Do You Need a Publisher for Your Book?


Last week we discussed the six areas to consider if you plan to self publish. This week I’m spinning the lens around to examine at the same key areas you need to know to publish your book and how publishers add value in each of them.

The first is the most abstract and difficult for most authors to appreciate, but if you own a business you likely can appreciate the “hidden value” you bring that sometimes not even your employees or contractors can appreciate. That is, capital.

1. Capital.

Capital includes a publisher’s financial reserves and resources. They are the ones “investing” capital in you and your project. Traditionally, they assume all or most financial risk.

It also includes all of the people power it can employ on your project – the editors, marketers, partners, and more. It also includes a publisher’s capacity to exploit a book’s intellectual capital for different rights to benefit both the author and the publisher’s interests.

Finally, it includes the prestige capital.

2 Content. Publishers and acquisitions editors build their reputations on identifying potential in a sometimes rough book idea where others miss it. They then are invested in developing the content. This degree of intellectual creativity can be hard to find.

3. Quality. This area extends beyond content and includes not only degrees of careful editing but also everything from design to binding to paper to production.

4. Project Management. Depending upon size, a publisher coordinates all persons and internal contracts involved behind the scenes to bring your book out. This is a lot of man hours and a lot of balls to keep in the air. Translation: it requires a lot of time to manage and keep in motion a team working towards a common goal like a book.

5. Marketing and Publicity. These activities – which among the Big 5 are alone on a multi-month pre-launch schedule – often are intended to build a market of readers. Some larger publishers have developed decades-long relationships with people in national media outlets, too. This is a place where going the traditional route of publishing can open a lot of doors that you may otherwise struggle to gain the attention of or miss entirely.

6. Distribution. Big 5 and mid-sized and even some small publishers not only get books to the brick-and-mortar stores (beyond and; they also can help get bundles to organizations, sell your books to universities, and get your book in library collections.

For almost every area above, the degree of value an author actually benefits from varies radically. I could critique the limitations of every single one of these values, depending upon the project and timing and the nature of the publishing industry now. But, for now I’ll let you think on this as you consider the purpose of your book.

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