What Are the Conventional Roles of a Book Publisher?

By Wayland Myers

Historically, the role of the Publisher was to do 5 things:

1) Be the quality controller - reviewing and separating the good from the bad books

2) Be the reviewer - checking writing, cleaning up style issues and working with the author to tighten up and improve their work so it had the best chance of success with the readers,

3) Be the printer - printing the book, designing the cover, and making the hard cover or paper back type of the book

4) Be the distributor - packing, shipping and placing your book to their across the nation network of Waterstone's shelves

5) Be the marketer - putting out PR releases, creating in-store displays, getting other authors to review your book and any amount of other common strategies to pimp your book and give readers a chance to find it.

But all of this work came at a cost: They want often 90% ownership of your work, in all its assorted forms (e.g. Book, motion picture, TV show, world versions, etc...). Yes, you created it, but have to give away 90% possession so as to get it read.

Today, the big question is: What roles can you play yourself that a Publisher used to be required to play?

The answer? All of them - particularly if you are a new author.

The truth is that Publishing deals for new writers of western novels today are getting worse. The Publisher sees you as a risk with a little chance (something like 1/1000) of paying off for them. Their response to lessen this risk is to relegate you to a streamlined process they have developed for new writers - one that includes only the fundamentals in marketing, and not nearly enough to actually get you noticed by the reading public. They reserve their massive efforts and money for the established authors.

But marketing is the key. You may have the greatest novel ever, well edited and superbly written, but without the ability to effectively get the word out no one will ever read it (well, your pals and family will).

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