Thursday, January 26, 2012

What does a publisher do for an author? -- question from the e-mail

Question: What does a publisher do for an author? Couldn't I do that for myself and keep all the money? People tell me, "They just take your money and do nothing for you." How come you're not out there selling your authors' books?

Answer: The publisher operates a business and makes books ready for sale and distributes the files to sales sites. They collect the money from the sales sites and make sure you are paid what you are owed. That is not exactly "doing nothing." Remember, it costs money to operate any business, even on the Internet.

Business Costs involved include: Staff salaries and time, Internet web space, website design and upkeep, an operating web site store; a merchant bank account that will accept and process credit card payments, accountants, cover design, ISBNs, computer equipment and maintainance, printing (if POD is involved) shipping, postage and handling, too. Remember, the printer does not work for free and it costs upwards of $5 for every book we order them to print, including any and all proof copies. No printer gives out freebies.

Every book we publish costs at least $250 before it ever gets posted for sale on the Internet. Authors who ask a lot of questions, who complain about the process, who ask us to redo covers again and again, who change all kinds of things on the galleys because they thought of a better way to put something can raise that investment to $750 or more quite easily.

What publishers don't do, is promote, market, or advertise your books, except by making theme available for sale. Promotion is a time-consuming business and one that involves a lot of work. Some authors do a lot of promotion, some little, but the successful ones put in at least 3 to 5 hours a week in making sure people know about their work. Using social media, like Twitter, Linked-in and Facebook has proved to be a helpful way to do this for our more successful authors.

With more than 250 living authors, we don't have time to do promotion for all of them and it would be unfair to do more for one than another. All our authors are all talented. All their books are good. If we didn't believe that, we would not publish them.

No, Facebook doesn't allow you to sell on their site. But they don't mind if you post that your new book is being published, show an array of covers and ask friends to help you choose one, or mention that it's available on or anywhere else when it finally comes out.

So what should a publisher do for you? Give you good, clean files so reader's won't laugh at you (and your publisher!) if a character uses a "pear of scissors" or "takes a peak" around a corner. A publisher should give you a good professional-looking product and make it available to as many on-line outlets as possible.

A publisher should offer your book for sale, collect the money, make sure you are paid for your sales, keep the accounts of what has sold, and pay you on time (we pay quarterly, but many do it once a year). Either way, that's a lot of work.

Most authors have a "day job." Few can live on what they make writing. Most of us write for no more reward than the fulfillment of having done so. I know I couldn't live on my sales, though I have twelve titles for sale. My "day job" is being a publisher and it keeps me so busy that I rarely find time to promote my own work on line. So I do understand when folks don't have time.

Many of you do work hard to promote your work, and for you, I am truly grateful. Most of you do the best you can and I'm grateful for that, too.

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