During the past year, the PMA board of directors has been working to craft a statement that defines standards for the independent book publishing industry. The driving need was to provide a way to distinguish professionally published books from products that may look like books but are not supported by the principles and processes essential to high-quality publishing. With the advent of print-on-demand and other streamlining technologies, it is easier than ever to manufacture a book. But it is still as hard as ever to publish one. And our various publics are becoming confused about the difference.
A draft of the PMA statement of standards was included in Jan Nathan’s column in the January newsletter under the heading “The Role of a Book Publisher: Draft Copy.” You may want to pull it out again or access it at www.pma-online.org. To refresh your memory, here is a summary.
Publishers have a strong commitment to upholding rigorous publishing standards–those required to produce quality books–and working toward these standards is our primary goal.
Publishers put book projects together, from start to finish–an endeavor that includes fulfilling major responsibilities in the following key areas:
Acquisition, Financial, Planning, Author/Manuscript Development, Publisher’s Author Obligations, Production, Standards, Vendor Interaction, Product Development, and Administration.
The draft outlines and discusses how activities in each of these essential areas contribute to publishing a truly professional and first-class book and selling it in the marketplace.
To Evaluate and Communicate
This PMA statement about standards can be useful to you in several ways.
You can use it as a checklist and planning guide for evaluating your own publishing program and planning its future. In which of these areas are you strongest? In which are you weak? As your company grows and you hire additional staff, which of the essential tasks will you personally want to hang onto, and which will you want to delegate, either to an employee or by outsourcing? As you use these standards to evaluate your current program and plan for development, get any staff you have involved in the process as well.
You can use it to facilitate communication with authors, with industry vendors, and, for that matter, with friends who don’t seem to grasp what you do for a living. Let authors know that while they wrote the books, you are handling all the other necessary tasks, and they need to take your contribution and your investment of time and money very seriously. Let your customers and vendors know that you work to fulfill the full range of publishing responsibilities. Help them distinguish your products and your program from book lookalikes that are sloppily created and distributed.
And, if you are publishing material that you have written yourself, you can use the standards to make the point that “self-publishing” is not a dirty word, that you do, indeed, fulfill all publishing functions. Yes, you are a force to be reckoned with–both a fine writer and a knowledgeable and responsible independent publisher.
You can use it in communicating with startup publishers, to help them see that there is more to quality publishing than simply filling their garage with manufactured books or making downloads available via the Web. And you can also use it to communicate with writers who are thinking about publishing their own work and need to understand that it can be a terrible mistake to sign on with one of the vanity POD companies that claim to be publishers but do not charge fair prices or take responsibility for accomplishing most of the publishing functions.
You will probably find other uses for the standards statement as well. Please let us know your reactions. This is a living document and will be improved along the way with the benefit of your ideas and reactions. Keep it at hand on your desk, and experiment with the many ways it can be useful to you.