So, what do publishers do?
According to an internal document leaked to Digital Book World by Hachette Books Group in December, they (edited and shortened excerpts from the document):
1. Find and nurture talent: Identify authors and books that are going to stand out in the marketplace; discover new voices; nurture writing talent; foster rich relationships with authors and provide them with expert editorial advice.
2. Fund the author’s writing process: Invest in ideas in the form of advances paid to authors, allowing authors time and resources to research and write; and invest in infrastructure, tools, and partnerships.
3. Distribute and sell book to widest possible audience: Distribute books to the right place, in the right numbers, and at the right time both in print and digital; work with retailers and distribution partners; tackle supply chain complexity; explore new product ideas even if, in some cases, a positive outcome is not guaranteed (as with apps and enhanced ebooks); and act as a price and promotion specialist (coordinating 250+ monthly, weekly and daily deals on ebooks at all accounts).
4. Build author brands and protect copyrights: Generate and spread excitement about authors; present books to the marketplace in exactly the right way through marketing and publicity expertise; and protect authors’ intellectual property through strict anti-piracy measures and territorial controls.