Perhaps, even more than “What does a publisher do for a writer?” the true question here is “What do authors want? And will they get that from a publisher?”
What Do Authors Want?
I came across an article aptly titled What Do Authors Want? the other day. It discussed that what every author truly wants is “discoverability” and that traditional publishers don’t actually offer this:
The two editors did not specify what they thought ‘discoverability’ was. They did, however, say that what publishing firms could offer was not ‘discoverability’ but ‘the professional environment’. This included professional editing to a high standard, high-end book layout and design, a ‘reasonable’ distribution (again, not specified), and publicity in accordance with the allocated budget. This budget, they said, varied, but on average it was between £200 and £300 per book. They also emphasised that authors were now expected to contribute to their own marketing and publicity, especially through social media and blogging.
It seems to me that the discrepancy between what authors want and what the publishing firm might provide must have consequences.
The article goes on to compare three different author experiences: the first traditionally published by a major corporate firm; the second traditionally published by a small independent press; the third self-published with support from an online hybrid publisher. (You can read the differences between these publishing methods by clicking here.) In terms of which of the three authors sold the most books, not surprisingly it was the third self-published author.
What Does a Publisher Do for a Writer?
I’ve mentioned the realities of traditional publishing many times in the past, most recently in this blog post: 2 Important Details About Traditional Publishing. The truth is, it doesn’t matter what publishing method you use. If you want your books to be “discovered” by the masses, it takes time and consistent focus—on your part. You can build your own readership the way many of today’s most successful independent “indie” authors do. As a result, a traditional publisher may just sign you down the road.
The true value of a traditional publisher is the professional support they can provide in terms of editing and graphic design. As well, they can get you into the “bricks and mortar” bookstores more easily than you can on your own. But the rest is up to you alone. It’s always been that way for the majority of authors.
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