Workshop 18: What Your Traditional Publisher Does For You
Seasoned agents Steve Laube and Tamela Hancock Murray of the Steve Laube Agency tackled the question of why authors would give all their money to big, bad, ugly publishers when they can do everything themselves in this day and age of self-publishing in their ACFW Conference workshop What Your Traditional Publisher Does For You. They divulged the sometimes hidden, yet extensive, benefits of traditional publication.
- Curation narrows the field. “You want to write the best book you can because of the curation process,” Murray said. Anyone can epublish a book, but the quality isn’t always there. Readers aren’t as worried about poor writing if they see a traditional publisher’s name on a book because they know someone made a decision. Certainly some traditionally published books may suffer similar problems, but talent tends to rise to the top.
- Editing is included in traditional publishing. At a minimum, each manuscript passes by a substantive editor, a copyeditor, and 2-3 proofreaders. Freelance editors may charge several thousand dollars and are worth every dime.
- Market tracking requires inside information. “Editors look to us as scouts, looking at what will be hot in two years,” Laube said. “If you’re asking what the trend is now, you’re too late.” Agents are constantly looking at movie acquisitions and magazine editorials for which trends are beginning to rise.
- Design of a book’s exterior and interior is costly. Publishing houses often pay for the creation of multiple cover layouts before finalizing a decision, an expense most self-publishers cannot afford. When designers believe it’s warranted, they may choose lavish specialty treatments, such as decaled edges or gilded covers. It takes time and expertise to create files for every epub platform, choosing fonts that work well in each. Yes, authors can learn to do these things, Murray noted, but because you don’t self-publish every day, it takes a long time to get good at it. A publisher may spend $60,000-$75,000 post-acquisition to bring a book to market. No wonder they curate!
- Business infrastructure services (subsidiary and foreign rights, accounting, and legal) are a huge benefit. Publishing professionals have relationships with each other, marketers, and distributers. They study metadata for sites like Amazon and carefully choose the BISEC, the back cover code that informs placement in bookstores.
- Marketing creates impressions about the book itself and is not synonymous with publicity. Publishers take time and effort to guide authors in website creation and social media. If you don’t succeed, they don’t either. “You feel publicity,” Laube said. “You don’t feel marketing. We feel they could do better because we don’t see what they’re already doing.” Murray added, “When they put serious money behind your book, you’ll see.”