Earlier today on Twitter, I shared a blog post by Nathan Bransford about publishers and imprints. His main point? “Publishers are squandering their brands on imprints few people outside of Manhattan and Brooklyn have heard of.”
I won’t recap his entire argument, and instead invite you to read his thoughts and then come back here for a poll.
Basically, I’m curious if the publisher of a book has any meaning to the general reader. Do you care which house publishes a writer you like? Do you have a favorite publisher, or one whose books you always find yourself gravitating to? Pick an option below, and feel free to share additional thoughts in the comments.
13 thoughts on “Do You Care About Publishers?”
My husband works for a publisher (although on the textbook side, not the novel side), and while I'm always glad to see that his publisher has put out a book that I love, I don't go looking specifically for them. And I certainly don't put off buying other books just because they are published by competitors. I'm buying the books for the authors and the story, not the publisher!
Having recently taken a course on children's book publishing I've definitely started to notice it more and realized my favorite authors generally come from certain publishers/imprints. I definitely understood Nathan's argument in that post, but before I had a vested interest in publishing (both in writing and in my MA/MFA program) I didn't notice/care.
For me, it's one of those things that can push me over the edge if I'm on the fence about buying something. Like "Oh this one sounds interesting but I can only buy two books today – oh, it's published by Simon Pulse? Sold."
But I don't go in to the store looking for books by certain publishers. It's just an extra. Like a blurb from an author I love.
I think the point about blurbs is an excellent one. It may help you make a decision, but it's not necessarily the deciding factor.
Like Sarah, I don't look for books by particular publishers, but the names do help. For example, two of my top three favorite books are both published by Greenwillow, so seeing Greenwillow's imprint on a book I'm on the fence about will probably push me to buy it.
I only started noticing publishers after I got serious about writing for publication. But the only reason I check now is to get a feel for what imprints publish what sorts of novels, or to see if something is self-pubbed…
There are certain small houses that I really like and it will push me toward buying (like Soho, or Midnight Ink) but otherwise, it doesn't matter to me as a reader.
In general, I have a sense of "familiar" publisher name vs "unfamiliar," but not "Well, Penguin usually only publishes this kind of book, so I should look for Del Rey for that kind of book." Well, not much of that.
On the other hand, I have bought now enough off-label imprints of authors I trust that my concerns are less whether a book is properly edited in terms of being any good vs. whether it's properly edited in terms of being spell-checked and attractively typeset.
I ALWAYS check out the publisher on Amazon because I'm still a little wary of buying a book that is self published (having had a couple of bad experiences with unedited/plotless self-pubbed e-books). So I check the publisher's name against a Google search to make sure it's a legit imprint.
Also, If I'm in two minds about a book, the bigger/better a publisher is (in my mind), the more likely the balance is to tip in favor of purchase. I'm not sure if that's necessarily the right approach though 🙂
I don't much care WHICH publisher – I don't follow particular houses or imprints – but I do VERY MUCH care that it is by a recognized publisher. I'm highly wary of self-published books and prefer to read something that has been vetted, edited and committed to by experienced people who have a track record and base their career on publishing books that meet a certain standard.
And, while I don't currently care about a particular house or imprint, I think this is a place with GREAT potential for nabbing readers – the publisher as the stamp of approval, and an imprint could become almost like a trusted editor's curated line of books, with each imprint having a certain feel. This would probably work best if the editor in charge cultivated a bit of a persona through social media, with blog posts about themes relevant to the kind of books they like, tweets highlighting other things they like – give readers a real sense that someone who's taste they know is choosing these books.
Authors do take priority over publishers when I shelve things… but oh, it's a close one. I definitely notice which publishers I end up liking books from. I have a ton of Orbit and Simon Pulse, for example.
Of course, I'm not sure if I'd notice it as much if I weren't an author myself. I don't think I paid as much attention before I started writing. I definitely think that's changing in these days of self-publishing, though.
I NEVER noticed a publisher before I started writing for publication (with the exception of Harlequin category romances). now, since I am in the industry, I notice more what certain publishers "do." But I have never met a reader (who wasn't some super savvy blogger type) who noticed a publisher.
However, that being said, I was just perusing amazon yesterday and noticing that I literally cannot tell the difference anymore between a self published book and a traditionally published one based on the cover or description — sometimes the price tips you off, though.
I tend to care somewhat, but then I'm a book and reading fanatic. On Nathan's blog I likened it to Record Labels. It would be nice if imprints had a certain kind of recognizable "flavor" the way that certain Record Labels have a recognizable sound.
It seems like the big buyers, these days, are young adults. I guarantee you teen readers don't know what publishing house puts out their favorite books. GUAR-AN-TEE you. I've been teaching YA's for 18 years. Most of them can't find the date of publication for their book report forms. They'd pick "What's a Publisher?" every time.
But the big money maker at school is Scholastic, because it offers a book fair. The book fair takes place during parent/teacher conferences, because we have a captive audience. School librarians get freebies and bonuses for selling X-number of books (sort of like how Tupperware used to work, back in the good ol' days), so they push kids to buy these books. It's too bad adult readers don't have something similar.