In my last marketing post, I addressed the issue of creating the illusion of having a publisher by creating a publisher-in-name-only. Now, I’d like to take a look at the alternative.
In the contemporary marketplace, you can become your own publisher. This takes self-publishing to a whole new level. But it requires more than just a name.
From the writer’s perspective, publishers provide a host of services that—supposedly—improve the reach and profitability of their work. This includes editing, proofreading, fact checking, typesetting, publishing, cover art, distribution, and more. The self-publisher assumes the responsibility of performing all of these functions.
From the reader’s perspective, publishers provide brand name recognition. This branding tells readers what to expect from the books they’re considering. Readers who are experienced with a particular publisher can trust the publisher, even if they don’t know the writer.
As a writer, if you think of publishers as a name and a set of services, then making up a name and paying for these services should be enough to call yourself a “publisher.” But you’ve also missing the marketing power of publishers.
At the minimum, if you want to create your own publisher, you need to create a brand. This means the name of your publishing company has to mean something to you, and you have to present that meaning to others. Again, at the minimum, you do this with a website. It doesn’t have to be fancy, but there should be a website that presents the brand image.
A level above that is to use this publisher-in-name-and-website to further your own marketing efforts. You can market your book as an author and market your book as a publisher, showing how the branding of the publisher adds value to the book, by making and keeping a promise of quality and content.
But what if your new publishing company wasn’t just part of your marketing strategy? I’ve met a few small, independent publishers who created their publishing companies because they couldn’t find an appropriate publisher for their book, and now they publish other writers’ books. That’s a possibility for you, too.
But there are other directions you could take this, too. What if, for example, you had a small circle of writing friends who write novels or books that could all fall under the same publishing brand, and you all wanted to “self-publish,” but wanted the benefits of a publisher, too? You can create a publishing co-op, which would allow you to reduce the costs of self-publishing and would “force” you each to strive for certain, mutually agreed-upon standards. By branding your co-op and marketing yourselves independently and together, you would share in each other’s success by attracting each other’s readers as well as those you bring to the circle yourself.
The possibilities, as they say, are endless. The publishing marketplace is opening up to more opportunities, with more technology, lower costs, and a wider (read “global”) reading audience. There’s really no good reason to limit yourself to a publisher-in-name-only, when there’s so much more opportunity to creating your own publisher. It’s more work, of course, but the promises you make are real, and so are the rewards you receive for keeping the promises.
Just remember, if you write drastically different books (like writing nonfiction about autism and writing fantasy fiction, as I do), then don’t try to fit all of these books under a single “publisher.” That would defeat the whole purpose. Even the big publishing houses have imprints to differentiate from their different sets of books.