Do we really care who publishes a book anymore?

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Lissa Warren, a publishing industry executive, professor, and writer, recently pondered if readers really care who publishes a book anymore. It’s a short, but provocative blog post on publishing houses that don’t promote their brands. Here’s an excerpt:

As someone who has worked in book publishing for the past 13 years, I’m keenly aware of the different houses that exist in the United States and the kinds of book they produce. I can name a number of the bestselling titles at most of the major presses — or, at least, their most prominent authors or series. Keeping tabs on the competition is part of my job, and I take it pretty seriously.

But I have to admit that I don’t think the general consumer cares very much who is published by whom …

I read her post and felt optimistic. If you’ve actually contemplated writing as a living and have considered pitching your ideas or novels to publishers, then you know how daunting the process is and how important publishers seem. But, if the publishing house really doesn’t matter to readers, then publishing a book on your own holds just as much potential for financial and critical success. There is no publishing house barrier, only possibilities.

We may be entering a time when anyone can become a bestselling author, without a big publishing house behind the book. The kids born today may never need to rely on a literary agent or a publisher. I know that those of us at Blurb are aware of this possibility, but it feels like the rest of the world is starting to catch on.

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  1. While readers may not care who published the book they found interesting enough to buy and, eventually, read, readers do care about something (too) many writers don’t pay much attention to: editing.

    Readers may not explicitly say “Nice story but some editing would have made it better” but they won’t get too far into a book that, among other things, is poorly edited or not edited at all. I think this lack of attention to professional editing is what really marks an independent work as “self-published” and that mark is what makes people who are paid to read books and report on them (like critics) actively ignore otherwise fine work.

    So, yeah, making a self-published book look as good externally as anything from a publishing house is a huge boon to independent authors, but no amount of slick paper and cloth binding is going to make up for writing that is too proud to be made clearer, more compelling, or even logical in terms of character development, plot, and timing by a skilled editor’s careful hand.

    By Jenny
      September 14, 2007 – 7:02 am   Permalink
  2. The point being, in my previous comment, that publishing houses do hire professional editors to review authors’ work and this can often make all the difference between a book that readers don’t want to put down and a book that readers can’t stand to read.

    By Jenny
      September 14, 2007 – 7:06 am   Permalink
  3. Your point is very well stated, Jenny, and I agree with you. It’s also a good reminder: If we aspire to sell our work and present it as professional, we cannot underestimate the need to edit it professionally. Thanks for contributing to the conversation. -Allison

      September 14, 2007 – 3:03 pm   Permalink
  4. On the other hand it’s not like editing is some sort of magic wand. I’ve read more than enough well polished and skillfully edited books that are boring, formulistic or just plain full of awful writing. And it’s very possible to go too far. I wouldn’t care to read a well-edited copy of On the Road for instance. Kerouac’s abandoning of every rule for writing was a lot of what made him Kerouac.
    Having gotten that off my chest I’ll happily meet Jenny halfway and say that, yes, more often than not the mark of an ametuer is an unwillingness to self-edit and in the world of self-publishing this can cause no end of problems. But I think the other end of the spectrum is just as bad…i.e. every mystery book I pick up these days being pretty much a reheated version of the last mystery book to sell any copies.

      September 18, 2007 – 9:33 am   Permalink
  5. Has anyone found out how to change the tab setting or inport or creat tables in Booksmart?

    By Gayle
      August 20, 2009 – 5:04 pm   Permalink

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