Do Publishers Help Create a Better Book?

Good BetterIn my last blog on a writer’s choice between traditional publishing and self-publishing, I wrote that I would address several non-financial considerations a writer might take into account.

This post considers if a writer can expect to improve her manuscript more if she works with a traditional publisher than if she purchases services as an indie author.

Since I haven’t worked with a traditional publisher, I corresponded on this topic with Melodie Campbell (published with two houses) and Michael J. McCann (a well-known self-pub). I also spoke with several freelance editors/cover designers.

Recognizing that people can have different views, here are my conclusions.

If you assess a book by the quality of its copy editing, proofreading and cover design, I’m sure a self-published writer who has hired a very good editor and designer can generate a book every bit as good as one created with a traditional publisher. The key for most indie writers, however, is to hire the right people (a topic I’ll blog about soon).

However, if you judge a book by the quality of its structure and style, I think it’s possible, but not guaranteed, that a writer published by a strong house or working with a senior editor will end up with a better product than if she self-publishes. I don’t think this will be the case, though, for very skilled writers or writers prepared to pay the fees for the best freelance structural/style editors.

Finally, if you assess a book according to whether it’s likely to gain a readership, then working with a traditional publisher is probably an advantage. Of course, a book more likely to be accepted by readers isn’t necessarily a “better” book. However, sales are important for a writer and publishing houses will have the best feel for how to adjust a manuscript to meet readers’ current interests.

It also bears mentioning that a writer working with a traditional publisher cedes control over her manuscript, at least to some degree. So there’s a risk that the writer will be disappointed by the publisher’s choices in creating the final book for market.

Copyright © 2014 Peter Fritze

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