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Today I am wrapping up my series on Indie vs. Traditional Publishing with a post from a very special guest, Sourcebooks editor Aubrey Poole. But if you have any additional questions leave them in the comments and I will do my best to answer or find out.
Thanks for inviting me to be a part of this ever-changing and increasingly important discussion. The rise of the eBook has meant a lot of changes for the publishing industry, and I’m proud to be a part of an organization that has embraced those changes. Sourcebooks is a privately owned independent company that’s gained a reputation for being agile, forward-thinking and willing to experiment. So, we may not quite fall under the category of “traditional” publisher, but we definitely acquire, package, produce, market and sell books, and I’m very happy to talk a little more about what value a Publisher brings to its authors.
I can throw a lot of terms at you about each piece of the publishing process, like so:
But I’m going to break it down to one core idea: Discoverability.
What does discoverability mean? How readers find your book. If they don’t know about it, they can’t buy it (or check it out), and they can’t read it. So, the billion dollar question is: how will readers find your book?
With the close of Borders and the increasing popularity of eReaders, brick-and-mortar stores are gradually decreasing in number, limiting the opportunity for chance discovery. It’s becoming less common for readers to be browsing a shelf to find their next must-read and more important for publishers (or self-published authors) to find ways to bring attention to their books.
So, essentially, a Publisher’s job is to connect authors to readers.
This is done in a variety of ways from creating eye-catching book covers (that look good as thumbnails), to writing intriguing jacket copy, to placing ads in magazines, to sending ARCs (advance readers copies) to bloggers, reviewers, booksellers and librarians, to booking spots on TV or NPR, to purchasing advantageous placement in Barnes and Noble (those front-of-store table displays aren’t free!) to making sure the metadata (title, author, pages count, age level, etc.) is sent to Amazon correctly, and more.
With all of the noise out there (347,178 new books published in 2011 in the U.S. alone), it’s a Publisher’s job to make your book be heard.
What about Amanda Hocking and E.L. James, you ask? Didn’t they become successful, bestselling authors without a “traditional” publisher? Yes! They are part of the lucky few whose self-published eBooks got that magical word-of-mouth momentum combined with low price points that shot them to the top of the bestseller lists. But for every success story, there are thousands of self-published authors you’ve never heard of and likely never will. And, you may have noticed, both Hocking and James turned to “traditional” publishers to take their eBook phenomena and publish them in print to reach an even wider audience.
So, what does this all mean for you, the writer? Self-publishing is a fantastic new and growing option that will become an important part of the publishing sphere and allow for more and easier access to information than ever before. And for some authors, it will be the right fit. I think it will be especially important for authors of controversial, innovative or niche subjects and genres fast converting to eBooks (like romance!). But in my opinion, a Publisher is still a writer’s best bet when it comes to finding an audience for you book.
Aubrey Poole got her start as an editor correcting her friends’ grammar in high school, an effort which naturally guaranteed instant popularity. After a brief internship in the marketing department at Penguin UK, she started her first real job as a news assistant at The Real Estate Journal in Los Angeles. But when she was offered a position as a reporter, Aubrey thought it would be less scary to move cross-country to New York City and try to break into the book publishing industry.
Aubrey is now an associate editor at Sourcebooks, acquiring children’s books from picture books through young adult. Her first YA novel, Send by Patty Blount, was a Junior Library Guild pick, and she hopes to continue shamelessly courting librarians with her forthcoming middle grade novel The Ninja Librarians.