Poets & Writers

Inside Publishing

A LITTLE more than a decade ago, when e-books first blinked onto the scene, it became fashionable to ask whether writers still needed publishing houses. After all, if anyone could publish a book by posting a digital copy online, why should authors share their earnings with a publisher whose only role seemed to be lending credibility to the project? Since then there have been some notable self-publishing success stories, but many writers have learned the hard way that it can be hard to sell a book if nobody has heard of it.

This is where book publicists come in.

At any major publishing house, editors acquire and edit books, and sales reps work with bookstores to sell them, while publicists are responsible for arranging book tours and persuading media gatekeepers to feature the author—crucial elements in the success of any book that few authors can replicate on their own.

But if the internet hasn’t yet eliminated the need for publishing houses, or the publicists who work for them, it has radically changed how they publicize books. Forty or fifty years ago, if you were a writer who wanted to reach readers, all you really needed to do was write a great book. Once

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