When is a "publisher" not a publisher? It appears to be a very good question at the moment, since there are the "traditional" publishers who have a 'stable' of authors they accept work from, and a small number of 'new' writers who are lucky enough to get something accepted through an agent. There are the 'no pretense' publishers like AuthorHouse, Xlibris and one or two others who will publish your work, do the interior design and even the cover for a fee, but that usually doesn't include editing or proof reading and 'marketing' is a considerable amount 'extra' on top. Now I read there is a third group. These are the so-called 'pseudo publishers' who will accept an author's work, sometimes offering 'editing' and design fees, and get the author to sign a contract which gives them a large slice of any 'royalties' and leaves the author with crumbs.
An example of this kind of contract deal in a recent article on the subject suggested that an author making sales of 10,000 Kindle books could find himself/herself receiving just $1,500 while the 'publisher' pocketed more than $20,000. Obviously it pays to read that contract very, very carefully indeed. Those of us who have used AuthorHouse or one of the other 'pay to publish' companies know (assuming we read the contract properly) that they take no responsibility for the editing and proofreading and, beyond listing the title and ISBN with wholesalers and retailers. They don't do much in the way of promoting the book unless you buy one or more of their 'promotion' packages. The advantage, for someone like me, is that with them I retain all 'rights' to the work, which is not the case if one has signed up with one of the 'pseudo publishers.' In that case, they now have sole rights, meaning they, and they alone, can decide who may print it, reproduce it or convert it for television or film.
Of course, even if one is lucky enough to be signed up with a traditional publisher there is no gaurantee of mega sales. In fact many authors find themselves having to do a lot of marketing work to promote themselves. Sadly, there is also no gaurantee that the published work will be free of typos or syntax problems. Several books I've recently bought, borrowed or reviewed, have small problems in them and when it is someone like Doubleday or Bloomsbury, that is disappointing and surprising. I get annoyed when I find mistakes in my own books. Especially when I've paid an editor to go through it and make the fixes. I don't trust myself to 'proof read' either and pay a fee to get it done by someone who is qualified to do it, but sometimes they miss things as well.
In all the articles I've read recently about publishing and getting published, the one element that seems to be universal to all three groups is the need for the author to be 'out there' selling himself/herself and their work. It seems to be inescapable. Fine, you're in print. How does anyone else find the book?
That brings me to the next little problem, which is how does anyone assess the quality of a book? OK, if we know it has been published by a 'known' author or publisher, we have some idea of what to expect, but in the brave new world of self-publishing, the quality of anything is now a bit of a lottery. Not every self-publishing author uses an editor, many don't proof read and quite a lot of the writing needs a lot more work - all of which means that people are rightly a bit suspicious of titles published in this way.
On the other hand, the challenge this creates can become a 'marketing' opportunity in itself. So, now I need to sharpen my sales skills.