PR for People Monthly August 2017 - Page 37

dictionaries, encyclopedias, interviews with major publishers, and books use definitions that confuse rather than answer this simple question. The words combined to create self-publisher are “self” and “publisher.” A publisher as a person, two or more partners, or a corporation that offers a set of publishing services that are necessary to publish a book, including some or all of the follow-ing: formatting, design, editing, proofreading, art (illustrations, photos, graphs) creation, editing, marketing, publicity, registration with book tracking agencies, setup of the title with a printer, order processing, royalty distribution, and various other tasks. If a service provider offers marketing, but none of the other services, hence being unable to independently release a book into the marketplace, it is not a publisher. Now for the word “self,” which seems to be self-explanatory, but this is the word that leads to misperception. Obviously, the “self” in question is the author that wants to release a book. But, the myriad of publishing service combinations offered today complicate what constitutes being published by somebody else or publishing yourself.

One major service that even giant publishers hire out is book printing. A book printer costs millions today. Thus, all publishing service providers except for those that can keep this printer running around the clock cannot afford to print in-house. Using giant, industrial, automated printers subtracts the human labor that Virginia Woolf or Galileo had to put in when they used relatively cheap hand presses in their living rooms or studios to print their own books. A press or printer is a company that has a printer that can print books.

Frequently, printers also package and ship these books to wholesalers, distributors, bookstores, libraries or other buyers upon the publisher’s request. If a printer not only processes orders, but also sends information about available books in print to buyers, it is also a distributor.

But, to return to the “self.” If CreateSpace offers book cover templates and allows for the upload of simple pdf interior files that can be generated on a home computer; then, it is allowing most writ-ers, without special formatting or design skills, to create electronic book files needed to print and re-lease them into distribution. According to conventional definitions, when somebody releases a book with CreateSpace, he or she is self-publishing because they design their own book and CreateSpace simply prints and distributes it. In contrast, when authors in the nineteenth century used to have their books privately printed, they would pay a printer to typeset and design the book, and possibly also edit it and perform other services for additional fees.

Today, private printing is typically called subsidy publishing, but this is a misnomer. A subsidy is a grant, typically offered by the government or by an academic institution to sponsor a scholarly book, or a book that results from a creative fellowship. If a writer pays a company out-of-pocket for services and book printing, he or she is not offering a grant. Further still, it cannot be called “private printing,” if the paid-for book is distributed through the regular mainstream distributors by the com-pany being paid, as “private” implies that the book is for private consumption to the author’s family and friends. In earlier centuries, the distinction of “private” printing was essential because it allowed a writer to avoid being censored by the Inquisition or a censorship board if the book was not intended for public consumption.

As this study explains, most of the publishers that eventually became the Big Four at some point charged authors for returned books, for review copies mailings and offered paid-for private printing services. A publisher does not stop being a publisher simply because a company is charging authors for its services instead of offering an “advance.” The Big Four popularized the notion that censored books, or those that pass their review process, must be better than books published by authors that choose to avoid censorship by publishing them with publishers that are open to all who can pay the applicable fees or who can setup their own books for free. Historically, the opposite has been the case. “Successful” publishers are typically defined as those that are the most profitable. To maintain their profitability, they create formulas based on the majority of the public’s taste. These tastes have been steadily declining from the nineteenth century through to the present. So that today, most read-ers prefer to read at the first through fifth grade level, and this is the range used in most popular mystery and romance novels. Therefore, the best or the most linguistically and structurally complex books submitted to the Big Four must be rejected to attain the profit objective. The best, or the most linguistically and structurally complex and innovative books, can only be printed independently by the authors themselves, or by independent publishers who are investing in art, the intellect, or a less risky profit scheme. Of course, the worst books, or those below a first-grade level, are also rejected by the Big Four; and there are many more of these awful books than there are brilliant rejected books that are too complex for the “average” reader.

In the nineteenth century, the lower end of this range would not have had the money to privately print their book, so only the very intelligent or very wealthy writers released books through private or paid-for printing or publishing. CreateSpace has dropped the minimum required salary out of this equation by offering free setup and distribution for anybody that can afford a personal computer. On the other hand, the writers who are paying publishers for design, marketing and other publishing services still mostly belong to this upper class of writers for whom the expense is irrele-vant and they are writing for other reasons than the profit motive. The Big Four are aware of this and have their own paid-for service imprints. Obviously, authors, including myself, who cannot afford to pay a publisher and who hope to make a living from writing highbrow books, are rightfully