What Is a Publisher? And Why You Might Not Count as One

October 2006
by Jan Nathan, Executive Director, PMA

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As we move into fall and
interact with many different marketing and awards programs on behalf of our
publisher members, we keep running into something exceedingly frustrating. I
know I have already written about what a publisher really is, but I think we
need to discuss this one more time.


Throughout the year, people become
PMA members under their own names or their companies’ names. Most indicate that
they are the publishers of a book in print or of a book that will soon come
out. We begin by sending new members all sorts of information about publishing
and about us. Sometimes months go by before a self-publishing startup enters a
title in a PMA program, and that’s when we find out that the author is not in
fact the book’s publisher, even though, in many instances, the book bears the
name of the author’s publishing company.


Instead, the book’s official
publisher is a print-on-demand company the author used, because the ISBN
(International Standard Book Number) on the book belongs to the POD firm. Since
the book trade places orders in terms of ISBNs—and not in terms of titles
or authors’ names—an author who does not own a book’s ISBN will never see
orders for that book coming from the trade. So it becomes our job to call and
explain that PMA programs must generally be open only to publishers, and that
the member does not qualify.


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