The self-publishing revolution has a lot of writers asking whether they even need a publisher. It’s a fair question. So let’s take a look at what a publisher does for an author.
First and foremost, as I’ve said before, the publisher pays the bill. That is, the publisher fronts all the money for the production of the book, thereby assuming the financial risk for the endeavor.
Self-publishing proponents argue that an e-book can be published at no up-front cost. Technically, this is true, but you get what you pay for. We looked earlier at what goes into book production.
A publishing house, even a small press, will provide editors and proofreaders, either on staff or as freelancers, all dedicated to polishing your text to the height of perfection.
Page designers will create the interior pages of the print edition using high-end software like Adobe InDesign. This will provide much smoother typography and page layouts than are possible in Microsoft Word.
Cover designers will ensure that your cover is eye-catching without being cheesy. This is harder to do than you think. I was a graphic artist for close to fifteen years, and I still can’t design covers as good as the top finishers in The Book Designer’s E-book Cover Design Awards.
Skilled technicians will convert the print edition to e-book formats and troubleshoot to make sure crazy stuff doesn’t happen, like misplaced illustrations or weird page flows when font sizes change.
If you’re lucky enough to land one of the major publishers, you might get bookstore distribution. With a small press, this is less likely. But either way, you will at least get some advice on marketing, and you may even get actual support in the form of promotional materials.
The final piece a publisher provides is an intangible: the expertise of the people running the company. That’s a value that’s impossible to put a price on.