Wednesday, December 02, 2015

The Insecure Writer's Support Group - Publisher-Author Responsibilities

It’s time for another edition of The Insecure Writer’s Support Group, founded by Ninja Captain, Alex J. Cavanaugh.

Publisher - Author Responsibilities

In working with a writer recently, it occurred to me that not everyone understands how publishing works. (I know, shocking. After teaching publishing seminars for 8 years, I’ve discovered most unpublished writers don’t know.) But there is a system in place and publishers and authors each have their responsibilities.

If you’re self-publishing, then it all falls on you. But how do things happen when a traditional publisher takes on your book?

First, it helps to know how the relationship works. The author is not hiring the publisher to produce the book - in essence, the publisher hires the author to produce a marketable manuscript. Since it’s the publisher’s time, expertise, and money going into the project, they make the decisions.

The author’s responsibilities are:
  • Produce a marketable manuscript
  • Perform all revisions as per the publisher’s timetable
  • Market the book online and in the real world before and after the book’s release

The publisher’s responsibilities are:
  • Editing, light to in depth
  • Cover design, either in house or through a regular freelancer
  • Book formatting and production
  • Printing and distribution, both outsourced
  • Minimum marketing or better
  • Scheduled royalty payments to author

There are a lot more responsibilities, but those are the basics.

Note that everything to do with book production is the responsibility of the publisher and in their control. With smaller presses, the author might have some input on the cover, but usually they have little to no say in the final design. They also have some say in the revisions, although refusing too many suggestions might result in being dropped completely.

For writers who want more control, self-publishing isn’t their only option these days. There are numerous small presses arising that are formed by authors who get to control their work. There’s also the issue of low royalties, which some small presses like Freedom Fox Press counter with much higher royalties. And of course, expertise and clout factor into it, something a publisher, big or small, can offer that one might not possess when self-publishing..

My advice to writers is pick the path that best suits his or her needs. There’s traditional publishing, self-publishing, and a lot now available in between!

44 comments:

shelly said...

Self-publishing is a lot of work. It's not exactly for me. It's hard when you have another job. Sometime this next year I will be looking into publishers.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Diane - great tips and reminders here ... I'm sure as we go along we forget so many necessary things and we need to rely on ourselves, not think others will do things for us. I like the idea of marketing locally and doing what we can with our own contacts ... cheers Hilary

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

That list makes it clear who does what.

Emma Adams said...

I love self-publishing, but I'm glad I worked with a small press first. I learned a lot and was less unprepared when I started publishing on my own. Having said that, I probably wouldn't work with another small press unless they offered something I couldn't do on my own. Indie publishing has turned me into even more of a control freak than before. :)

Christine Rains said...

Fantastic list! There are differences between publishers too. I have to do all my own marketing and submitting to reviewers. I do love the control I have with self-publishing too.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Emma - LOL!

Stephen Tremp said...

I'm becoming well-rounded after all these years and I have a pretty good overview of the business. Now I'm working on expanding into other languages, something I know nothing about.

L.G. Keltner said...

I struggle with marketing my work when it comes to self-publishing. I've never been good at that aspect of things, but I'm trying to learn.

Thanks for the informative post. I've been doing the self-publishing thing because I've been writing a lot of novellas lately, but when I get around to finishing the novel I have in the works, I hope to try for the more traditional route.

Thanks for all you do for IWSG!

Tamara Narayan said...

Informative post. I still need to do much more with marketing.

Juneta Key said...

Great post. Informative info too. Lots to think about.
Juneta @ Writer's Gambit

Crystal Collier said...

It's true. I can't tell you how many aspiring young people I've talked through the realities. It's a little disheartening to most newbies.

Cherie Reich said...

I think most of the world doesn't understand how publishing and being a writer works. They see the Stephen Kings and Nora Roberts out there and think that's what it is like for all of us. I love how there are so many opportunities out there now for writers.

Mary Montague Sikes said...

Excellent information. My publisher does an outstanding job with the production of her books and creates a nice-looking product. Her staff is also helpful with promotion. While self-publishing has many advantages with control, etc., I don't think I could manage it along with my art career. Thanks for this really informative post, Diane!

J E Oneil said...

Sometimes people seem...rigid in their beliefs on which path one should take towards publication. I wish they would listen to the "best suits his or her needs" part of this post.

M Pax said...

I love that we have choices and don't have to stick to any one thing. We can mix and match as we go.

Jemima Pett said...

Thanks for the tips.

Loni Townsend said...

I decided to go with self-publishing for many of the reasons you listed. I like control. I think I like control more than I like the clout of a big name.

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

It used to be very difficult to market outside of the United States if you self-published outside of the USA. I've heard it's easier now, but I should probably check to see if that's true for myself. For ebooks, it shouldn't matter, but trying to distribute a hardcopy of a book if you're not American is very very expensive.

Lynda R Young said...

Over the years, I've warmed to the idea of self-publishing my work only because I really like the control I'd have. It's a lot to carry, but it seems worth it.

SA Larsenッ said...

I like this concise breakdown. Like some of the others, I've pondered self-publishing. The amount of work seems astounding for one person, yet many do it and do it. Even more so, they thrive. I continue to watch them and learn.

Dean K Miller said...

I've worked with two small publishers and each has been a good experience and yet different. There has been opportunities for input and decision making. I'm still mulling over completely doing a project on my own, but now I'll need to have some help in some areas.

Would I go traditional? Given the chance, probably so. But it would be a completely different feel.

Tyrean Martinson said...

I'm so glad that so many paths are available! I went the self-pub route on purpose, and next year, I intend to try to break out into other routes, too. I'll see how it goes.

Thanks for the rundown on responsibilities. :)

Ann Bennett said...

Oh so much to think about summed up quite nicely. Good to know. Thanks.

Tess Julia said...

Those are great tips! It seems like no matter how many books I read on publishing, I still feel totally clueless. I see you have more info available- I will have to check that out!

Jo said...

Before I started blogging and got to know so many authors, I had no idea it was all so very complicated and laborious. These are interesting lists of the responsibilities Diane.

Nick Wilford said...

It is great there are so many avenues these days. And we can switch paths depending on what's best for each of our projects. I hear about groups of self-publishers banding together for joint marketing etc, which sounds like a boon for everyone concerned.

nashvillecats2 said...

Seeing that I'm into my fourth book at the moment, your list have taught me things I didn't realise before. Thanks Diane for sharing your knowledge.
Yvonne.

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Nice breakdown of responsibilities. Hope you had a good Thanksgiving!

Diane Burton said...

Good reminders of how publishing works. No matter which direction you go, producing the best story possible is key.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Crystal, they have no idea what's involved or how much.

Cherie, right, we're all like them.

JE, because that's really what matters.

Lynda, there is a lot involved all right.

Tess, I have a lot of information in my sidebar and in my book.

Nick, yes it is.

Elizabeth, I did.

Patricia Stoltey said...

I love being with a traditional publisher and one that not only does great editing but invites cover art idea input from the author. I wouldn't rule out self-publishing something one of these days, but I know it's not all that easy and there are up front costs I don't have to bear with a traditional contract.

dolorah said...

Super awesome help Diane. I get confused today with all the author responsibilities. I want to write, not market or try to figure out how to produce a unique cover. It is difficult to get into traditional publishing now. Agents are hard to attract.

Arlee Bird said...

Nice to see this broken down. I think a lot of writers don't want to think about any of the business responsibilities and just create stuff. There are lots of options to think about.

Arlee Bird
Tossing It Out

Misha Gericke said...

A lot of people (and sadly a lot of writers) have no idea about how things work.

I like that there are so many options available to writers now. :-)

Joseph Pulikotil said...

Very useful information. Best wishes

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I'm usually thrilled with the covers my small publisher comes up with for my books but when I wasn't happy with a recent one, for the first time I asked them to change it. They did with no complaints. I like working with a small press and the higher royalties. I feel like part of a team.

klahanie said...

Hi Diane,

You always post up such sensible advice to writers, aspiring or established. Thank you for your valuable insight, Diane.

Gary

DMS said...

Definitely good for authors to see everything in print so they know what the expectations are. Great post!
~Jess

Michelle Wallace said...

Diane, thanks for clearing this up.
With all the options available, it's an exciting prospect.
Writers can mix and match to their hearts content.

Medeia Sharif said...

I've met authors both self-published and traditionally published who did little or no marketing, as if people are magically supposed to find their books. This is a good reminder about responsibilities.

Jemi Fraser said...

With my control freak tendencies, I'm thinking self-dubbing is the way to go! Lots to learn though :)

Carol Kilgore said...

So many options; so little time. Seriously, at the beginning, it's a learning experience for all of us, no matter which option we choose. Thanks for posting the lists.

Sheena-kay Graham said...

We all have responsibilities we need to complete in order to accomplish our goals.

Donna McDine said...

So many different aspects to factor in. Never an easy decision. Thanks for sharing your insights!