What is a Publisher?
A Publisher can be an individual or corporation responsible for the printing and distribution of digital or printed publications. Publishers may also handle the marketing for the publication and serve as the intermediary between the author of the publication and the consumer market.
There are different types of publishers and ways for a writer to approach publishing their books. It is important to review what your expectations are for your work, to know your market, and to have an idea of what kind of book you are creating (is your audience going to be a small group of friends and family or are you attempting to write the next great Canadian novel?)
Different kinds of publishers
Commercial Publisher: This is the traditional form of a publisher, in that the company purchases the rights to print and distribute a writer’s manuscript and pays the author in the form of royalties. Generally commercial publishers also pay an advance in royalties, which is decided by the expected profits of the work. Because commercial publishers are paying for the entire publishing process of a work, they tend to be more selective and often hold the right to edit and format the book as they see fit (they pay for editing, publication, distribution, and marketing).
Vanity Publisher: This type of publisher prints and binds books, making almost their entire profit off of the authors. Because the author is expected to pay up front for costs and the publisher makes their profit off of the author not the sale of the books, they tend to not be too choosy in the works they publish (often these works will be of poor quality and have little to no editing. ) Vanity publishers own the books, as they own the ISBNs (they own the actual physical product). With this type of publisher authors may be expected to pay a variety of costs including:
- Time costs
- Editing and proof-reading
- Permissions for quotes/photographs/art/etc
- Printing and Binding
- Other payments to the publisher
Generally, there is little to no screening involved and quality typically is low thus works published using a vanity publisher are not well respected within the industry. Vanity publishing may be useful to those writers looking to print a limited number of books with no expectation of revenue, or for non-fiction writers who already have an established niche within their desired market. It’s important to note, that industry standards typically dictate that the publisher earn money solely on the profit of books, therefore vanity publishing is viewed most often as a problematic area of the publishing industry.
Subsidy Publisher: This type of publisher takes some payment from the author for the printing and binding process, but also contributes to the costs or provides certain services such as editing, distribution, warehousing and marketing. Subsidy publishers own the ISBN and therefore the completed works remain in their possession until they are sold. The author is paid in the form of royalties.
Finding a publisher
- Complete your manuscript. If you are a first time writer looking to be published completing your manuscript prior to soliciting either a publisher or an agent is a must. Publishers rarely are interested in an incomplete work. Only well established and successful authors may submit only a book proposal and expect some interest.
- Make a business plan for your work. This does not have to be over complicated, but knowing your personal expectations for your work will help you in choosing which publishers will best suit your needs. Some publishing houses are better suited to large scale production while others are more interested in small localized publications, so know in what markets you are looking to sell your work.
- Research. A well informed writer is one that is more likely to be successful and can navigate the literary industry with confidence. Identify what markets that publishers specialize in (what genre or type of work), what their criteria are to submit a manuscript, who they have as clients and what recent works have been published through their firm.
There are multiple sources online that provide information about publishers in Canada. These sites include:
- SaskBooks, previously Saskatchewan Publishers Group
- Association of Canadian Publishers
- Place for Writers
- Aboriginal Publishers in Canada from Living Traditions Writers Group
Remember the more you know about the industry the better prepared you will be when confronting a long list of potential publishing houses. Information is power for writers. Beware of publishing companies that charge the author for manuscript evaluation, this is considered bad practice in the industry and often marks a company that is unscrupulous in their business practices. Although most publishing houses are not out to destroy authors, the writer still needs to be vigilant and well informed on the companies they seek services from.