Association of the Belgian Publishers

Adeb - Association of the Belgian Publishers

Publishers & Distributors › Toolbox › The Role of a Publisher

A book begins with a desire : the desire to tell, to tell of oneself, to explain, to pass on many things – stories, people, mysteries, theories, images…

A book gives birth to a meeting, of hopes and dreams of a project, between an author and publisher who is above all the first reader. The publisher detects, analyses, criticises, as demanding as they are enthusiastic !

A book is built around one essential point : to make people want to take it, consult it, glance through it, read it. This is also the result of the talent of graphic designers, illustrators, photographers and printers.

A book is transmitted through the work of distributors, representatives, and journalists who broadcast its existence. After this, the book finds its place in bookshops, libraries, and eventually the hands of the reader.  

L'éditeur est en effet un passeur ! Et même que, sous cette appellation, il représente à lui seul tout un petit peuple de passeurs : découvreurs, lecteurs, traducteurs, compositeurs, correcteurs, metteurs en page, illustrateurs, démarcheurs, promoteurs, comptables et tous ceux qui sont installés dans les interstices de l’entreprise. Liste que je dresse sans manquer d’avoir une pensée particulière pour de petites maisons d’édition où l’éditeur solitaire joue à l’homme-orchestre.

(The publisher is, essentially, a go-between ! And, even in this definition, they represent alone only a small part of the go-betweens : scouts, readers, translators, compositors, proofreaders, typists, illustrators, salespeople, promoters, accountants and everyone else involved in all the many facets of this multifaceted industry. And that list I've just drawn up doesn’t even touch upon the small publishing houses, where a lone publisher plays as a one-man band.)                                                                      

Hubert Nyssen, Founder of the éditions Actes Sud.

Following the example of winegrowers or farmers who guarantee the origins of their products with an ‘Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée’, in respect of the tradition and particular know-how involved, the publisher, by putting their publishing label onto a work, guarantees the quality of the contents and the respect of all of the professionals in the book’s journey. 

The publisher : a professional in the service of society and culture

The role of a publisher does not only consist of simply putting a work in the hands of the public. Beyond the financial risk the publisher takes by publishing the work, their contribution, or that of their team, is significant and continuous throughout the process, from its conception to sale, with contributions being made by different areas of the publishing industry.

Here is a (non-exhaustive !) list of the jobs involved in the role of publishing…

  • Observing the needs of society, and new reading habits.
  • Creating publishing brands, collections, new projects.
  • Supporting authors and publishing their works with respect to copyright (and rights of all parties).
  • Selecting works to be published by their themes and style of writing.
  • Checking the syntax, spelling, and that the work respects the typographical rules.
  • Creating a beautiful book, taking care over the cover art and the jacket, whilst ensuring it is readable as well as aesthetically pleasing.
  • Publishing the work in all available formats – paper and electronic...
  • Putting it into print, and supervising the print run.
  • Deciding on a selling price, according to sales and availability.
  • Registering and indexing the title in the bibliographic legal databases.
  • Informing commercial entreprises, bookshops, libraries and schools of the book’s publication.
  • Promoting the book to the press, and on social media.
  • Paying all of the professionals involved in the book’s journey.
  • Careful monitoring of all reactions, reviews, criticisms and opinions of readers regarding the publication.

In many cases the publisher is also the head of a business, with all of the responsibilities this entails.


The Publisher's Guide

This guide, published by le Centre national du livre (the National Centre of Books) and la Fédération interrégionale du livre et de la lecture en France (the Interregional Federation of Books and Reading in France), devotes a chapter to the new challenges of the publisher's role.

Download it here: