What Are Publishers?

What is a book?

the content – “I wrote a book”

  • words
  • images
  • information, communication

the container – “I dropped a book”

  • paperback
  • ebook
  • audiobook
  • blog
  • tweets
  • something that hasn’t been invented yet

What is a publisher?

  • “publishing” means making the content public, regardless of the container
  • globally, when people talk about “publishers” (as opposed to indie- or self-publishers) they usually mean the big 5
  • in NZ, small presses are more common
  • small presses and self publishers have more in common with each other than small presses have with the big 5
  • when we use the same tools to marry content and container, the differences between the different kinds of publishing vanish

What’s in a name?

  • there’s a continuum of self-publishing <-> author-publishing <-> indie publishing <-> small presses <-> large presses
  • some self-published work is obvious, some traditionally published work is obvious, but most books are somewhere along the continuum
  • what’s the difference between the self-publisher who hires a structural editor, a proofreader, a layout artist and a cover artist and the small press who publish some books written by members of the editorial staff?
  • what’s the difference between a manuscript that was vetted by an agent then by an acquisitions editor, and an indie book that everyone is talking about?
  • with every passing year, the lines separating the kinds of publishing blur a little more

The elephant in the room

  • quality – if anyone can chuck their novel up on Amazon, how can you know it’s any good?
  • isn’t a book that was chosen by a publisher inherently more likely to be good than one the author just decided to put out there?
  • probably: it’s hard to judge your own work, though there are ways to get around that – beta readers, critiquers, editors
  • just because a book is more likely to be better if it passed through the hurdles of traditional publishing, that doesn’t mean that it definitely will be good
  • big publishing looks for commercial successes, so independent publishing can afford to take a chance on experimental, controversial material
  • self-publishing isn’t new, and it certainly isn’t the death knell for literature

What can book publishers do for authors?

What can an author do alone fairly easily?

  • ebooks
  • creating a professional package (editing, cover)
  • global online distribution of ebooks and print

What is it harder for an author to do?

  • awards submission
  • local distribution
  • print copies in bookshops, libraries
  • being tied to a brand (ie. Tor, Angry Robot, Mills & Boon)

Some authors aren’t interested in or able to do it all for themselves, there will always be a place for people who can help.

Places to find indie books: