What does a publisher do?
Many years ago I met the British politician Sir Rhodes Boyson at a drinks reception at the Institute for Economic Affairs.
“What do you do?” he asked me.
“I’m a commissioning editor,” I replied.
“Yes, but what do you do?” he asked.
It was only when I drilled down to the level of the activities that filled my week – presenting projects at publishing meetings, sending out contracts, and so on – that he was satisfied.
I thought his question was a good one. It made me realise that there were all kinds of jobs about which I know very little in terms of what the people doing them do. My friends who worked as technology consultant, investment manager, systems analyst etc. – I might understand the functions of their jobs (roughly), but I could not tell you what they spent their time doing.
The purpose of the series of posts I’m introducing here, then, is to answer that question – though in relation to the job of publisher, rather than commissioning editor.
There is currently a good deal of discussion online about what publishers do in a more abstract way – what their function is, how they might add value. The current series isn’t designed to deal with such concerns: its aim is more altogether more concrete. I work hard as a publisher: I hope that subsequent posts will manage to convey what, in the process, I actually do.