this brawl live in a nondescript rural village and are all named with the hypocoristic names often given to caricatured peasants: Wyll of the Gappe, Davé of the Dale, Hob Andrew, Sym, and so on. 22 One of the more absurd characters is the bumpkin Jac Wade. Consider the following lines, which give something of the flavour of the tale: Þe hare þoght che wold owt wyn, & hit Jac Wade apon þe schyn, Þat he fell apon þe backe. ‘Owt, owt!’, quod Jac, and ‘Alas, Þat euer þis batell begonon was! Þis is a soré note!’ Jac Wade was neuer so ferd As when þe hare trade on his berd, Lest sche wold have pult owt his þrowt.    (ll. 142–50; fols. 4 r–v)

The plebeian diminutive nicknames help place these characters outside of official or elevated discourse, and they certainly live up to their lowbrow assignations, but the names also help to anonymize them. These could be people from just about any medieval English village, and so the locational or geographic joke works regardless of what town the performer happens to be in. The text contains further minstrel tags in all the places you would expect to find them, such as the transition between the two fits (where a break would have been presumably taken), and including a reminder at the end that it would be good to offer the performer a cup—presumably full of ale, though a cup passed round to collect coin is a possibility too.

The passing of cups, for coin and for ale, is encouraged in the booklet’s next item (item 2; fols. 7 r–10 r), which is one of the few surviving examples of a burlesque or mock sermon in Middle English. 23 Over 30 sermons joyeux survive in French, but in English we have little else beyond the Wife of Bath’s Prologue and the Pardoner’s Tale , both of which might be said to engage with similar conventions, though they do so only obliquely, and without suggesting any awareness of an existing tradition, let alone one in English. The Tudor play Mankind , along with Heywood’s The Pardoner and the Friar , include satire of sermonizing language and style, which gesture knowingly toward the tradition of the sermons joyeux , but in neither are whole parodic sermons embedded. 24 These plays seem to fit with the flourishing of the genre in more respectable circles in the sixteenth century, when the mock sermon became more popular in the schools and inns of court. 25 That Chaucer can take up the genre implies some currency in Middle English, but the fact that he gives it to his two most fallible authors equally suggests that the genre is still, in the Middle Ages, just on the wrong side of playful subversion—the kind of entertainment best suited to the less-easily indictable ephemerality of live performance.

The Heege Manuscript sermon covers six pages of prose, and across those pages there are no fewer than 12 instances of direct address to, or invocation of, a live audience. At times those ‘oral tags’ are conventional addresses (‘sirs’, ‘syrrus’), at times comically derogatory (‘my leve cursyd creatures’, ‘cursed catyves’), at times mimetic of sermonizing invocations (‘y pray you everychone […] sey a pater noster and an ave’), and at times reflective of the assumed performance context of drunken revelry (‘Drynke þu to me, and y to þe’). 26 As with The Hunting of the Hare , the performer uses a generic convention to orientate the narrative locally—‘and all þe sottes of þis town wer don in a dungeon […]’—with the possibility of ‘sottes’ meaning ‘drunkards’ as well as ‘fools’ implying that the round-up would include those present in the audience. Again the text offers, with the indefinite ‘a’ of ‘a dungeon’, the prospect that it could be performed in multiple villages and still maintain the humorous implication that the present audience of ‘sottes’ is the one being lampooned. This is a comic jab made to travel.

As with The Hunting of the Hare , too, the performer ends the piece by announcing himself as someone who would benefit from the charity of the cup, and with the epic bouts of eating and drinking it describes, it evokes a performance setting of a saturnalian feast at, say, a provincial manorial hall, or an epic binge-session at an alehouse or tavern, of the kind imagined in the Pardoner’s Tale or passus V of Piers Plowman . Its authorities are peasants with the sort of hypocoristic nicknames found in The Hunting of the Hare : a caricaturized Jack Straw, Jack a Throme, and Jon Belly-Burst. Here is a flavour of its argument:

Drynke þu to me, and y to þe, and halde þe coppe in a-re. […] yf þu have a grete blacke bolle in þi honde, and hit be full of gud ale, and þu leyve any þyng þerin, þu puttes þi sowle into grette pyne. And þerto acordes too worþi prechers, Jacke a Throme and Jon Brest-Bale; þese men seyd in þe bibull þat an ill drynker is unpossibull hevone for to wynne; for God luffus nodur hors nor mare, but meré men þat in þe cuppe con stare. (fol. 10r)

In keeping with the tone of The Hunting of the Hare , once again, this sermon does not seem like a simple tool for the gentry to laugh at the peasantry. Rather, the saturnalian environment it evokes, and no doubt engenders, seems appropriate for audiences of mixed or varied estates. While conventional English sermons often embed snippets of verse to catch the ear and encourage both association and memorization, this sermon embeds fragments of drinking songs—‘Drynke þu to me, and y to þe, and halde þe coppe in a-re’, or ‘for God luffus nodur hors nor mare, but meré men þat in þe cuppe con stare’. They are a witness to a received understanding of linguistic texture and style in the Middle English sermon, and the immediate effect, presumably, is to encourage more rapid imbibing and therefore more jolly conviviality, even amongst potentially disparate estates. If death is a great leveller of rank, so too is intoxication.

The sermon holds up aristocrats for ridicule as much, or more, than the peasants. Consider the following exemplum:

Syrs, y rede also þat þer was wonus a king, and he made a gret fest, and he had .iij. kyngus at his feyst, and þese .iij. kyngus ete but of wone gruell dysche, and þei ete so mykull þat þer balys brast, and owt of þer balys come .iiij. and xx.te oxon playing at þe sword and bokelar, and þer wer laft no moo on lyve but .iij. red heyrynges. And þese .iij. reyd heryngus bled .ix. days and .ix. nyghttus, as it ben þe cawkons of horse-schone. (fol. 9r)

There is little sense to be made here, though perhaps we could see it as an absurd rendition of the ‘marvel at a feast’ motif found commonly in romance. 27 Possibly, through the fighting of the 24 oxen-knights, the three kings are punished for their gluttony by somehow being transformed into the red herrings, the very ‘gruell dysche’ on which they glutted until their bellies burst. All we can do is speculate and differ, and no doubt trying to make too much sense of it is beside the point. What we have here is a witness of fantasy and whimsy drawing on the conventions of romance, chivalric combat, and the enigmas of the heterodox supernatural. Obviously the sermon is not a romance, and it is not in a verse form we readily associate with ‘entertaining’ live performances, like tail-rhyme, though obviously, too, sermons were designed for performance before an audience, and the best of them were meant to be genuinely engaging. We know as well, from the vices in Mankind , that there is fun to be had by mocking a sermon through parodying its style, 28 and there is evidence of a vogue for amateur mock sermons in the first half of the sixteenth century, of the kind a young Sir Thomas More was said to excel at. 29 Later in the century, the fine improvisations of Falstaff and Harry also show that the performance of mock solemnity can be highly entertaining. There is some anecdotal evidence of the broader existence of mock sermons in medieval England, and perhaps we should not be surprised that few others survive, given their crude postures, suspect subject-matter, and, if this and later examples are indicative, permissive attitudes toward debauched performance contexts.

Both the debauchery and the nonsense of this sermon anticipates the alliterative poem that rounds off the booklet: what Thorlac Turville-Petre has titled The Battle of Brakonwet (item 3; fol. 10 v). Here is the poem in full: The mone in þe mornyng merely rose When þe sonne & þe sevon sterrs softely wer leyd In a slommuryng of slepe, for-slokond with ale. A hoswyfe of Holbrucke owt hornus blu For all þo pekke was for-bedon paryng of chese; Þo reyncus of Radforde wer redy at a nonswer For to expond þe spavens of þe spade half. Tom þe teplar tryde in þe gospell What schuld fall of þe fournes in þe frosty murnyng. At þe batell of Brakonwet þer as þe beyre justyd Sym saer & þe swynkote þei wer sworne breder. Þe hare & harþeston burtuld to-geydur Whyle þe hombulbe hod was hacked alto cloutus. Þer schalmo[l] þe scheldrake & schepe trumpyd, Hogge with his hornpipe hyod hym be-lyve & dansyd on þe downghyll whyle all þei dey lastyd With Magot & Margory & Malyn hur sysstur. Þe prest in to þe place pryce for to wynne. Kene men of Combur comen be-lyve For to mot[e] of mychewhat more þen a lytyll, How Reynall & Robyn Hod runnon at þe gleyve.    (fol. 10 v) 30

Once again we see the hypocoristic nicknames: Tom the Templar, Sym Sawyer, and Robin Hood. We also see Magot, Margery, and Malyn, this latter name conventionally associated with serving women, peasant women, or women of ill repute. 31 Here too we find nonsense images of animals engaged in the matter of romance: jousting bears; fighting hares; battling bumblebees; heraldic ducks and sheep, and merry-making hoggs. As Thorlac Turville-Petre has identified, the poem gives several placenames: Holbrook, Radford, and Brakonwet, now called Brakenfield. Combur could be an erroneous or alternative spelling for the village of Codnor, or it could refer to a village now dissolved but survived through the name of nearby Cumberhills Farm. All these villages (and the farm) lie within about an eight-mile radius of each other in eastern Derbyshire and western Nottinghamshire. Less than a two-hour walk west from Brakenfield, too, is Tibshelf, where the Sherbrook family was living in the early sixteenth century, and from Brakenfield it would be another two hours’ walk south to the village of Heage, from which Richard Heege almost certainly draws his name. 32 Andrew Taylor has suggested that rural minstrels may have tramped fairly localized beats, as many gigging musicians do nowadays, and a Brackenfield-Holbrook-Radford itinerary forms a tidy circuit, in which stops at Heage, Codnor, and Tibshelf would not have introduced significant detours. 33 Along with the playful neighbouring-village rivalry hinted at in The Hunting of the Hare , this poem invites the audience to imagine the fictive and comic (indeed absurd) incidents it describes as occurring in a local and familiar geography. It also invites the audience to reflect on the position of the narrator or performer, who has knowledge of these nearby places and has travelled back to share the news: the more comic and ironic the news, all the better for its entertainment value.

The poem has two further features worth commenting on. The first is the line ‘In a slommuryng of slepe, for-slokond with ale’. Here we have a rather fine demonstration of alliterative verse, and indeed a fine evocation of its more literary examples, such as the beginning of Piers Plowman . As with the mock sermon that cleverly apes pious and philosophical discourses, it serves as a caution against constructing neat categories of learned and lewd, or thinking that popular entertainments are not capable of poetic achievement. Still, the higher the register, the more comic the fall, for here we have, too, the familiar tavern, alehouse, or festival trope of epic beer-drinking, and the clever double entendre of ‘for-slokond’, which can mean both ‘quenched’ and ‘drenched’. 34 This line is also interesting in its similarity to a line from Sir Gawain and the Green Knight . At the start of the romance, after Arthur’s court witnesses the ‘fantoum and fayrye’ (l. 240) of the Green Knight, the Gawain -Poet gives a simile to describe how dumbstruck all the courtiers were: ‘As all were slypped on slepe so slaked her lotes | in hye’ (ll. 244–5). 35 Putter and Stokes note that the phrase ‘slypped on slepe’ is a common idiom, 36 and I would add that it is a regional idiom, with attestations from Lancashire, Cheshire, Derbyshire/Nottinghamshire, and Lincolnshire. In the penultimate line of The Battle of Brakonwet , ‘mychewhat’, meaning to chat or make small-talk about this or that, also appears in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (l. 1280), and the MED offers only one other witness, from The Parliament of the Three Ages , which has been located to central Nottinghamshire. 37 Given the use of regional idioms and vocabulary, the hyper-local placenames, and the reference to the tales told of Robin hood so close to (or indeed within) Nottinghamshire, it seems like The Battle of Brakonwet is very much a poem of its own place, intended for a specific audience of eastern-Derbyshire/western-Nottinghamshire locals, and one that offers absurdist glimpses of folk custom and folk fantasy in ways that accord with the other two pieces in the booklet.

The case for Richard Heege copying this booklet from a minstrel’s repertoire is ultimately circumstantial. No exemplar survives, and there is no irrefutable documentary evidence. Still, there are enough fingerprints at the scene to make the argument for minstrel origins more plausible than its hitherto assumed origins in textual communities of exemplar circulation, of the kind that surely led to the creation of the other eight booklets that now make up the manuscript. To summarize: there is no positive evidence of duplication from circulating exemplars, as all three texts survive in this booklet only; all three texts are wholly original, neither translated nor otherwise broadly derived from known sources; all three are clearly interactive pieces intended for live performance, evidently for mixed-estate audiences who are assumed to be in the throes of merry-making; and all three make play with local settings and localized audiences, with the The Battle of Brakonwet referring to villages within close proximity of Richard Heege’s presumed locale.

The question of whether we are dealing with a professional travelling minstrel or a local amateur performer is also a matter of speculation. To suggest the two possibilities, however, does not require a binary. A ‘professional’ minstrel might have a day job and go gigging at night, 38 and so be, in a sense, semi-professional, just as a ‘travelling’ minstrel may well be also ‘local’, working a beat of nearby villages and generally known in the area. On balance, the texts in this booklet suggest a minstrel of this variety: someone whose material includes several local place-names, but also whose material is made to travel, with the lack of determinacy designed to comically engage audiences regardless of specific locale. In functional and structural ways, then, these texts seem especially suited to the trade of minstrelsy.

If we pursue this hypothesis, the question emerges of whether Heege copied from a minstrel’s repertoire book, or from a minstrel’s live performance (or later oral recitation). While either is possible, and the ability to capture script from live performance is well attested through sermon reportationes and through practices in the early modern theatre, 39 the case for Heege copying from an existing minstrel’s repertoire manuscript seems most compelling. Why? Because nonsense is the antithesis of the mnemonic. Sure, tail-rhyme, with its short lines, simple structure, frequent rhymes, and propensity for stock images and repeated phrases, lends itself to the memory requirements of the minstrel’s craft. But a prose sermon peppered with nonsense sequences, and a nonsense poem in non-rhyming alliterative long-lines is another matter altogether. This, in turn, begs the question of whether the nonsense, or the prose, is the reason a minstrel would write out his texts to begin with. Surely it remains a strong hypothesis that the reason minstrel manuscripts do not survive from the Middle Ages is because few of them were created to begin with. If minstrels did not see themselves ideologically or economically opposed to trends in textual technologies, such technologies may well have been seen as an unnecessary expense and burden. Memory, after all, is free. But what if you develop a repertoire that includes nonsense, even nonsense in prose? Then, perhaps, an aide-memoire would be especially advantageous. A performer’s actual aide-memoire, as opposed to a cleric’s copy of one, would be unlikely to survive, though one instance might be the four-inch by 11-inch strip of parchment now bound with Oxford, Bodleian Library, Rawlinson D.913. It contains fragments and opening lines of several lyrics and may well have served as a kind of ‘set list’ for a gigging performer. 40 If, indeed, this was its purpose, it stands as a scrappy witness to the prospect that minstrels could use written documents, just as it suggests how slight and vulnerable those pages might have been.

Some evidence from the fifteenth century survives of monies spent for the purposes of copying out entertainments. In the winter of 1406 Richard Milford, Bishop of Salisbury, purchased 11 quires of paper to copy out or create Christmas entertainments for his household:

xi quarternis papiri emptis ibidem per eundem pro interludiis tempore Natalis Domini inde faciendi ii s. ix. d. ob.
[Eleven paper quires have been bought from the same place through the same person for interludes at Christmas time and for their making ii s. ix. d. ob.] 41

The record shows that not only were ‘interludes’ for household entertainments committed to manuscript, but also that by the early fifteenth century retailers (in this case, Thomas Croxby of London) were providing quires of blank paper ready-made for copying out booklets. While this account pre-dates Richard Heege’s efforts by more than half a century, the price is worth noting. Of course, the cost of a paper quire could vary by paper quality, paper size, and quire volume, but for quires of quality and size deemed appropriate for copying out entertainments, Richard Milford paid three pence each, and given that the Heege booklet under discussion here consists of a single paper quire, it gives us a rough sense of the material cost of the booklet, and indeed the approximate cost of equivalent pages in the minstrel’s repertoire manuscript from which Heege may have copied: three pennies. What kind of dent might that make on the purse of a travelling minstrel? Records of payments to minstrels in the fifteenth century show a broad spectrum of remuneration, from allowances of wine to one-off cash sums to annual stipends, but here is one representative example. In the Shropshire town of Ludlow, on 28 May 1447, two minstrels—one being a harpist—were paid for performing at the feast of Pentecost, ii s vi d, or, if indeed they split it evenly, 15 pence each. 42 Examples such as this, among many others like it, suggest that purchasing pages to copy out a repertoire would have been a substantial cost of doing business for a travelling minstrel in the fifteenth century. The extra expense, in other words, might be one reason among many that such scripts would be rare, but cost would not have been an insurmountable barrier for many minstrels: paper, in this mid-fifteenth-century context, was not prohibitively unaffordable.

All evidence considered, it seems most likely that the creation of the first booklet in MS Advocates’ 19.3.1 is the result of an apparently rare manuscript of minstrel entertainments, presumably travelling with its owner, landing in the hands of a provincial collector of literature and entertainments: Richard Heege. In this scenario, the isolated booklet provides a tidy material witness to Heege’s penchant for performance texts, but it may be the case that he had a nose for minstrel entertainments when compiling other booklets as well. For starters there are two texts across the remaining eight booklets that survive only in this manuscript and leave no evidence of circulation through exemplar reproduction (item 21; fols. 66 r–67 v, item 33; fols. 95 v–96 r). They are both secular lyrics of contemporary affairs, lamenting various injustices, and so may be thought of as good contenders for live performance scripts due to their topical and occasional content, and to their first-person voices. The most obvious contender for a script with origins in minstrel traditions, however, is another nonsense verse, found in what is now the manuscript’s fourth booklet (item 11; fols. 60 r–v). Nonsense verse in extant Middle English is extremely rare. Aside from the occasional short lyric, The Land of Cokayne , snippets of nonsense in other verse (for instance, the ‘rum, ram, ruf’ of Chaucer’s Parson), or the garbled macaronic nonsense of caricatured peasants found in the mystery plays), there are few other examples of surviving nonsense poems. In addition to Heege’s copy, it survives in National Library of Wales, Brogyntyn MS ii.1 (formerly Porkington 10), fols. 152 r–154 r, a near-contemporary miscellany from around the border of Cheshire and Shropshire.

The principle scribe of Brogyntyn ii.1, designated Scribe ‘O’ by Daniel Huws, seems to have shared Heege’s tastes for humour, nonsense, and performance pieces, as along with their shared nonsense verse, he also copied out a mock love lyric and two satirical letters, one of which being humorously nonsensical. 43 The nonsense poem they have in common is 66 lines as copied by Scribe ‘O’ and 49 lines in Heege’s copy. The broad narrative, insofar as one can be deduced, is the same in both, but every one of the overlapping or ‘shared’ lines contain verbal variation across the two witnesses, of the sort that suggests transmission through memory, or copying from live performance, or transmission through oral means at some stage between the two textual reproductions. Consider variations in the following ‘shared’ lines: ‘Þen wax I as pore as þo byschop of Chestur’ (Heege)/‘I wolde I were as bare as þe beschope of Chester’ (Scribe ‘O’); or ‘When Mydsomer evyn fell on Palmes Sounndey’ (Heege)/‘Þe Pame Sonday be-fele þat yere one Mydesondey’ (Scribe ‘O’). 44

This poem consists of a first-person narrative in which the performer is also the travelling protagonist, and it has many of the hallmarks of minstrelsy that we have witnessed already. It begins (according to the Heege copy): ‘Herkyn to my tale þat I schall to yow schew, | For of seche mervels have ye hard bot few’ (ll. 1–2; fol. 60 r); and at a transition in the action we get, ‘Fordurmore I went and moo marvels I founde’ (l. 27; fol. 60 r). The final lines offer, in repeat of lines at the start of the poem (ll. 3–4; fol. 60 r) an ironic claim that the performer has been telling the truth, and it ends with a prayer for something to drink: Yf all these be trwe þet bene in þis tale, God as he madde hus mend hus he mey, Save hus and sende hus sum drynke for þis dey. (ll. 45–7; fol. 60 v)

The poem chronicles two absurdist ‘marvels’. In the first, the travelling minstrel walks into a church populated entirely by fish; in the second, the minstrel attends a feast in which terrestrial animals, as well as some fish, cook the meal and provide the service and entertainment. In terms of minstrelsy, a sow sits on a high bank and harps tales of Robin Hood; a fox plays the fiddle; and a bumblebee the hornpipes. The feast is gargantuan, but just as in The Feast of Tottenham , not only is the narrator also a participant, but everything goes wrong; most kitchen utensils end up in the dishes themselves—ladles in the soups; tankards in the tartlets, and so on. At the poem’s conclusion, in the Advocates’ manuscript, is an ‘amen’, and an ‘Explicit’, followed by a colophon from Richard Heege:

Per me Recardum Heegge quod ipse fuit ad istud conviuium & non habuit potacionem. (fol. 60v)
[By me, Richard Heege, because I was at that feast and did not have a drink.]

It seems like there are two plausible interpretations here. On the one hand, Heege could be making a joke by imagining that he himself is the narrator of the poem who was at the absurdist feast with the animals and despite his concluding prayer for a drink he managed to stay sober enough to remember it and write a poem about it. In this scenario the question of whether he was the actual author of the poem or comically aligning himself with the voice of the copy-text remains a mystery. On the other hand, Heege could be referring to an actual feast he attended, in which this poem was performed by a travelling minstrel, during which he actually stayed sober enough to remember it and write it down, or copy it out from the minstrel’s repertoire manuscript. There is a certain logic, and meta-comedy, to a poem about a topsy-turvy feast—with its own minstrelsy and tales of Robin Hood—being performed during the service of an actual feast. 45 In this light, it is possible to see how the line ‘Þo beyr was þo gud kowke þat all þis meyte makes’ (l. 41; fol. 60 v) could bridge the gap between the fiction of the poem and the performative space of the dining hall. In either case, we can say that the colophon plays self-reflexively with occasions of festivity in which comic nonsense poems were performed and in which the happy (and perhaps rare) circumstance of relative sobriety was the sine qua non of scripts from those live performances being captured in manuscript.

What emerges from this colophon is an image of Richard Heege—a scribe with a sense of humour. What emerges, indeed, is a playful indeterminacy between text and paratext. What emerges is an ironizing of the scribe’s role as mediator between source material and the manuscript’s readers. It may be that the colophon is a confection, an extension of the meta-comedy that stretches the fictive frame to include the scribe in the absurdist goings-on of the poem. Conversely, it may be scribal reportage in the most straightforward sense of a dutiful cleric at a festive occasion. But of course it is too knowing, too teasing, to be reducible to one or the other. Like all texts in the first booklet, the colophon plays a game with the relationship between text, performer, and audience, and like several of the comic texts that Heege copies, it is a joke that hinges on the prospect of a debauch.

Yet, despite Heege’s ironizing and meta elusiveness, he still leaves us with witnesses, with an archive. The booklets he copied and compiled preserve contemporary poems that dramatize and thematize feasting and merry-making, drinking, and storytelling, and in the first booklet (and the fourth booklet’s nonsense verse), it seems we find preserved some examples of what kind of stories were being told. In ‘The Myth of the Minstrel Manuscript’ Andrew Taylor shows how no surviving medieval manuscript can be confidently ascribed to a minstrel, either as owner or copyist. What Taylor also suggests is that we should not hold out hope of finding one, given the unlikelihood of survival and the fact that the ‘wear and tear’ evidence of travelling scripts is not alone proof enough. The conclusions of this essay do not contest that position. Rather, they suggest that we might look to other kinds of survivals for evidence of live-entertainment material—of minstrelsy—in later medieval England. Richard Heege left us scripts more mediated and less mobile than a travelling minstrel manuscript, he left us a record of materials for minstrel performance rather than the materials themselves, but for all that his record seems hardly less an authentic witness to live storytelling from later medieval England.

One of the more striking corollaries of this essay’s claim is that the repertoire preserved by Heege does not contain the sorts of texts most often associated with minstrelsy. It does not include a romance, or at least a conventional romance of heroism and adventure. 46 It also does not contain a Robin Hood ballad, despite the proximity to Sherwood Forrest, and despite the fact that two of the booklet’s three texts refer to minstrel performances of Robin Hood tales. It also does not contain a play, or a straightforwardly dramatic interlude, though of course in the mock sermon the minstrel would presumably don the guise of a priest. Of course, this is not to question the prospect that medieval minstrels performed romances, or drama, or Robin Hood ballads, but rather that the witnesses preserved by Heege expand the parameters of a performance repertoire beyond what we have hitherto deemed conventional, to include prose as well as verse; to include the satiric, ironic, and nonsensical; the topical, the interactive, the meta-fictional and meta-comedic. The picture that emerges is one of a performer’s willingness to poke fun of audiences across the spectrum of estates hierarchy within individual performance pieces. A picture also emerges of folk consciousness and folk lore: of folk speech, of folk custom, and folk fantasy. What we find in these texts is a vestige of medieval life lived vibrantly: the good times being as good as they ever have been, and probably ever will.

See Andrew Taylor, ‘The Myth of the Minstrel Manuscript’, Speculum , 66 (1991), 43–73; also, Andrew Taylor, ‘Fragmentation, Corruption, and Minstrel Narration: The Question of the Middle English Romances’, The Yearbook of English Studies , 22 (1992), 38–62; P. R. Coss, ‘Aspects of Cultural Diffusion in Medieval England: The Early Romances, Local Society, and Robin Hood’, Past & Present , 108 (1985), 35–79.

R. M. Wilson considers references and allusions to minstrel texts in The Lost Literature of Medieval England (New York, NY, 1952; 2 nd edn London, 1970). For an intriguing study on the scale of lost manuscripts from medieval England, see Mike Kestemont, et al, ‘Forgotten Books: The Application of Unseen Species Models to the Survival of Culture’, Science , 375 (2022), 765–9, <doi:10.1126/science.abl7655>.

Ad Putter, ‘Middle English Romances and the Oral Tradition’, in Karl Reichl (ed.), Medieval Oral Literature (Berlin, 2012), 335–51; also, Linda Marie Zaerr, Performance and the Middle English Romance (Cambridge, 2012), esp. 52–77.

On names, instruments, and places of association, see Taylor, ‘The Myth of the Minstrel Manuscript’, 65–7. See also the records listed in Richard Rastall, ‘The Minstrels of the English Royal Households, 25 Hen VIII: An Inventory’, Royal Musical Association Research Chronicle , 4 (1964), 1–41; Constance Bullock-Davies, Menestrellorum Multitudo: Minstrels at a Royal Feast (Cardiff, 1978) and A Register of Royal and Baronial Domestic Minstrels, 1272–1327 (Cambridge, 1986).

Daniel Wakelin makes this point in ‘The Carol in Writing: Three Anthologies from Fifteenth-Century Norfolk’, Journal of the Early Book Society , 9

(2006), 25–49.

On the possibility of household-based, amateur performances in the fifteenth century see George Shuffleton, ‘Is there a Minstrel in the House: Domestic Entertainment in Late Medieval England’, Philological Quarterly, 87 (2008), 51–76.

Walter Benjamin, ‘The Storyteller: Reflections on the Works of Nikoli Leskov’, in Illuminations , ed. , tr.(New York, NY, 1969), 83–109.

The earliest known minstrel repertoire manuscript dates from 1556–1558, and is now Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Ashmole 48. See Andrew Taylor, The Songs and Travels of a Tudor Minstrel: Richard Sheale of Tamworth (York, 2012).

The Heege Manuscript: A Facsimile of National Library of Scotland MS Advocates 19.3.1 , ed. by Phillipa Hardman (Leeds, 2000); Phillipa Hardman, ‘A Medieval “Library in Parvo”’, Medium Aevum , 47 (1978), 262–73; Phillipa Hardman, ‘A Note on Some “Lost” Manuscripts’, The Library , 30 (1975), 245–7.

For instance, a stanza on the concept of deceit from the Fall of Princes is mashed up with other proverbial expressions to create, effectively, a different poem (item 13; fol. 61 v), and one that makes our attribution of the fragment to Lydgate seem like a scholarly anachronism. From Fall of Princes , Book II. 4432–8. In H. Bergen (ed.), Lydgate’s Fall of Princes , EETS ES, 121–4, 4 vols (1924–1927), 2. 324.

See Michael Johnston, Romance and the Gentry in Late Medieval England (Oxford, 2014), esp. 128–58; Thorlac Turville-Petre, ‘Some Medieval English Manuscripts in the North-East Midlands’, in Derek Pearsall (ed.), Manuscripts and Readers in Fifteenth-Century England: The Literary Implications of Manuscript Study (Cambridge, 1981, 1983), 125–41.

For a codicological overview see Richard Beadle and A. E. B. Owen, ‘Introduction’, in Richard Beadle and A. E. B. Owen (eds), The Findern Manuscript: Cambridge University Library MS Ff.i.6 (London, 1978), i–xxxiii. On the book’s importance as a collection of Middle English secular lyrics, see Russell Hope Robins, ‘The Findern Anthology’, PMLA , 69 (1954), 610–42.

In addition to Hardman, The Heege Manuscript, and Johnston, Romance and the Gentry in Late Medieval England , see Raluca Radulescu, Romance and its Contexts in Fifteenth-Century England: Politics, Piety and Penitence (Cambridge, 2013), esp. 1–39; Myra Seaman, ‘Renovating the Household Through Affective Invention in Manuscripts Ashmole 61 and Advocates 19.3.1’, in Glenn D. Burger and Rory G. Critten (eds), Household Knowledges in Late-Medieval England and France (Manchester, 2019), 74–99.

For an edition and discussion of this text see David Scott-Macnab, ‘The Hunttyng of the Hare in the Heege Manuscript’, Anglia , 128 (2010), 102–23. In quoting from this text I follow Scott-Macnab’s edition. The whole of the Heege Manuscript is available online in digitized form, from the National Library of Scotland’s website: <−316%2C-201%2C3314%2C4015 > accessed 17 April 2023.

Walter Scott, ‘Essay on Romance’, in The Mics. Prose Works of Walter Scott, Bart ., vol. 6 (Edinburgh, 1834), 127–216 (143); see also, Walter Scott, ‘Evans’s Old Ballads’, in The Mics. Prose Works of Walter Scott, Bart. , vol. 17 (Edinburgh, 1835), 119–36 (132–3).

These survive in three manuscripts: London, British Library, MS Harley 5396; Cambridge, Cambridge University Library, MS Ff.5.48; Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Library, MS English 590 F. See Erik Kooper (ed.), Sentimental and Humorous Romances (Kalamazoo, MI, 2005).

Item 18 in the manuscript (fols. 63 r–64 v) is also concerned with hunting. It is a manual intended to educate in the proper terms of various hunting activities. Even this, though, strays into comedy, in the form of anti-clerical satire: ‘an abhominabul syght of munkus | a superfluyte of nones’ (fol. 64 r).

For instance: ‘Thus sone won hit hym on the backe, | That euer aftur his arse seyd ‘Qwacke!’, | When he schulld ryse to walke. (ll. 214–16; fols. 5 v–6 r).

MED ‘hapli’ adv. The manuscript gives what appears to be ‘appyngly’ with the ‘ng’ rubbed out (fol. 1 r).

Kathleen M. Ashley and Gerard NeCastro (eds), Mankind (Kalamazoo, MI, 2010), ll. 274, 452, 505–15 < > accessed 17 April 2023; see also Jessica Brantley and Thomas Fulton, ‘ Mankind in a Year Without Kings’, Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies , 36 (2006), 321–54 (347, n. 20).

Discussion of Alice de Bryene from Shuffleton, ‘Is there a Minstrel in the House?’, 67; see V. Redstone, The Household Book of Alice de Bryene (Ipswich, 1932); Ffiona Swabey, Medieval Gentlewoman: Life In A Gentry Household in the Later Middle Ages (New York, NY, 1999), esp. 42, 91–2; revised edition, Ffiona von Westhoven Perigrinor, Life in a Medieval Gentry Household: Alice de Bryene of Acton Hall, Suffolk, c.1360–1435 (London, 2021).

On peasant names and naming see Emily Steiner, ‘Naming and Allegory in Late Medieval England’, The Journal of English and Germanic Philology , 106 (2007), 248–75.

For an edition and discussion see Malcolm Jones, ‘The Parodic Sermon in Medieval and Early Modern England’, Medium Aevum , 66 (1997), 94–114.

See Jones, ‘The Parodic Sermon’, 96.

Jones, ‘The Parodic Sermon’, 95.

In quoting from this text I follow Jones’s edition throughout.

See Aisling Byrne, ‘The Intruder at the Feast: Negotiating Boundaries in Medieval Insular Romance’, Arthurian Literature , 27 (2010), 33–57.

See Brantley and Fulton, ‘ Mankind in a Year Without Kings’, 321–54; Anthony Gash, ‘Carnival against Lent: The Ambivalence of Medieval Drama’, in David Aers (ed.), Medieval Literature: Criticism, Ideology, and History (Brighton, 1986), 74–98.

In quoting this poem I follow Turville-Petre’s edition: ‘Some Medieval English Manuscripts in the North-East Midlands’, 137–8.

MED ‘Malkin’ n.

See Turville-Petre, ‘Some Medieval English Manuscripts in the North-East Midlands’, 138; Johnson, Romance and the Gentry , 144–9.

See Taylor, The Songs and Travels of a Tudor Minstrel , 18, 24–7.

MED ‘forslokened’ ppl.

See Ad Putter and Myra Stokes (eds), The Works of the Gawain Poet: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Pearl, Patience, Cleanness (London, 2014), 274.

See Putter and Stokes (eds), The Works of the Gawain Poet , 618.

MED ‘muche-what’ pron.

See Taylor, ‘The Myth of the Minstrel Manuscript’, 73.

See Malcolm B. Parkes, Scribes, Scripts and Readers: Studies in the Communication, Presentation and Dissemination of Medieval Texts (London, 1991), 19–33; Tiffany Stern, Making Shakespeare: From Stage to Page (London, 2004), esp. 46–7.

See John Burrow, ‘Poems Without Contexts: The Rawlinson Lyrics’, Essays in Criticism , 29 (1979), 6–32.

Quoted from Orietta da Rold, Paper in Medieval England: From Pulp to Fictions (Cambridge, 2020), 143.

From J. Alan B. Somerset (ed.), Records of Early English Drama: Shropshire (Toronto, 1994), 74.

See Daniel Huws, ‘Porkington 10 and Its Scribes’, in Jennifer Fellows, Rosalind Field, Gillian Rogers, Judith Weiss (eds), Romance Reading on the Book. Essays on Medieval Narrative presented to Maldwyn Mills (Cardiff, 1996), 188–207; the satirical letter with nonsense passages has been edited by Nancy P. Pope, ‘A Middle English Satirical Letter in Brogyntyn MS II.1’, ANQ , 18 (2005), 35–9.

The texts from both manuscripts are printed in Reliquiae antiquae: Scraps from Ancient Manuscripts, Illustrating Chiefly Early English Literature , ed. by Thomas Wright and James Orchard Halliwell, 2 vols (London, 1845), 1. 81–2, 85–6. My quotations follow this edition, with original manuscript spellings retained. Brogyntyn MS II.1 is available online in digitized form, from the National Library of Wales’s website: < > accessed 17 April 2023.

On records of minstrels performing at provincial houses see Shuffleton, ‘Is there a Minstrel in the House?’, 67.

On the extensive ‘ prima facie ’ evidence for minstrels performing romances, see Putter, ‘Middle English Romances and the Oral Tradition’, esp. 340; also, see Zaerr’s list of references to minstrel performance in romances, Performance and the Middle English Romance , 181–233.

Email alerts

Citing articles via.


Oxford University Press is a department of the University of Oxford. It furthers the University's objective of excellence in research, scholarship, and education by publishing worldwide

This Feature Is Available To Subscribers Only

Sign In or Create an Account

This PDF is available to Subscribers Only

For full access to this pdf, sign in to an existing account, or purchase an annual subscription.

Recent Blog Articles

Talking to your doctor about your LGBTQ+ sex life

Play helps children practice key skills and build their strengths

Harvard Health Ad Watch: An IV treatment for thyroid eye disease

Taking up adaptive sports

Cutting and self-harm: Why it happens and what to do

Discrimination at work is linked to high blood pressure

Pouring from an empty cup? Three ways to refill emotionally

Give praise to the elbow: A bending, twisting marvel

Sneezy and dopey? Seasonal allergies and your brain

The FDA relaxes restrictions on blood donation

9 at-home treatments for acid reflux

A few lifestyle changes are worth trying before resorting to drugs for controlling gastroesophageal reflux..


If you are sounding a little hoarse and have a sore throat, you may be bracing for a cold or a bout of the flu. But if you've had these symptoms for a while, they might be caused not by a virus but by a valve — your lower esophageal sphincter.

That's the muscle that controls the passage between the esophagus and stomach, and when it doesn't close completely, stomach acid and food flow back into the esophagus. The medical term for this process is gastroesophageal reflux; the backward flow of acid is called acid reflux . Acid reflux can cause sore throats and hoarseness, and may literally leave a bad taste in your mouth.

What is GERD?

When acid reflux produces chronic symptoms, it is known as gastroesophageal reflux disorder, or GERD . Symptoms of GERD can include:

Three conditions — poor clearance of food or acid from the esophagus, too much acid in the stomach, and delayed stomach emptying — contribute to acid reflux.

If not treated, GERD can lead to more serious health problems. In some cases, you might need medicines or surgery. However, many people can improve their symptoms of GERD through self-care and lifestyle changes .

How to get rid of acid reflux

If you've been having repeated episodes of heartburn — or any other symptoms of acid reflux — you might try the following:

1. Eat sparingly and slowly

When the stomach is very full, there can be more reflux into the esophagus. If it fits into your schedule, you may want to try what is sometimes called "grazing" — eating small meals more frequently rather than three large meals daily.

2. Avoid certain foods

People with acid reflux were once instructed to eliminate all but the blandest foods from their diets. But that's no longer the case. We've evolved from the days when you couldn't eat anything.

But there are still some foods that are more likely than others to trigger reflux, including:

If you eat any of these foods regularly, you might try eliminating them to see if doing so controls your reflux, and then try adding them back one by one. The Foodicine Health website at has diet tips for people with acid reflux and GERD, as well as for other gastrointestinal disorders.

3. Don't drink carbonated beverages

They make you burp, which sends acid into the esophagus. Drink flat water instead of sparkling water.

4. Stay up after eating

When you're standing, or even sitting, gravity alone helps keeps acid in the stomach, where it belongs. Finish eating three hours before you go to bed. This means no naps right after lunch, and no late suppers or midnight snacks.

5. Don't move too fast

Avoid vigorous exercise for a couple of hours after eating. An after-dinner stroll is fine, but a more strenuous workout, especially if it involves bending over, can send acid into your esophagus.

6. Sleep on an incline

Ideally, your head should be six to eight inches higher than your feet. You can achieve this by using extra-tall bed risers on the legs supporting the head of your bed. If your sleeping partner objects to this change, try using a foam wedge support for your upper body. Don't try to create a wedge by stacking pillows. They won't provide the uniform support you need.

7. Lose weight if it's advised

Increased weight spreads the muscular structure that supports the lower esophageal sphincter, decreasing the pressure that holds the sphincter closed. This leads to reflux and heartburn.

8. If you smoke, quit

Nicotine may relax the lower esophageal sphincter.

9. Check your medications

Some — including postmenopausal estrogen, tricyclic antidepressants , and anti-inflammatory painkillers — can relax the sphincter, while others — particularly bisphosphonates like alendronate (Fosamax), ibandronate (Boniva), or risedronate (Actonel), which are taken to increase bone density — can irritate the esophagus.


As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review or update on all articles.

No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.

Related Content

Harvard Health Ad Watch: An IV treatment for thyroid eye disease featured image

Diseases & Conditions

Irregular sleep patterns linked to atherosclerosis featured image

Irregular sleep patterns linked to atherosclerosis

Coping with recurring vertigo featured image

Coping with recurring vertigo

You might also be interested in…

publishing books meaning

Cooling Heartburn

Heartburn can be difficult to cope with but many people manage it quite well. However, other people spend countless hours and untold sums of money looking for a way to spell relief. This Harvard Medical School Guide:  Cooling Heartburn , explains the causes of heartburn, and what you can do to prevent and treat it.

Free Healthbeat Signup

Get the latest in health news delivered to your inbox!

Thanks for visiting. Don't miss your FREE gift.

The Best Diets for Cognitive Fitness , is yours absolutely FREE when you sign up to receive Health Alerts from Harvard Medical School

Sign up to get tips for living a healthy lifestyle, with ways to fight inflammation and improve cognitive health , plus the latest advances in preventative medicine, diet and exercise , pain relief, blood pressure and cholesterol management, and more.

Health Alerts from Harvard Medical School

Get helpful tips and guidance for everything from fighting inflammation to finding the best diets for weight loss ...from exercises to build a stronger core to advice on treating cataracts . PLUS, the latest news on medical advances and breakthroughs from Harvard Medical School experts.

BONUS! Sign up now and get a FREE copy of the Best Diets for Cognitive Fitness

publishing books meaning

Stay on top of latest health news from Harvard Medical School.

Plus, get a FREE copy of the Best Diets for Cognitive Fitness .


  1. What Does Self-Publishing Really Mean?

    publishing books meaning

  2. Image result for publishing

    publishing books meaning

  3. Self-Publishing Definitions

    publishing books meaning

  4. Publish a book or series

    publishing books meaning

  5. Self-Publishing on Amazon KDP and Draft2Digital

    publishing books meaning

  6. Publishing

    publishing books meaning


  1. Writing Routines that Work: James Clear and Charles Duhigg

  2. butterflies in one's stomach.... meaning

  3. The Wager by David Grann


  5. Double Column Cash Book

  6. Reach For The Top (हिन्दी में)


  1. Publishing

    Publishing is the activity of making information, literature, music, software and other content available to the public for sale or for free. [1] Traditionally, the term refers to the creation and distribution of printed works, such as books, newspapers, and magazines.

  2. Publishing Definition & Meaning

    : the business or profession of the commercial production and issuance of literature, information, musical scores or sometimes recordings, or art newspaper publishing software publishing Example Sentences He was hoping to get a job in publishing after college. Her sister works for a well-known publishing company.

  3. What Is Publishing? The Seven Processes of Book Publishing

    The answer is there, in the root of the word: the Latin word publicare, meaning " tomake public, to reveal, divulge, announce." To publish a book is to transform a privately penned manuscript so it's publicly available and readable.

  4. Publishing Definition & Meaning

    Publishing definition, the activities or business of a publisher, especially of books or periodicals: He plans to go into publishing after college. See more.

  5. How to Publish a Book in 2023: 10 Steps to Success

    1. Choose a publishing route Again, modern authors have many publishing routes from which to choose. There's no one "right" way to publish a book — so the steps in this guide should be seen as best practices, rather than mandatory actions. That said, your path to publishing a book will inevitably affect your approach here.

  6. Publishing 101: What You Need to Know

    Publishing is an extremely competitive business. Houses compete to sign the best manuscripts possible. The major houses, as a rule, do not accept unsolicited submissions. They rely on agents to supply them with a steady stream of publishable possibilities. Once an editor agrees to read a manuscript, it has passed a critical test.

  7. History of publishing

    Book publishing The form, content, and provisions for making and distributing books have varied widely during their long history, but in general it may be said that a book is designed to serve as an instrument of communication.

  8. Published Definition & Meaning

    1 : produced or released for distribution in a book, magazine, newspaper, etc. citing a variety of published sources The ghostwriter will write the article … and send it along to the physician, who may make some changes or simply sign it as written and submit it to a journal, usually scrubbed of any mention of the ghostwriter. …

  9. Your Guide to Publishing Imprints: What They Are and Why Publishers

    In the publishing world, an imprint is a trade name that a publisher uses to publish a book. A publishing company might have one or dozens of imprints, often using the different imprint names as brands to market different books to specific demographics.

  10. 3 Paths to Publishing a Book

    Book publishing is a complex, time-consuming and ever-changing industry. If you don't thoroughly understand what you're doing, you'll waste resources and never find readers.

  11. Book publishing definition and meaning

    Book publishing definition: A book is a number of pieces of paper , usually with words printed on them, which are... | Meaning, pronunciation, translations and examples

  12. Publish a book definition and meaning

    Publish a book definition: A book is a number of pieces of paper , usually with words printed on them, which are... | Meaning, pronunciation, translations and examples

  13. History of publishing

    George Unwin Fact-checked by The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica Last Updated: Article History Table of Contents Gutenberg Bible history of publishing, an account of the selection, preparation, and marketing of printed matter from its origins in ancient times to the present.

  14. What Does it Mean to Self-Publish Your Book?

    Self-publishing is when an author publishes their work without a traditional book publisher. This allows the author to retain control of all creative decisions, publishing costs, and royalty profits. This method has been around for centuries, recently evolving into a multi-billion dollar industry. It empowers writers to take control of their ...

  15. Publishing definition and meaning

    Definition of 'publishing' Word Frequency publishing (pʌblɪʃɪŋ ) uncountable noun Publishing is the profession of publishing books. I had a very high-powered job in publishing. Collins COBUILD Advanced Learner's Dictionary. Copyright © HarperCollins Publishers Video: pronunciation of publishing British English pronunciation


    the profession or business of producing and selling a book, magazine, or newspaper: a career in publishing a publishing house See publish Fewer examples the rise of electronic publishing I had an interview for a job with a publishing firm. She used to be a teacher, but now she works in publishing.

  17. What AI Will Mean To Book Publishing

    What AI Will Mean To Book Publishing. Publishing consultant Thad McIlroy suggests that " AI Is About to Turn Book Publishing Upside-Down " in a Publishers Weekly column this week. "The latest generation of AI is a game changer," McIlroy writes. "I believe that every function in trade book publishing today can be automated with the ...

  18. What Does It Mean To Publish?

    To publish means to make information and literature available for the public to view. Publishing involves the process of producing and distributing literature so that the public can have access to it. Sometimes, certain authors publish their own work and in that case they become their own publishers.

  19. Book publication definition and meaning

    Book publication definition: A book is a number of pieces of paper, usually with words printed on them, which are... | Meaning, pronunciation, translations and examples

  20. Book

    book, published work of literature or scholarship; the term has been defined by UNESCO for statistical purposes as a "non-periodical printed publication of at least 49 pages excluding covers," but no strict definition satisfactorily covers the variety of publications so identified.

  21. Start publishing with KDP

    Start publishing with KDP. KDP allows you to self-publish eBooks, paperbacks, and hardcover books for free. We give you direct access to your book on Amazon, and allow you to create a product detail page for your book. It also gives you the option to expand your book's availability on a global scale, making it more accessible for readers ...

  22. What does a publisher do?

    Either way, the easiest way to think of any imprint is that it has a specific brand identity within the publishing world, in terms of the kinds of books they publish." For example, some imprints may be geared towards literary fiction, while others might publish certain non-fiction categories (for example, our Yellow Jersey imprint focuses on ...

  23. Lost Illusions: The Untold Story of the Hit Show's Poisonous Culture

    It was a groundbreaking smash, but things got so toxic behind the scenes that even co-showrunner Damon Lindelof now says: "I failed." A powerful excerpt from the new book 'Burn It Down.'

  24. Entertainments from a Medieval Minstrel's Repertoire Book

    More than 30 years have passed since the publication of Andrew Taylor's 'The Myth of the Minstrel Manuscript', and in that time we have seen no fresh claims to the discovery or identification of a single medieval English manuscript with plausible connections to an actual medieval minstrel. 1 It is a serious lacuna, a major category of lost literature. 2 Records survive, including ...

  25. 9 ways to relieve acid reflux without medication

    As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review or update on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.