Publishing your book


 [It circulated for five years, through the halls of fifteen publishers, and finally ended up with Vanguard Press which, as you can see, is rather deep into the alphabet.                      - Patrick Dennis]

Don’t confuse publishing and printing.

I was recently approached by someone who wanted to publish a cookbook containing recipes provided by local residents. We arranged a meeting at which she presented me with 200 sheets of A4 paper comprising the only available record of the recipes and illustrations 

She assumed that I would be doing the printing. When I pointed out that I was not a printer, but a publisher, she was unable to distinguish between the two activities. After all, surely all that was needed was to print out the material she had shown me in a form which could be bound, covered and sold. So what exactly did a publisher do?

Now, this was not an uneducated, unaware person. She was, in fact, a lawyer who might have been expected to know the difference between the functions of publisher and printer. Indeed, litigation might turn on the difference between the two functions, for example in the event of copyright proceedings.   It is reasonable, therefore, to presume that this is a fairly common misconception.

Let us then address the question: What exactly does a publisher do?  And what, indeed, does the printer do?  And how are these two functions distinct from, or where do they impinge on and overlap the function of Writer?  Actually, some writers have (and possibly still do) combined all three functions.  A notable example from the past is that of Virginia Woolf and her husband Leonard who, from the humble beginnings of a small printing press in their home, subsequently established the Hogarth Press which continued from its birth during the First World War until it ultimately succumbed to the trend for takeovers by multinational corporations and became absorbed into Random House some eighty years later.

Putting it simply: the writer writes; the printer puts the writer's words into a form which can be distributed to readers; the publisher is the liaison between writer and printer and may market the book. 

In the case of the cookbook referred to earlier, the writers were the people providing the recipes (the solicitor was acting merely in an entrepreneurial role and collating the material); the printer would be whichever "press" finally outputs the material; the publisher would be the imprint under which the book appears and/or the individual or company responsible for the marketing and/or sale of the final product.

This is, of course, a simplification, but  it may help to clear any confusion which can arise as to the separation of links within the chain that leads from fingers holding pen or pounding keyboard, through presses printing or photocopying words on paper, to the fingers which remove a book from the library or bookshop shelves. 

ASPEN (Authors' Self-Publishing Enterprise) finds itself from time to time in the role of author, publisher, collator, editor, entrepreneur and distributor; but never in the role of printer.

The following sections of this "pamphlet" will, hopefully, clear up any remaining confusion.

[Note on the music: I have little doubt that anyone reading this will possess the ability to hit the "mute" button in the event they find the music intrusive.  I have chosen some of my favourite melodies to enliven these pages, starting and ending with Hoagy Carmichael numbers.  For locating these "Midi" files I am indebted to my dear friend Susan Helene whose own site may be found at Old Souls Station]