With so many new writers participating in the process of making books, it’s natural that there is confusion about the roles of printers and publishers. Who does what? Many people come in to The Troy Book Makers assuming we will comment on their content, or have a vested interest in the number of books they sell. Not so! Printers and publishers serve different functions. Here are a few key differences:
Printers have machines on premise that print the actual book, then bind and trim them. Publishers don’t.
Printers make their money from printing and binding, not from sales of your book.
Publishers have a more vested interest in how many of your books sell. They get a cut!
Printers don’t distribute or warehouse your book. Publishers do.
For self-publishers, the author is responsible for receiving the print run, determining a sales and marketing strategy, having a place where customers can purchase the book (either online or physical location), and then fulfilling orders (envelopes and postage). Publishers, on the other hand, have relationships with distributors and warehouses, each of whom gets paid by the publisher for services performed.
Printers do not assume responsibility for content. Printers are ready to print!
Publishers, however, can take 3, 6, 12 months–or longer–before they are done reviewing, copyediting, designing, and preparing your manuscript for print. There are standards (grammatical and content-based) their books are expected to maintain. For example, a publisher might hire a copy editor to ensure that the text grammatically adheres to a certain style, say The Chicago Manual of Style. The publisher pays for this service. It’s part of their process, and also part of the reason authors will see a smaller percentage of the cover price.
And finally, because some printers (like The Troy Book Makers) cater primarily to self-publishers, they also offer an array of services, which differentiates them from the local print shop that does posters, flyers, and brochures. Services may include an ISBN and barcode, marketing or copyediting services, even preparation of your files for e-readers.
It is definitely a more crowded landscape, so think about what it is you want to accomplish as an author and/ or self-publisher, do your research, consider your budget, and best of luck achieving your goals!