Does an Author need a Publisher?

Yes and No

Yes – Cases where an Author needs a Publisher

  1. If the Author wants to focus solely on their core competency of writing and leave everything else to someone else (the Publisher)
  2. If the Author is an established author and needs a Publisher to put their weight behind the author and really drive sales
  3. If selling in bookstores and physical retail locations is critical for the author
  4. If the Author cares a lot about the validation and prestige of getting a Publishing contract
  5. If the Author wants to tap into the rich experience a Publisher has of the market
  6. If the Author is stuck in slow and steady sales and need a heavyweight Publisher to push the author into very large sales figures
  7. If the Author is a celebrity/renowned in their profession and wants someone who will channel that reputation/fame into a bestselling book
  8. If the Author has a very good book, one good enough to convince a good literary agent to represent them, and wants to see this book reach the absolute most number of people
  9. If the Author doesn’t mind getting a smaller slice of what will likely be a much larger pie

No – Cases where an Author does not need a Publisher

  1. If the Author is already doing well and is happy where they are
  2. If the Author does not have a book yet
  3. If the Author does not have a book good enough to get a Literary Agent. First, get a very good literary agent
  4. If the Author wants to keep as much of the book rights as possible. Whenever you go with a Publisher you have to give up a hefty chunk of book rights
  5. If the Author is already a runaway success and doesn’t need the push and polish a Publisher represents
  6. If an Author isn’t scared of non writing work such as book marketing and market research
  7. If an Author wants total creative control and the final decision on everything
    1. Please Note: For most authors this is not a good thing and they will end up messing things up. Sometimes it’s good to have an experienced Publisher who can make the big decisions on your behalf
  8. If an Author doesn’t care about paper back sales and wants to focus only on ebooks
  9. If the Author wants the larger piece of the pie, even if it means it is a smaller pie


Important Note: Choosing a Publisher is a Very Big Decision

This post should be taken as a very rough guide

Please think long and hard before making a decision on whether or not to go with a Publisher

Please think even harder when deciding which Publisher to go with

Please NEVER EVER go with a Publisher who asks you for money to Publish your book. All legitimate Publishers invest into your book and then take a cut of the book sales

One Good Way to Think of What a Publisher Does

A Publisher is someone who has a lot of experience of creating high quality books, marketing them, and building the author’s brand

Good Publishers only survive because they are able to make money publishing books. They make money only from book sales, so they must select books that will sell

Therefore, a good way to think of what a Publisher does is

  1. The Publisher must pick the likely winners and the best authors from among all authors
  2. The Publisher must craft and polish the book (the product) until it is sparkling and flawless
  3. The Publisher must set up a marketing plan and execute well on it
  4. The Publisher must make enough from book sales to get back what they invested. After that point they take a large share of the earnings and the rest goes to the Author (split with the Author’s Literary Agent)
  5. The Publisher must have enough successes, such that the successes not only cover their own cost, they also cover the cost of the failures

That last point (5) creates a very high bar. Publishers absolutely must pick some very big winners, and they absolutely must give their very best to make authors successful

Therefore, when working with a good Publisher, you have an ally who is even more motivated for you to succeed than you are

Being a Publisher is a very complicated and tough job

You want to pick carefully, keeping in mind the significant pros of having a Publisher and also the few cons of going with a Publisher

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