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Week 2: Selection for Publication

For class this week, we were very fortunate to have an uninterrupted three-hour session with Philip Gwyn Jones of Scribe Publishing. The focus of the talk amounted to a list of items describing everything a publisher does. According to Philip, whose has been in the industry for over 25 years, even with the advances of digital publishing and the “disruptions” caused by Bezos and his ilk, most of what a publisher does has not changed:

  1. A publisher is an investment banker. They provide an author an advance against their royalties, so that they may continue to write and edit without the pressure of needing to find a job doing something else.
  2. A publisher is a curator or gatekeeper for their imprint. They ensure that they have a cohesive body of publications that adhere to the same standards. This taste, like every other, changes over time.
  3. A publisher is an editor. Either they sit with an author and provide feedback, line-by-line, or they come up with an idea for a book and find someone to writer about it.
  4. A publisher is a typesetter and a designer. They provide their expertise in the art and craft of jacket design.
  5. A publisher is a salesperson that convinces all participants in the chain, from reader to bookseller, championing an author’s book.
  6. A publisher is a credit controller, chasing after bookshops to get funds owed. (I found this portion of the industry quite interesting. A bookshop can buy ten books of a publisher, sell two over the course of a year, and return the remaining eight for a full refund. The publisher, despite printing ten books, only makes money for the two actually sold. It can take months from the delivery of a book to a shop before the shop sends money back for any actual sales.)
  7. A publisher is a warehouse, handling the printing, storage, distribution, and returns for books.
  8. A publisher is a promoter, raising the visibility of a book across social media, podcasts, and universities.
  9. A publisher is an IP lawyer, responsible for policing copyright and defending works against piracy.
  10. A publisher is a nursemaid, a counselor, and a crutch for the most precarious job: professional writer.