Maybe you’re like most normal people and don’t pay much attention to who the publisher of a book is. If you read a lot, and can get behind the glitz and glam of an Amazon page, you might come to trust certain publishers over others. The fact is, despite the difficulty some of us have getting published, there are a lot of presses out there. Some are clearly self-publishing vehicles, but many are small, independent houses that focus on specialized topics. The sheer numbers can be bewildering. I was looking for a reputable book on a certain subject the other day and, given my job, I always check the publisher. Several in a row came up that I had never even heard of before. I guess there is money to be made in publishing yet, if only one could find the matching pieces.
With academic publishing you can spend five or more years of your life writing a book and you’ll earn royalties that literally won’t cover a month’s rent when you’re done. Even while this is happening there are people who make a living publishing books with presses you’ve never heard of. They know how to get average citizens to buy their books. I’ve been working in publishing for over a decade now and I guess I still don’t have it figured out yet. It’s complex, and even with online publishing helps like agent-finding sites or Duotrope, you’ll find that each day brings its own changes. I’ve learned through personal experience that many publishers simply don’t last.
What many of these fly-by-night publishers understand better than established academic presses is that price matters. Well, let me put that in more precise terms, for all publishers need money—fly-by-night publishers know that average people will buy only the books they can afford. These presses I’ve never heard of sell books for the industry standard of about sixteen bucks. My least expensive book sells for about twenty-two and I’ve been told more than once that it’s too expensive for most mortal budgets. Collectively, my four books cost almost $250, averaging out at sixty per pop. Two of them were written for general readers who have no hope of being able to afford them. I tried to find an agent for one of them, and the other was a series book (no agent will touch such a thing). Perhaps I should’ve tried a lesser-known press that could afford to offer my books at affordable prices. You could do worse.