Publishing: Publishers And The Path To Success

As an unpublished author, publication is almost always on my mind. This means I usually stop and read articles I stumble across that have anything to do with publishers, successful publication, etc. One post I found recently was written by author Chris Eboch about midlist authors and their departure to the world of self-publishing.

Chris starts off by saying:

They often start with their out-of-print books and then do well enough that they consider self-publishing their new work. The numbers may not be huge yet, but they are growing, and if the publishing business doesn’t change, publishers will lose their midlist – books that don’t make a fortune but sell enough to pay their expenses and help keep everybody in business.

 This is a valid point. I’ve heard from a few midlist authors who have essentially given up on their publishers because they aren’t given the attention, recognition, or marketing backup they deserve. Do their books sell millions of copies? Not usually. But they do sell enough to pay the rent and that position deserves respect. Holly Lisle is one author I know of who has taken her fate into her own hands and is publishing stories the way she wants. JA Konrath is another and he’s been doing very well for himself in self-publishing. How can publishers combat this exodus? Chris Eboch had an idea.

These days, you’re probably hearing a lot about “brand building” for authors, the idea that you should stand for something specific. Yet many publishers haven’t embraced the concept themselves.
If you know that a certain publisher always produces well-edited and well-designed books with a specific, narrow focus that matches your interests, you’ll trust them and look for their books. You might even buy directly through their website, which means higher profits for the publisher.
Small publishers can keep a narrow focus more easily (such as a regional focus), but bigger companies could do it as well. Tor, for example, is known for fantasy and science fiction, while Poisoned Pen Press focuses on mystery, as you could probably guess from the name. “Harlequin is Romance” as their tagline says, and specific Harlequin lines follow clear guidelines on subject matter and tone. But who goes out of their way to pick up a book by Simon & Schuster or HarperCollins? What do those names mean?
Big publishers publish too great a variety to brand themselves by genre, but many include imprints with a narrower focus, though few of those are known outside the business. If publishers develop imprint brands with a clear, narrow focus, and promote those, they might build customer loyalty.
And if they promote the brand rather than promoting a few titles each season, that would also be an advantage to mid-list and new authors, who’d benefit by the association even if they get no individual publicity.

 The simple brilliance of the idea is kind of amazing. Why haven’t the publishing companies thought of this? Establishing these brands in the public mind would be challenging, but not impossible, and it would definitely be more cost effective than individually promoting a large number of debut and midlist authors.

2 thoughts on “Publishing: Publishers And The Path To Success

  1. Ailsa

    One of my favourite publishers is Gollancz. They're a UK branch of Orion who specialise in fantasy/UF/PNR. I know that I like the kind of stuff they publish, so if I'm browsing in a shop and see something published by them, I'll pick it up and see what it's about because I trust their taste.
    I think if publishers do go down the route of publishing a specific genre, it can work well in their favour, but I can see why it's hard for huge companies to do.

  2. Sera Phyn

    Definitely. The recognizable brands are the ones with loyal readers. Harlequin, for example, has some fans who have been picking up any book in that brand for decades. They do brand marketing and pamphlets with upcoming releases and it seems to work very well for them.


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