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So, You Want to Be a Publisher?

March 14th, 2017 | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on So, You Want to Be a Publisher?
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We can all picture it – a guy or a revolutionary woman (because, let’s be honest here…) 50 years ago, in an office where the walls are bookshelves, smoke is curling up at the ceiling, there’s an old typewriter, and piles upon piles of (unread) manuscripts. This is the idea of what a ‘publisher’ does. This is the romanticised version of the job from times long gone.

Fast forward to the present, and adjust your image of a publisher:

  • bookshelves are still cool to have if you’re a publisher, though there has to be some order, and also, you need space for more vital things so keep it down to one or two
  • smoking is a big no inside the office
  • typewriters? Not even computers older than 7 years. You have to move with the flow if you want to make it in this business. With the flow and the technology, really.
  • you may still have piles upon piles of manuscripts – though, sadly, they are now mostly emailed, because who can afford to print what is basically a book, and pay shipping for that on top of everything?

Then there is the word ‘publisher’ – who is she, really (see what I did there)? Is a publisher one who works in a publishing house? One who replies to your emails with ‘sorry but your manuscript does not fit well with our image, keep trying though’? One who finds the next big thing in the world of bestsellers? One who puts together the layout and design of what is soon to become a book? Or the person who makes you notice that there is an interesting title being released this spring, through the media campaign? Or one who tweets and updates other social media on behalf of the publishing house?

All of them are publishers, one way or another. In order to have a successful publishing house you need several things:

  • time and space (it can be your bed, indeed)
  • a budget (we’ve learned at the latest SYP Conference that things can be done well on a very small budget)
  • a good team

People are essential in this business. You need them to read the manuscripts, pick which one will make it (which sounds like a scary but very exciting thing to do), edit it, edit it, edit it, proofread it, typeset it, design it, market it, print it, sell it. I don’t know about you, but this doesn’t sound like a one person job to me. And like with everything in your life, you need people you can rely on.

So, you want to be a publisher – a vague term, though often mistaken for a very concrete job description. If you want to be a part of the world of publishing, you need to find a cranny, get yourself in there, and know that you might end up doing whatever is needed to be done. You need to know that publishing books is a time-consuming, exhausting process, often not really appreciated by the public – nobody cares you were the one who made the book happen. The important thing is that it did happen.

As publishers (editors, marketing teams, sales teams, proofreaders, copy-writers, designers, typesetters, interns, etc) we are invisible to the world, working to get the best of writing out to you, the reader. We don’t have our names on the book covers. We rarely even have them printed anywhere inside the book. But we love what we do, we believe in the process, and we are very passionate about our jobs.

Oh and, if you are a writer, keep writing those words. Keep sending manuscripts. Don’t let us destroy your dreams with rejection emails. We want your words, heck, we need your words. We would not exist if it weren’t for those who write. So write.

Yours sincerely, 

Barb Kuntova