These days publishers seem to be attracting a lot of adverse criticism. This could be due to growing numbers of self-published authors expressing their disappointment with traditional publishing houses who have rejected their work. But this week even the Society of Authors have thrown their august weight behind the attack. "Traditional Publishing Is 'No Longer Fair Or Sustainable', Says Society Of Authors."
I have the utmost respect for the Society of Authors who have offered me invaluable support on more than one occasion. When I was an agentless author, the Society acted promptly and expertly to protect the interests of a vulnerable member. For that I will always remain in their debt. But it does strike me as more than coincidence that they should throw their weight behind the anti-publishers lobby after they began accepting self-published authors as members. Fair enough, they want to support the views of self-published authors, but isn't this a little one-sided?
So I'd like to set the record straight, if I may, by putting the case for the much-criticised publisher.
Not only am I (apparently) in the top 10% or so of authors because I earn a very decent living from writing fiction, but I am - oh heresy! - very happy indeed with my publisher. Yes, I could gripe about a long list of things he doesn't do. I have been known to dash off the occasional stroppy email to him. But we resolve our occasional differences because producing a book is a team effort, where we work together to our mutual benefit. Yes, I'm making a handsome income from my writing, but I work hard to earn my living. And yes, my publisher is also making a lot of money from my books.
You might think that because I write the books, I alone should benefit from the proceeds. But writing is all I do. The list of what my publisher does do for me is huge, as is the list of what he pays for. He provides me with: a topnotch editor, proof readers, an efficient production manager whose serenity under pressure is second to none, a production team, jacket designer, sales team, publicist, distributor, ISBN numbers, ebooks everywhere around the world. He sells the rights and has my books translated into French, German, Italian, Turkish, published with Harper Collins in the US, published in audio, large print...
Do I need to go on, when the point is surely made? If I were to deal with all those areas myself it would be a full-time job for about six people, each with various areas of expertise. And some of what my publisher does, like the sales of foreign rights, I don't believe I could even begin to tackle for myself.
So yes, you could say my publisher makes money out of 'my' books, and in a way you would be right. But that is a gross misrepresentation of what really happens. Because I only write the books; my publisher does everything else. And, let's face it, writing the books is the fun part!
Who really has the best of the deal?