I don’t usually post a set of links from a single author, but in this case, I am, because I think these are excellent reference posts that go a long way to explaining common misconceptions to those who have not yet experienced the wonder and confusion and WTF that is print publishing.
Some very informative and useful posts by science fiction/fantasy Charles Stross about print publishing:
Common Misconceptions About Publishing, which talks about the hierarchies of publishing companies and companies that own publishing companies, and a bit about how all that works.
How Books Are Made. This post describes the process of turning a manuscript into a published book.
What Authors Sell to Publishers. Rights, and other legal matters, and why sometimes you can buy a book in one country but not in another.
Why Books Are the Length They Are, with some speculation on how electronic publishing might change that.
And one post speculating on the future of electronic publishing:
The Future of Web Publishing.