A publishing house is another name for a publishing company. It is a company that takes the written work of a writer or musician and makes it available to the general public. Most all books and songs are published through a publishing house.
A large publisher typically works with writers who have already established themselves in their genre. The publishing house works with both the writer and his or her agent to negotiate publishing contracts. Many times, a particular publisher contracts a writer for more than one book, over a period of years. During this period, the writer may or may not be allowed to publish her work through other publishers. This type of contract is usually referred to as an “exclusive” agreement.
Once a publisher has a written agreement and the book has been accepted, editors employed by the house generally make revisions. Depending on the terms of the contract, the editors may or may not have the final say. Some writers specify in their contracts that they will review editor suggestions, but that the final wording will be up to them.
After editing is complete, the publisher typically makes decisions regarding actual production of the material. This includes book covers, size of the book, and the type of paper used. In addition, the publishing house makes decisions related to marketing and sales, such as advertising venues, and the target market for the book. One of the most important decisions the publishing house makes is in regard to the number of copies printed, as this often signals what it expects in sales. Publishers seldom order huge quantities unless they believe the book will be very successful.
There are different sizes and types of publishing houses, and though there are numerous large and well-known publishers all over the world, small publishers also do important work. Sometimes small publishers devote their work to a specific genre, which may limit their growth as a company. New York City is known for being the home of many large and small publishing houses.
Many new writers begin their writing career with a small publishing house, because it is often difficult to get larger publishers to take a chance on untested and unknown talent. Small publishers are often on the lookout for new talent in the hopes that a successful book by a new writer could change their standing in the publishing community. From the point of view of an author, a small publishing house is usually preferable to self-publishing or not being published at all.