Inside a Publishing Company

by Steve Laube

I just returned from three days at the Write! Canada writers conference outside Toronto. During my time there I presented a six session lecture series on the Complete Publishing Process: From Idea to Print.

When the entire process is compressed into a short series like that it becomes evident how many people are involved in the publishing of a book at any given publishing company.

Recently Random House did a 10 minute video interviewing a number of key people in-house who are involved in the acquisition, editing, design, marketing, and sales of a book. Having worked for a publisher (Bethany House Publishers) this video made me smile as I remembered many of the great people I was privileged to work with (many of whom are still working there!).

What thoughts does this video invoke for you?

If you are self-publishing, how much of this are you doing yourself?

11 Responses to Inside a Publishing Company

  1. Avatar
    Jane Steen June 18, 2012 at 5:05 am #

    If you are self-publishing, how much of this are you doing yourself?

    The slick, smart-aleck answer would be all of it, but that’s not the ideal, far from it. The ideal is that you’re making enough money (or have sufficient financial backing) to work with editors (definitely in the plural), designers, formatters, a publicist specializing in self-published works (haven’t found one yet) and–another yet unknown niche specialization–a distribution expert. I believe that as self-publishing struggles out of infancy, some of these gaps will be filled by enterprising and knowledgeable people who are surplus to requirements in a newly lean publishing industry.

    In the meanwhile, as a new author on the brink of self-publishing for the first time, I’ve worked with a copyeditor, a book cover photographer, a designer, an ebook formatter, and a publicist. Out of these five people, four have offered services for free or for very low rates, because I am blessed with their friendship, and the other’s prices are extremely reasonable.

    Any money I make at first will be reinvested either into hiring a book designer for the print version(s) or into the next book, depending on how the first one is received. As my business (and I see it as a business that may not turn a profit for a while) grows, I’d like most of all to work with a great developmental editor and find someone to work with me on distribution. In the meanwhile, I’ll do what I can afford to do.

    I would love to have the Random House dream team shown in the video – except that I can’t help thinking that they recently brought us Fifty Shades of Grey and (under the Alfred A. Knopf imprint) P.D. James’ Death Comes to Pemberley. Both books have been hyped to the max and have consequently sold very well, only to be a HUGE disappointment to many readers. It’s a shame to see so much talent and passion (and money) being wasted on the shallow end of the literary pool.

    • Avatar
      Gwynneth White June 18, 2012 at 6:41 am #

      Re your comments on Death Comes To Pemberley and Shades of Grey . . .I could not have put it better. Good luck with your book(s)

  2. Avatar
    Lisa Hall-Wilson June 18, 2012 at 5:28 am #

    I enjoyed chatting with you this weekend and appreciated your suggestions. Hope you enjoyed your time near Toronto and will be willing to come back again soon. 🙂

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    Mike Manto June 18, 2012 at 5:49 am #

    I had the privilege of attending your sessions on the publishing process. Your talk on the ‘sound bite’ for the elevator pitch alone was worth the price of admission. I hope you enjoyed your trip to Ontario as much as we enjoyed having you up here.

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    Stacey Thureen June 18, 2012 at 6:07 am #

    Thank you for posting this video. It was energizing to watch, and very informative. It was effective in shedding light on how big a book project really is, all the moving parts, and people involved in making the project a success from start to finish.

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    Jeanne June 18, 2012 at 8:25 am #

    I knew publishing houses did a lot to prepare and promote books and authors, but this video shows how much forethought goes helping authors and helping books to sell. Thanks for sharing this video, Steve.

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    Heather Day Gilbert June 18, 2012 at 9:24 am #

    I love the mention of the dependency that develops b/t an editor and the writer. A good writing relationship is KEY, and once you find that editor who really “gets” your work, you become very anxious to hear their ideas on all your books. Editors are the best way to polish your rough, shiny rock of a MS into a gem that catches everyone’s eye.

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    Timothy Fish June 18, 2012 at 9:57 am #

    In watching this video, I can’t help but think that the people in the video are passionate about their jobs. That’s as it should be.

    But you asked about the self-publishing perspective. Unlike Jane Steen, I see no reason to fault them for some book that hasn’t done as well as they hoped. The fact is, that is their job. Their job isn’t to hit the ball out of the park every time, but rather to have a high batting average. Striking out is just part of the game for traditional publishers.

    Self-publishing is a very different game. While we might say that we do “all of it”, as Jane said, our goals are significantly different. And unlike the traditional publisher, the self-publisher works the book for a much longer time. Unless the book has sold very well, it isn’t cost effective for a traditional publisher to keep promoting a book for more than a few months. The self-publisher will keep promoting all of their books for years to come and may even choose to write a book because they think it will help promote a book that hasn’t been selling very well. They are two very different ways of doing business.

  8. Avatar
    Jeanne June 18, 2012 at 11:09 am #

    Timothy, I like how you pointed out the passion demonstrated by the people on the video. I know that wasn’t the main point of your comment, but it struck me as I thought about the video. You are right–that is, ideally, how it should be. 🙂

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    sally apokedak June 18, 2012 at 7:35 pm #

    Loved that video. I’m such a publishing geek. I’ve always loved the industry. All of it. And like Heather, I think having an editor who adjusted to your writing style and who became a friend would be wonderful, as well as having a publicist to hold your hand. I’m afraid that kind of attention is not what most of the writers get, but it’s always nice to dream.

  10. Avatar
    Pat Jaeger June 19, 2012 at 7:14 am #

    Sometimes the publishing issues appear overwhelming, and that’s not even self-publishing! I’ve never had the desire to self-publish, but can see the reasons it’s done. I see by all the comments and the wonderful blogs that I read on this site, serious commitment, willingness to learn and incorporate the new “ways” into publishing (for me that’s the frightening netherland of e-publishing, learning to create a website, and electronically submitting manuscripts),and LOTS of prayer are needed to continue forward. These blog sites are invaluable to this old dog who is trying to learn new tricks. Thanks for sharing!

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