“Literature can make people introspect, and that has the magic to change our attitude and hence our lives. That is the power of the written word.” – Dipankar Mukherjee, Publisher & Founder, Redomania
Over the years the industry that is representative of Literature, the publishing industry, has gone through revolutionary changes, most prominent being the advent of self publishing. Many critics have called this the demise of the traditional publishing model, and loss of relevance that a publisher may have.
Is this true? Or rather, can this be true?
To begin with one must understand what exactly the two models are.
In traditional publishing, the author pitches the manuscript to the publisher, if accepted, the publisher buys the print rights (sometimes few other rights as well) and pays an advance and royalty to the author (royalty is net off against advance). The publisher manages the editing, designing, printing, distribution and marketing (extent may vary).
In self-publishing, the author does all the work himself/herself or by buying various services required to produce a book.
Having understood the models, let us understand some of the roles that a publisher plays and why they may always remain relevant.
1. Reducing the Burden of Choice: A publishing house acts as a basic filter for readers – to sift through the good, bad and ugly and publish the best. Many may say that such an approach is subjective and unfair. True, selection of manuscripts is indeed subjective, just like it is in any other art appreciation. But this selection process ensures that the right and worthy manuscripts become books. So what happens if this step of selection doesn’t exist? The onus of selecting the right book shifts from the publishing house to the reader, where a reader has to sort through many more books to find the right one to read. We may call it a broader ‘choice’ but it may actually be a burden on the reader.
2. Nurturing the Manuscript: The editorial team of a publishing house has the most important role to play in creating a good book. They provide an outside-in perspective on the author’s work, an objective view of what may have gone wrong or what can be improved. Most of us may fall in love with our work or be blind to the flaws it has. A neutral eye helps to identify and rectify them. Thus, an editor helps an author mature and nurture the manuscript and make it a good book. In the absence of good editing, what comes out is a book that is unimpressive and sub-optimal, and that is quite some disrespect to the time a reader devotes to reading the book.
3. Marketing, Sales and Distribution Support: The team that a publishing house brings to the table is noteworthy. Be it the marketing team that helps decide how to pitch the book to the readers, creating marketing collaterals and planning events, or the sales and distribution team that works to ensure as wide an availability as possible. Getting access to such a talent pool is a big benefit of a publishing house. Even a good book can go unnoticed in the absence of good marketing, sales and distribution support, which is difficult to get outside a publishing house.
4. The Joy of being a part of a large Community: An author usually prefers to write and not market the book or network. Increasingly this has been forgotten and authors are pushed to market and sell their books. Moving with the times, authors have slowly started responding to this task. However, this becomes a little easy for the authors when a publisher is present. A publisher has its own network of loyal readers, other authors and literature enthusiasts who come together to create a wonderful ecosystem for the author to get better exposure, feedback and eminence. Without a publisher, the effort that the author has to put in to access this ecosystem increases manifold.
Having put forward these points, it is important to mention that self publishing was created because the traditional industry could not meet a market need – that of publishing everything that is ever written. Authors who were in the so called slush-pile had a need to publish and hence this DIY model came by.
The world clearly has more authors than readers, and definitely more authors than what the traditional model can publish. Hence the self publishing model will flourish. But that does not mean the traditional model will vanish. Both will co-exist and serve their respective roles in the creation of Literature.
The means may be different but the objective remains the same, that of creating good literature.
About the Author:
Dipankar Mukherjee is the publisher and founder of one of India’s fastest growing publishing houses, Readomania. Over the last 3 years, the house has published more than 50 authors. Many of these authors have also been personally mentored by him. He also conducts Creative Writing workshops for aspiring authors and has worked with corporate houses to use Creative Writing as an important intervention for overall well-being of their employees.
Dipankar has done his engineering from Nagpur University and MBA from IIT Madras. He has 9 years of consulting experience with organizations like IBM and E&Y. He loves travelling and also runs a nature resort named Faraway Renz, in Uttarakhand.