Do Authors Still Need Publishers?

The Question

Countless publishers of different stripes around the world diligently strive to make it in this tough industry. The publishing landscape is ever-changing. Some stalwarts are closing their doors for good after a long run, while brash newcomers are just setting up shop. Mergers and acquisitions contract the market, while new technologies expand possibilities. The process can be awfully confusing and discouraging for authors to find the right publisher and get their attention. One very basic question begs for an answer, that is, “Do authors still need publishers?”

The Answer

However counterintuitive it may seem, publishers need authors more than authors need publishers. Authors may view publishers as these larger-than-life benefactors whose favor they must win in order to be worthy to be published. Quite simply, publishers would cease to exist were the supply of content provided by authors to dry up. That’s because publishers don’t create their own content but rely on others (i.e., authors) to produce it for them. They then acquire the rights to publish the content created by the authors. No content, no books. No books, no sales. No sales, no revenue. No revenue, no publisher.

The Reason

Why do authors feel the need for publishers? Publishers offer authors capital, they are supposed to be a reliable source of editorial, design, and production resources, and an important value is their ability to get books into bookstores and sell them. In other words, publishers have existed because they were perceived as meeting certain needs. Authors have been in the dark or have imagined their need of publishers without fully understanding the dynamics of this relationship.

The recent emergence of nontraditional publishing options brought about by the creation of new technologies, new channels of distribution, and new ways to market and publicize books has greatly assisted independent authors. These new developments threw open the gates for many more authors to publish their own books, control their copyrights, and to connect directly with their audience. Accessible technology drastically reduced the benefits publishers can offer authors who now are in a better position to negotiate different terms of their relationship with the publisher.

The Verdict

Authors can see the benefit of pursuing a traditional publisher, a company that will assist them, whether with editorial, production, marketing & publicity, printing, or sales & distribution capabilities. But authors can also do much of this on their own or through other channels. The resources at their disposal make it possible to tackle these processes independently. This gives authors the option to do without the traditional publisher and become their own publisher. The feeling of control they dreamed of and sense of ownership in the end product are reasons to skip the traditional route. The chance to connect directly with readers is another compelling reason. It all depends on your personality, skills, knowledge, and expectations.

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