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Director’s Desk
A 10-Step Program for Becoming a Publisher

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Publishing is more confusing today than it was 15 years ago for many people entering our community. In part, this is because of all the technological changes that make entry into the world of publishing seem easier and easier.

Every day at the PMA office, we find ourselves explaining to people who are new to the industry that even though they have a product that looks and feels and sometimes even reads like a book, they are not really ready to enter this world as publishers. In fact, in many cases these people don’t own their books’ ISBNs, which tell booksellers who the publisher is. Yet they still think they can assume the publisher’s role.

Acting on these many conversations, the PMA board has begun to develop a statement to help define the role of the publisher. Board member Paul Coates and his committee started to work on this project right after the first meeting of the 2003/04 PMA board. Pat Bell, PMA’s affiliate chairperson and a member of Paul’s committee, developed most of what appears below.

While this is still a work in progress, with board members editing and putting the finishing touches on it, I thought I’d share it with you as well, for your input. If you have any suggestions, please send them to me at jan@pma-online.org.

The Role of a Book Publisher: Draft Copy

As publishers, we are the bearers and the repositories of information. We have responsibilities to our investors, our authors, our suppliers, our customers, our readers, and to ourselves as prudent business people. We also have a strong commitment to uphold rigorous ptd>

Acquisition. A publisher acquires property either through purchase of manuscripts or personal development. Depending on the size of the company, authors are paid an advance against future royalty as designated by their contract, or payments may be distributed to the author in a designated period after production.

Financial. A publisher, or publishing company, is financially responsible for the production and promotion of books under the company imprint. A publisher provides or arranges funding for the company’s publishing program. He/she develops a budget for each book acquired, looking carefully at the costs of production, the costs of promotion and publicity, and longer-range plans for keeping the book on the active list, and allots funds for those tasks.

Planning. A publisher develops a business plan, including budget planning, timeline for publication–from acquisition through production–including promotional plans for each book acquired. A publisher develops and implements a sales, marketing, and production plan for each book.

Author/manuscript development. A publishing company works with its authors to develop the manuscript into optimum condition for the production and publication as a viable book. In the area of self-publishing, the author and publisher are synonymous. A publisher oversees, or has someone within the company oversee, the editing of the manuscript prior to publication, as well as all the design elements, exterior and interior, to obtain an attractive and marketable product.

Publishers’ author obligations. Contracts should recognize the contribution of the author to the enterprise, as well as outlining the responsibilities of both the author and publisher. These should be clearly stated, including accounting royalties and payment expectations.

Production. A publisher should keep up to date on the newest technologies available in both printing and production to ensure that the finished book product is competitive within the current marketplace. A publisher ensures that all technical elements (assigning an ISBN, acquiring requisite cataloging, making advance book announcements, etc.) are performed in a timely fashion.

Standards. A publisher keeps abreast of the standards of the industry and adheres to them. For example, a company’s identity as a publisher is established by acquiring a block of ISBN identifiers from the R.R. Bowker Company. Other standards include the LCC number issued by the Library of Congress and the placement of the Bookland EAN or UPC code identifier on each title.

Vendor interaction. A publisher deals fairly with vendors, with the goal ofestablishing long-term, rewarding relationships within an industry. A publisher will state clearly what is expected of the vendor at the outset and enter into contractual agreements with stated goals and objectives that will be adhered to by both parties.

Product development. The responsible publisher produces a well-edited and -designed product that can be competitive with other like products entering the publishing community. A publisher develops a marketing and promotion plan and works to secure distribution to both the trade and consumer markets, whether through wholesalers, distributors, or Web site, for the book.

Administration. From the selection and acquisition of books to be published under the house imprimatur through their production, their promotion, and marketing, a publisher bears the total responsibility of these processes.

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