Publisher vs. Editor: Key Differences Explained

Of all the people invested in the success of your book, you’re No. 1. That doesn’t mean you’re the only one, though. 

Many entities and people will become involved as your book nears completion — from friends and family you trust to give honest feedback to people paid to make improvements, provide cover art, print your book, market it and route it through sales channels.

Two essential roles are often intertwined but are fundamentally different — publishers and editors. Let’s examine the difference between publisher and editor roles and break down when and why you would need them.

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What Is a Book Publisher?

The publisher is the person who connects authors and audiences. Publishers are the heads of publishing companies, and they provide the financial backing for printing, marketing and selling books. 

Their responsibility is to lead staff and keep the business strong by navigating industry trends, setting budgets and establishing the kinds of stories or publications they think will be successful. 

What Is a Book Editor?

Editors improve books before publishing. They scrutinize manuscripts, looking for grammatical errors, typos, poor use of punctuation and spelling mistakes. While this may sound like editors are proofreaders, their functions extend beyond nuts-and-bolts grammar and spellcheck. 

Editors also ensure consistent tone and style throughout books and may do some research or fact-checking.

Comparing Publisher vs. Editor

Sometimes, you may hear authors refer to publishers and editors as if they’re interchangeable. An author might say, “My publisher said I should rewrite the first chapter,” or, “What is an editor going to do to market my book?” Sometimes, the duties of the two positions may cross, but the roles are distinct.

Core Function

Publishers are, at their core, business leaders and decision-makers. Their function isn’t so much creative tweaking of books or manuscripts as ensuring profitability. 

They will negotiate contracts, acquire manuscripts, set up and maintain distribution channels and promote and market their authors. Publishers often don’t interact much with the authors themselves.

Editors are hands-on with authors and books. While publishers are in charge of what material gets released and when, editors are the ones who polish the material and prepare it for release. 

Every aspect of a book is the editor’s job, from functional aspects such as grammar and spelling to ensuring the perspective is consistent, improving the book’s flow and suggesting broad changes to maintain publishing standards.

Skill Set

Publishers’ skills include general business acumen. Contract negotiation, marketing experience, identifying ideal customers and audiences and staying on top of market trends are abilities that keep publishing houses thriving.

Editors must be more attuned to the creative aspects of the publishing business. Soft skills like patience, communication and a desire for collaboration help editors work with authors to finalize their output. 

Editors must have a keen sense as to what audiences will want and be able to mold manuscripts to conform to appropriate style guides and publishing standards.

Workflow and Process

A publisher develops strategies for acquiring, evaluating and selecting manuscripts and then negotiates contracts with the authors. They oversee book publishing, editors and their processes, the graphic designers responsible for cover art and typesetters who prepare the text for printing. 

Publishers will either handle printing or contract with a printer and establish sales and distribution channels for the finalized books.

What an editor does day to day is edit, modify and improve content. Once manuscripts are in-house, editors evaluate them to analyze what they need to reach their full potential. The editors will then begin developing the manuscripts, collaborating with the typesetters and designers to bring the text to its final state.

Impact on the Publishing Process

Without the publisher, there is no publishing. It’s their vision that ensures books get published at all. They build the brand, push for sales and create author relationships.

Editors’ work involves refining each book they take on to give authors the best chance for success. Editors don’t usurp an author’s vision; instead, they ensure that vision makes it to the audience in a compelling way.


The difference between publisher and editor is distinct, but they still work together. A book publishing editor will give the publisher their thoughts on manuscripts and tell them whether there’s potential for decent sales. 

The publisher will stay in constant communication with the editor throughout the process to ensure their investment in a manuscript pays off. They’ll work together on marketing and promoting the book and its author.

Do Authors Need Both a Publisher and an Editor?

Publishers have connections with sales outlets, and editors make books as good as they can be. But authors don’t necessarily need publishers. Self-publishing with Print Bind Ship allows authors to sidestep publishing houses entirely. 

Print Bind Ship can craft quality books with compelling cover art, connect with authors’ websites and e-commerce pages and ship books directly to customers. 

With Print Bind Ship’s Mail Genius, authors can send custom notecards, cool offers and swag along with their books. Mail Genius even offers “handwritten notes” that make the unboxing feel more personal. 

Hiring editors is still recommended because self-published books still need to have professional-level writing.

Trust Your Publishing and Editing to Print Bind Ship

Publishers and editors are dramatically different, but what if you could take over some of their duties? With Print Bind Ship, you can get high-quality printed books shipped to your door with no middle-man. If you’re interested in entering the world of self-publishing, contact Print Bind Ship today.


Can a publisher and editor be the same person?

Yes, but they usually aren’t. The skillsets required to be most effective at each role are different, and both roles require focus and time for the best results.

How do the responsibilities of a publisher and an editor complement each other?

Publishers tend to be more business-minded, while editors are more creative. This allows publishers to focus on building a profitable business while editors get to enjoy improving stories and manuscripts.

What is the main difference between a publisher and an editor?

Publishers run the publishing business, which involves purchasing manuscripts, managing teams, printing books, crafting marketing strategies and developing sales channels. Editors refine manuscripts to meet publishing standards and ensure the book is in its best possible state.