Going from “I have an idea for a book!” to “My readers enjoy my book!” requires a lengthy path and plenty of outside assistance. Authors need proofreaders, agents, editors, designers, printers, retailers, marketers and shippers to get books to customers.
You might notice one role that’s absent from this list: publishers. Where do publishers fit in? Are they essential for bringing books to life? If an author can see a book to completion without one, it raises the question: What do publishers do?
What Is a Book Publisher?
A book publisher is a company that oversees and distributes books. Some publishers create magazines and other written media. Increasingly, publishers also deal in digital media, such as e-books.
Roles and Responsibilities of a Publisher
How does publishing a book work? Publishers employ multiple teams who work together to lead their authors to success.
Acquiring and Selecting Manuscripts
Purchasing manuscripts is one of the most important steps in publishing. An acquisitions editor acts as a talent scout, looking for a potentially profitable book and bringing the author under their publishing umbrella.
Managing Editorial and Production Processes
Publishing managers offer direction, implement strategies and timelines and provide the necessary tools their teams need to complete tasks.
Collaborating with Authors and Editors
Once a publisher negotiates a contract with an author, the author will connect with the publisher’s editing team. The writer will be assigned an editor, who suggests changes to improve the book’s quality.
Designing Book Covers and Layouts
Design teams craft cover art and establish layouts for books. Graphic designers and layout editors ensure the final product conforms to the publisher’s standards, represents the brand and appeals to customers.
Marketing and Promoting Books
Publishers manage the marketing efforts, too. A team of marketers and publicists develop campaigns through varied channels to advertise new books and authors.
Distributing Books to Retailers
Publishers build relationships with retailers and retail outlets. Getting books to the right locations is essential for bringing them to readers, whether through physical retail stores or online e-commerce sites such as Amazon.
E-Books and Digital Publishing
What does a publisher do to keep up with changing technology? In addition to creating tangible copies of their authors’ books, publishers determine the distribution, pricing and technology infrastructure required to bring books to digital platforms where readers can find them.
Navigating Online Marketing and Distribution Channels
Using the power of social media, email and other digital communication channels, savvy publishers can find new readers and create loyal customers. Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter and other platforms allow publishers to leverage personalization and trust to promote their books.
Challenges Publishers Face
What does a book publisher do to keep its business relevant and profitable?
Competition in the Industry
The industry is extremely competitive, and publishers need to have enough financial clout and move fast to secure profitable manuscripts, recruit good employees and spot areas of the market that aren’t already saturated.
Maintaining Profitability and Sustainability
Publishers must constantly monitor their bottom line and company image. Using environmentally friendly materials, embracing contract work and seeking less expensive processes and goods means keeping the lights on for the foreseeable future.
Adapting to Changing Reader Preferences and Trends
Readers drift to genres as certain types shrink or grow in popularity, narrative styles become old-fashioned or hip and retro and physical releases battle with e-books. It’s up to the publisher to ensure the books are meeting demand and go where customers are.
Differences Between Traditional and Self-Publishing
The crux of the question is, do you want to handle the business aspects of writing or not?
Advantages of Traditional Publishing
Whether an author is willing to put in the work to print, market and sell their books or let a publisher do that for them is the key to why some prefer traditional publishing and others gravitate toward self-publishing.
With traditional publishing, the battle for an author is whether they will get a contract. Once they do, they let someone else handle the details so that they can focus on writing.
Benefits of Self-Publishing
Self-publishers might not have a team of people working on their behalf, but they have far more autonomy. Publishers will make changes to a manuscript as they see fit, and there’s little an author can do unless they have a favorable contract. Additionally, authors who work with a publishing company receive far fewer royalties from sales than self-published authors.
Factors to Consider When Choosing Between the Two
You have to consider what you want from your writing career. Do you purely enjoy the craft of writing? Is it worth it to you to let a publishing company keep more of the money in exchange for handling all the business stuff you don’t care about?
Or do you need ultimate creative freedom, picking and choosing which aspects of publishing you want to outsource and which you will handle?
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Publishers take care of business so writers can write. But what if you want to take charge of the publishing process? You do it yourself!
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A publishing company purchases and develops manuscripts, creates physical and digital copies of books, distributes them for sale and markets them to customers.
First, publishers purchase manuscripts and enter into contracts with the authors. Then, editors refine the text. Designers create covers, printers make physical copies, marketers create marketing campaigns, and the books are delivered to retailers.
Publishers also create magazines, journals, conference papers, instruction manuals and other printed or text-based materials.