The Washington Post hosted a very lively chat with Eileen Gittins of blurb.com a site I have mentioned before and, I might add, has been the reason many people have visited this site. The full transcript is here and is well worth reading.
What A Publisher Offers
The main benefit a publisher brings to most would be self-published authors is credibility within the retail space and most likely a sales channel direct to the major retailers. There is no reason why a self-publisher cannot build these links over time but the question that a self publisher needs to ask is: Is the effort expended yielding a sufficient return?
In most cases it simply is not a justifiable use of time or energy. The publisher already has a relationship and contact on behalf of dozens of authors within their program and adding one more is little effort and little extra work.
Therein lies the potential and danger of moving to a publisher for a self publisher.
Danger and Potential
Why danger you may ask, surely all titles will be given a fair showing by the sales reps when they visit retail stores but sadly this is not the case. For certain reasons some books may appeal more to managers and buyers or simply be easier for the rep to understand and therefore to sell. A book on Dublin history is easy to sell, the concept is simple and uncomplicated but a book on the History of Cycling in Dublin is harder, more limited in its market and less well defined.
An author who chooses to go with a publisher needs to take time to ensure that the sales side of the business understands his or her book as much as the editorial side.
Potential benefits for the author taken in by a publishing house on the sales side are huge. In all likelihood if the book is well understood then the sales will exceed those achievable by the self published author. The return in terms of cash will not exceed that for a self published book but the income will be sent direct to the author either by check or credit transfer.
The Best Part
What will be of enormous benefit is the saved time. Most of the time a self published author is forced to expend in selling his/her book, distributing he book and collecting payment is saved and authors are free to write more or push the publicity for the book which will drive sales and drive royalty payments. Therein to my mind lies the true value of publishing the traditional route, saved time which can be used in a better more efficient way. Smart authors use this saved time exceptionally well and do far better from it than might be expected.