« Discussion

SURVEY: Top Reason Authors Should Go with Traditional Publishers?

By Edward Nawotka

In today’s feature story Lisa Buchan of Sparkabook in Wellington, New Zealand meditates on the question of, “given the number of public attacks on the value of publishers, why have so few writers abandoned their existing publishers?” She offers some very compelling reasons why. But what do you think? Take our survey and tell us.

What is the most important service publishers provide for authors?

  • Editing (32%, 35 Votes)
  • Distribution (31%, 34 Votes)
  • Promotion (21%, 23 Votes)
  • Advances and payments (7%, 8 Votes)
  • Production (5%, 6 Votes)
  • None of the above (4%, 5 Votes)

Total Voters: 111

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Let us know why you chose what you did and please elaborate in the comments below.

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16 Comments

  1. Posted May 2, 2012 at 4:21 am | Permalink

    Well, I chose Distribution because obviously any one of the others can be done by the author himself to a lot of extents.
    (1) I can promote with friends and on social media
    (2) I can edit myself (no matter how poorly, it can be done), get peer reviews and work on that, or just get an independent editor to do it.
    (3) I can use a printer to produce my work.
    (4) I don’t need the advance so much, I’m quite comfortable with making my profit on sales per book as I go along.

    :)

  2. Pengyb
    Posted May 2, 2012 at 5:50 am | Permalink

    Distribution chosen because it is the one thing that is difficult for a self-published author compared to an author with a publisher. You can pay someone to edit. And even with a publisher you’ll be doing a lot of the promotion anyway.

  3. Posted May 2, 2012 at 8:12 am | Permalink

    It is distribution, hands down. But the future of distribution is unclear because of the rise of online sales.

  4. Posted May 2, 2012 at 10:08 am | Permalink

    Looks like I’m not alone, since I think distribution is the key to getting an author’s career started. As one who is a writer, as well as publicist for many authors, most who have taken the POD route, the lack of distribution is the biggest roadblock to getting any traction.

  5. Posted May 2, 2012 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

    I chose none of the above because indies do all of the list. I think the value publishers give to authors is defined by the author. Traditional is a choice – to go through the gatekeeper and get/feel supported by experts.

  6. Posted May 2, 2012 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

    The most important thing a publisher does is take the financial risk on the book. That’s why they get the majority share of royalties.

  7. Posted May 2, 2012 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

    While all of the production-based services are important, the thing a publisher can provide that self-publishing can’t is support. My authors come to me when they’re blocked, when they’re wondering if their book is going in the right direction, when they’re discouraged by sales, and I’m there to listen and, if they ask, provide feedback and suggestions. They also have the support of their fellow Zumayans, which differs from that found in a general writers’ community because it involves a specific shared experience.

    Dealing with distribution channels and editors and cover designers and all of that also takes time from what writers to best: write. Given the necessity for authors to market and promote their work, regardless of how they’re published, being relieved of even a small portion of what is entailed in publishing a book means more time for them to concentrate on their writing.

  8. Posted May 2, 2012 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

    For me it would be distribution if I had ever been lucky enough to have the Publisher read past “Dear So and So……” I’m self published and my book is doing great but I know it could do better if I only knew how to better my distribution efforts. Foreign rights especially. I read everything I can but they just have access to more info than I do. Very frustrating…..

  9. Posted May 2, 2012 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

    How come there’s a ‘none of the above’ option, but no ‘all of the above’ option?

  10. Posted May 2, 2012 at 6:15 pm | Permalink

    I picked promotion. Here’s why.

    Writers can hire an editor fairly easily, or novel-swap with another skilled writer. Writers now have distribution to all major online vendors without needing a publisher, and with B&N looking like their entering their final pre-bankruptcy death throes (anyone else notice the new spinoff company includes both profitable elements of the corporation, leaving only the one which has consistently lost money these past few years?), the venues publishers can reach that writers cannot reach alone are shrinking FAST.

    Production is pretty easy; for ebooks it’s a button click for most books. For print, a little harder, but never more than a couple hundred bucks to have a designer run your copy through an InDesign template and hand you a PDF to upload. Advances are nifty, but so are the monthly paychecks you get from online retailers. Advances are really just a loan against income from future sales.

    No, the one value publishers retain for writers in this new market is the ability to push big bucks behind a book. That’s still quite valuable. Yes, writers can and should promote their work – but publishers can put hundred of thousands of dollars of marketing behind a title if they think it will net them greater profit, and that can have enormous impact on sales. It’s the last area where they offer something the writer really *can’t* do as well alone, because of the scale of the investment involved.

  11. Posted May 3, 2012 at 4:50 am | Permalink

    Promotion because a major publisher can leverage connections to get an author on big media. Distribution is the easy part, creating buzz drives sales.

  12. Posted May 3, 2012 at 5:36 am | Permalink

    Nobody has come out in favour of editing here, so I will put my head above the parapet. There’s a reason editing has more votes (just) than anything else. Authors are too close to their own work to be able to edit it properly, and a good editor will challenge, question, make constructive suggestions, and help to make your book the best it can be. They are the impartial ‘other eye’ which every writer needs, and a good editor will see exactly where your book sags or slows and tell you so, usually tactfully. I’ve been on both sides of the fence (editor and writer). From the editorial side, there’s nothing more satisfying than seeing a good book (one you’ve fought to publish, championed and generally loved) become a great one. From the writer’s side, I’m always really happy when an editor makes a suggestion which fixes something I knew wasn’t right in the first place, but couldn’t work out how to fix. Of course distribution and media contacts and marketing are all really important – but if the product isn’t right in the first place, then it won’t sell. A good writer/editor partnership will pay dividends, and that’s why editors are vital.

  13. Posted May 3, 2012 at 8:44 am | Permalink

    As a French translator and occasional published author, my vote would go to distribution first, because no matter how gifted you are as an individual at finding potential readers, that can’t compare to the connections and influence of a publishing house. Handling distribution as a self-published author takes a lot of money, even assuming that he/she knows how to go about it successfully. My second vote would go to finances, because having a partner (even one whose pay rate on sales is higher than the author’s)

  14. Posted May 3, 2012 at 8:50 am | Permalink

    The system registered my comment before I had finished–I tried to say that I think finances would have been the second most important factor because a self-published would-be author often cannof afford the costs of marketing a book, even if he/she can spare the time from writing. So if the publisher gets the lion’s share of the royalties, it should compensate for that by getting the book to potential buyers that the author acting alone could not reach.

  15. Posted May 5, 2012 at 2:58 am | Permalink

    I think promotion because it is the most time consuming for an author and stops them from writing.

  16. Leanne
    Posted May 8, 2012 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

    In defense of the *publisher’s* editor…

    Yes, it’s true that most writers can do a fair bit of editing for themselves. It’s also true that writers often solicit editorial advice from fellow writers or even freelance editors. And all that advice and assistance should make the original piece of writing better, stronger, and more appealing to more readers. But the editorial advice a writer gets from her publisher has something going for it that no other editorial advisor can offer: advice given in the context of “the big picture.”

    An in-house editor has to know the ins-and-outs of marketing and promotion and can offer advice with the ultimate reader firmly in mind. An in-house editor probably specializes in a particular genre (whether that’s a fictional genre like mysteries, or a non-fiction specialty like armchair travel or popular politics) and can help the writer avoid common pitfalls that neither the writer nor his writing-group friend (or even the freelance editor) may be aware of. An in-house editor may also be in a position to help the writer push her boundaries–something that she can’t do for herself and something she may not be able to accept (or expect) from a writer-friend. Even a freelance editor may not be able to push effectively because at the end of the day, the freelancer is the writer’s employee… and may have to be more concerned with protecting his paycheck than with producing the best book possible. The in-house editor is of course going to be concerned with protecting his paycheck too, but his paycheck probably depends more on how “his” books perform post-publication… so he’s going to be pushier about producing the best book not just the best working relationship.

    And as the current saying goes, “content is king.” So when the author has been pushed, prodded, pulled, and nurtured into producing an even better piece of writing by her editor (and that editor in turn rallies the other departments in support of the book), she won’t have to stress about distribution (because demand for the book encourages wider distribution), should see more extensive promotion (because pr and marketing folks can really get behind books that are so good they practically sell themselves), and will probably experience higher payments (because the book will sell better) plus better advances on future books (because now she has a proven track record.)

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