If you do it well, self-publishing may be a valid alternative to finding a publisher for your books. It’s an excellent way to test-market a book. But dedicated publishers do many things writers can’t, and there is no more dedicated publisher in America than Berrett-Koehler. BK President and Publisher Steve Piersanti wrote about how publishers serve writers, and I am very grateful to him for allowing me to share his thoughts with you:
Some observers question what value publishers offer and whether authors would be better off self-publishing their books, given that the authors, more than their publishers, will drive sales. The case for self-publishing is further strengthened by today’s ability of authors to reach the marketplace through Amazon.com, the new social media, and the authors’ own websites.
Self-publishing is the best avenue for many books, and I often encourage authors to go this route — particularly when they are able to sell many copies of their books through their own channels. However, a good commercial publisher still brings tremendous value to the book publishing equation in multiple ways:
1. Gatekeeper and Curator: In today’s insanely crowded marketplace with an overwhelming number of publications competing for our attention, publishers select and focus attention on books of particular value and quality, thereby helping those books stand out. The validation, visibility, and brand provided by publishers add great value to those books.
2. Editorial Development: Berrett-Koehler raises the editorial quality of each book in several ways, including extensive up-front coaching of authors to improve the focus, organization, and content; detailed reviews of the manuscript by potential customers to make the book more useful to its intended audience; and professional line-by-line copyediting. Such editorial development is often pivotal to a book’s success.
3. Design: Self-published books often stand out in a negative way because their covers and interiors appear underdesigned (or overdesigned). Some self-published books lack the professional and appropriate appearance that good publishers bring to books.
4. Production: Although authors can now produce books on their own computers, publishers can save authors a lot of work while bringing higher quality to layout, proofreading, indexing, packaging, and other aspects of production.
5. Distribution: Publishers can usually make books available through many more channels (trade and college bookstores, multiple online booksellers, wholesalers, and other venues not open to self-publishing companies) than authors can on their own.
6. International Sales: Berrett-Koehler’s books are sold around the world through distributors in Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia and New Zealand, and Canada.
7. Networks of Customers: Berrett-Koehler brings books to the attention of our networks of individual customers, institutional customers, bulk sales customers, association book services, catalog sellers, other special sales accounts, and countless other groups. We have been building up these networks for eighteen years, and they add lots of value in helping books to succeed.
8. Publicity and Promotion: Although the publicity and promotion efforts of authors may actually exceed those of their publishers, publishers still reach many prospective buyers that authors cannot reach on their own. This is particularly true for a publisher like Berrett-Koehler that has a multichannel marketing system that combines online, direct mail, bookstore, publicity, social media, e-newsletter, website, special sales, conference sales, and other channels of marketing for each new book.
9. Foreign Translation Rights, Audio Rights, Digital Rights, and Other Subsidiary Rights Sales: This is an area of great focus and success for Berrett-Koehler (with over two thousand subsidiary rights agreements signed thus far) and helps books to reach many more audiences than the publication of just the English-language print edition. Authors also receive extra revenue, a higher profile, and greater satisfaction when their books are published in a variety of languages.
10. Coaching: Perhaps the greatest value provided by publishers is less tangible than the previous items on this list. Just as coaching regarding a book’s content and organization can be pivotal to its success, so too can a publisher’s coaching on the title, price, design, format, timing, market focus, marketing campaign, and even tie-in to the author’s business strategies make a big difference in whether a book succeeds.
Working with good publishers is a partnership. For books to succeed, authors and publishers must collaborate in many ways. For example, the publishers set the table through their marketing channels, but whether the books actually move in those channels often depends on the marketing that the authors carry out.
To receive Berrett-Koehler’s excellent e-newsletter, visit www.bkpub.com.
The 9th San Francisco Writers Conference / A Celebration of Craft, Commerce & Community / February 16-20, 2012 / InterContinental Mark Hopkins / Keynoters: Alan Rinzler & Lolly Winston / www.sfwriters.org
San Francisco Writers University: Where Writers Meet and You Learn, a project of the San Francisco Writers Conference / Join its more than 500 members for classes and free feedback on your work / Laurie McLean, Dean / www.sfwritersu.com