Well before I ever thought I’d write one, book publishers knew Job One was marketing; in other words, getting eyes on, then convincing wallets to open. Job Two was managing distribution of their catalog. They did a fine job of it for many years.
Publishers took time to build gravitas for their catalog by taking many steps to insure that, for the most part, books were strongly edited, designed with the reader in mind, and manufactured well.
But at some point in the mid-70’s something changed all that and sloppy editing, ricky-ticky design, and low-quality manufacturing became the norm.
Buying a book was no longer an immersive, tactile, sensory-exploding, mind-bending trip. It became a maybe add-on along with a candy bar at the checkout. Of course profits declined and the timeline to getting product to market became shorter. Vicious cycle.
Then the self-publishing boom started; I was one of those forced into it because there was no longer any efficient way to pitch to publishers or agents, and was one of the first wave of authors publishing their own works in commercially viable form. That is, high quality editing, layout, design, and manufacturing. (For you agents and publishers reading this, please be advised I am very aware most self-published books suck on several levels. But are these really your competition?)
Still, the big bugaboo for everybody is always the selling. But these were the early days of the Shiny New World Wide Web and Internet was still not even in our vocabulary. I sold a lot of books via Amazon’s Advantage program for small publishers. Then Amazon went public and…that’s another story. I digress.
Read Part 2 of The Dichotomous Position of Book Publishers and Agents