What Does a Publisher Do? Featured

  • 16 September 2019 |
  • Written by  Patricia Landy
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           There is often confusion about the role of a book publisher. Some people think that a publisher should just take your manuscript, format it as a book, and put it up on Amazon. Then in a few weeks, the author sees the money roll in. The process is quite different, and there is much more involved.

            In brief, the publisher solicits manuscripts, decides if there is sufficient interest to contract an editor for the manuscript, and prepares a contract for the author. This is just the beginning of what can be a very lengthy process.

            Traditional, big firm publishers often rely on agents to find manuscripts. Today, one can contact small independent publishers directly. Thus, the publisher is the first person to look at submissions. I read at least the first 50 pages. If the plot, characters, or grammar errors are substantial, then the manuscript needs developmental editing. I send it back but remain open to looking through it again. If the resubmission is clean and a good fit for our company, then I assign the manuscript to an editor. Once I have an editor for the book, I send the author a contract. I negotiate and answer questions about the contract. The publisher issues all contracts.

           It is important that the author and editor have a good working relationship, and if there is a problem, then I find one you can work with. The author/editor relationship is crucial. It may take several months to get the manuscript in shape.

             When the author and editor have completed their work, then I look at the manuscript again. I am the last person to look at the manuscript before it is published. I am the ultimate quality control. This averages 90 hours per book. Multiply that by the number of novels published in one year and you can see where the majority of work lies.

            The most common problems that arise are authors who think they have submitted a completed final manuscript which they believe needs little editing. Afterall, they have likely worked on the manuscript for months—sometimes years. However, the authors who are most successful are those who are willing to compromise and accept that others are offering input which they believe will increase the likelihood of success for the book.

            Publishers aren’t running a charity for authors. There is no reason for a publisher to invest in a book if the author thinks that it can’t be improved. If you think your manuscript is already perfect, then you can easily and fairly quickly upload your manuscript to Amazon through Kindle Direct Publishing. The reason to sign with a publisher is because you are seeking their expertise for editing, grammar, cover design, and layout.

            The other issue that arises is marketing of the book. Some people think that signing with a publisher means that someone else will do the marketing and the author can sit back and wait for the money to roll in. This is far from what actually happens. Traditional publishers—the big firms—require their authors to go on extensive book tours. This usually involves lots of travel and lots of time over weeks or months. Any money that the traditional publishers spend on this marketing is subtracted from the expected royalties.

            Small publishers typically do not have large marketing budgets but like the traditional publishers must rely on the authors to do most of the marketing. The publisher may share some of those costs—entering book contests, for example, but it is up to the author to blog, create a website, and in general have a social media presence.

            Everyone wants to write a book, and today, with the Internet and companies such as Amazon and Lulu, anyone can be an author. In fact, an entire cottage industry has popped up, eager for their share of the pie. Many aspiring authors are intimidated, confused, or even discouraged from pursuing their dreams because the publishing process is complicated and varies from one company to another. It doesn’t have to be that way. Dreams don’t have to be realistic, but the manner by which you attain those dreams must be grounded in reality.

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