This guide was created to help librarians and anyone else who may be interested in purchasing quality books in a rapidly changing publishing world. I am a librarian working in the Academic field, but for many years I worked as an adult services librarian and cataloger in a public library. During that time, I saw many examples of professionally published works, who employ editors, and self-published works, who may or may not employ editors. Good editing is critical to producing quality material, and very few writers - traditionally published or self-published - can edit themselves as well as professional editors can.
Now a third option has entered the arena, reshaping the literary world in ways no one could have predicted. In November 2022, ChatGPT (Chat Generative Pre-Trained Transformer) stormed onto the playing field, becoming a game-changer in many ways. ChatGPT is an AI-driven natural language processing tool fueled by Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology. In a remarkably short span of time, AI-generated content started appearing for sale on major platforms where libraries make their purchases. This content can be nearly indistinguishable from content authored by humans. AI-generated content is both written and edited by artificial intelligence, and while AI-generated content can be high quality, there are some serious drawbacks to using it. So what can we, as purchasers and collection development librarians, do to ensure we continue to purchase quality materials? Here are some tips to navigate the vast sea of published content.
-Allison Sills, Instructional Librarian
It can be difficult these days to distinguish between traditional publishing houses, who employ editors for their content, and self-published authors, who may or may not use an editor. If you run across a publisher you don't recognize, you can check the sources below to find out more information.
If you can't find any information on a listed publisher, that publisher may be an independent or self-publishing author.
*“How to Find Publishers” AuthorMag, 22 April 2022, https://www.authormag.com/how-to-find-publishers/. Accessed 21 June 2023.
**Smith, Olivia. "The Biggest Educational Publishers" BookScouter, 17 April 2022, https://bookscouter.com/blog/the-biggest-textbook-publishers/. Accessed 21 June 2023.
***Meeks, Terrisa. "Writer's Market Online Died and No One Noticed." Medium.com, 25 Oct. 2021, https://medium.com/@thmeeks/writers-market-online-died-and-no-one-noticed-232d1c26db42. Accessed 27 July 2023.
It can be hard to tell by just looking at a publisher’s name if they are traditionally or self-publishing authors. Self-published authors frequently list their own name, or some variation, as publisher. But sometimes, self-published authors create new names to list as a publisher that sound traditional. If you are having trouble finding a publisher by the methods on the previous tab, research the author. Researching an author can provide valuable insights into their background, writing style and body of work. Here are some steps to help you conduct research on an author:
“Research the Author.” Reading Rockets, 24 July 2013, https://www.readingrockets.org/books/authorstudy/reasons/researchauthor. Accessed 21 June 2023.
Both traditional publishers and self-published books have awards. Here are some, but certainly not all, notable literary awards and bestseller lists that can help you discover quality books from traditional publishers:
In the list below, you'll find some fantastic resources to stay informed about quality books. These websites and podcasts offer valuable insights, reviews and recommendations on many aspects of the literary world, both traditional and self-published.
Visiting bookstores can be an excellent way to find quality books from traditional publishers. Here's how visiting bookstores can help in your search:
Curated Selection: Bookstores, especially independent ones, often have a curated selection of books chosen by knowledgeable staff who have a passion for literature. They carefully select books from a variety of genres and publishers, focusing on quality and reader appeal. By browsing their shelves, you can discover books that have been carefully chosen for their literary merit.
Staff Recommendations & Knowledge: Bookstore staff members are avid readers and are usually well-informed about the latest releases, bestsellers and notable books. They can offer personal recommendations based on your interests and preferences. Bookstore staff members are usually well-informed about the publishing industry. They can provide insights into the reputations of different publishers, the quality of their books, and any notable trends or developments in the industry. Engaging in conversations with bookstore staff can lead you to hidden gems and introduce you to new authors and publishers.
Publisher Displays: Bookstores often have dedicated displays or sections highlighting books from specific publishers or imprints. These displays showcase books that the bookstore believes are of high quality, and they can serve as a valuable guide for finding books from reputable publishers. You can look for displays featuring established publishing houses or imprints known for their commitment to publishing quality literature.
In-Store Events: Bookstores frequently host author events, book signings and readings. Attending these events provides an opportunity to engage with authors, hear about their writing process, and learn about their publishers. Authors published by traditional houses are more likely to be featured in bookstore events, giving you an opportunity to discover their works.
Local Focus: Independent bookstores often have a strong connection to the local community and may prioritize showcasing books by local authors or publishers. Exploring these sections can lead you to discover quality books from smaller, independent publishers that focus on producing exceptional works.
Visiting bookstores allows you to immerse yourself in the world of books, engage with knowledgeable staff and physically browse through a curated selection. It provides a tactile and personal experience that can lead to serendipitous discoveries and help you find quality books published by traditional publishing houses.
"How can visiting bookstores help you find quality books from traditional publishers?” prompt. ChatGPT, 24 May 2023, https://chat.openai.com.