Types of Publishing

There used to be only one way to publish a book: go through a large publishing house in New York. Now, times have changed. There’s traditional publishing, self-publishing, small-press publishing, hybrid publishing, and partner publishing. There are e-books and print books, and “digital first” books.

So with all these options, how do you know which one is right for you?

I can’t answer this, because each person is different. Every writer has different goals, different projects, and different opinions. So let’s look at the pros and cons of each option!

Traditional Publishing: A large or mid-sized press publishes your book.

Pros:

  • The publisher handles all costs – other than additional marketing you choose to do on your own, you pay nothing. Note: if any publisher asks for money up front, RUN.
  • Your novel will be professionally edited, usually multiple times, including content editing, proof-reading, and copy-editing.
  • Networking with other, more well-known authors who also are signed with your publisher.
  • Usually, traditional publishing comes with a paid advance.
  • Access to the publisher’s distribution, including possible bookstore placement or prominent placement in e-book retailers.
  • A professional cover design.
  • A professional contract.

Cons:

  • Time. Usually, a publisher will schedule books several years ahead of time, so you may not actually get your book out for a few years. If you need an agent for a particular publisher, this might take longer, as you will need to query agents first.
  • Minimal – if any – input on cover design. While some publishers ask for author input, some won’t.
  • The editor may want changes to your book that you don’t necessarily agree with.
  • The market. Sometimes, even if a book is awesome, it will be a tough sell to a large publisher due to saturated markets (currently, this includes genres like dystopian and paranormal romance).

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Am I willing to accept a cover design for my book that may not match – or even slightly resemble – my vision for its appearance?
  • Am I willing to be patient and wait, knowing it could take months – if not longer – to get an agent, and then several years after that to get my book out? (Note – not all large / mid-sized presses require an agent – and some larger publishers have imprints that do not require agents to submit).
  • Am I willing to be flexible and compromise when it comes to editing this book with a professional editor?
  • If I don’t have an agent, am I willing to pay a lawyer to look over my contract before I sign it? (Note: no one HAS to do this, but I STRONGLY recommend having a lawyer look over any legal contract regarding rights to your book before you sign).
    ———If you answered “no” to these questions, traditional publishing might not be the best route for your book.

Small Press Publishing: A small press publishes your book. Can be considered a “hybrid” between traditional and self-publishing.

Pros:

  • The publisher handles all costs – other than additional marketing you choose to do on your own, you pay nothing. Note: if any publisher asks for money up front, RUN.
  • Your novel will be professionally edited. The depth and number of edit rounds depend on the publisher.
  • More control and input over your edits and cover design; small presses generally allow the author to be more involved in this process than a larger publisher.
  • Usually a larger royalty than a large publisher.
  • There will be some level of distribution and marketing done by the publisher, although not as much as a larger press.
  • Your book does not need to fall within the strict genre lines of larger publishers. For example, many larger publishers want your book to fall neatly into one specific genre for marketing purposes. Also, “saturated genres,” which today include dystopian and paranormal romance books, can be a hard sell for a large publisher, but eagerly welcomed by small presses.
  • A lot of small presses utilize the ever-growing e-book market, and can rack up significant sales this way.
  • A professional contract.
  • You can get into all small presses without an agent.

Cons:

  • Usually, small presses don’t pay an advance. If they do, it’s very small.
  • You book will likely not be in bookstores, unless the author physically goes to specific bookstores and requests it.
  • Some Amazon reviewers have pointed out that books from some small presses (NOT all) have typos and other basic editing errors.
  • “Staying power.” Unfortunately, with today’s economy, it’s difficult for publishers to stay in business. Some small presses that don’t have the same distribution as larger publishers have unexpectedly gone out of business, thus leaving their authors in the lurch.

Not a pro or con, but a lot of small presses have taken on the “digital first” model, in which an ebook is released first, with the clause that a print option of the book will possibly come available later, dependent on sales. Similarly, a lot of small presses have taken on “ebook only” models. This is especially true with small erotica presses.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Am I willing to accept the fact that my book will not be in most bookstores?
  • Am I willing to spend time doing research on different small presses, including reading reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, before submitting?
  • As with traditional publishing, am I willing to accept that I might not get the final say on the cover design for my book?
  • Also as with traditional publishing, am I willing to be flexible and compromise when editing with a professional editor?
  • If I don’t have an agent, am I willing to pay a lawyer to go over my contract for me before I sign? (Note: no one HAS to do this, but I STRONGLY recommend having a lawyer look over any legal contract regarding rights to your book before you sign).
  • Am I willing to make and actively use social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, a personal blog, or others in order to market my book? (Note: This can be a requirement by the publisher that the author develops social media sites).
  • ———If you answered “no” to these questions, a small press might not be the best route for your book.

Self-Publishing: The author publishes his / her own book, using a service like Smashwords or Createspace.

Pros:

  • You have complete control over your book. You choose the cover design, and you don’t have to make any significant editing changes to your book if you don’t want to.
  • All profits are yours – without having to give cuts to the publisher, editors, or agent.
  • You set the price for your book.
  • With the ever-growing popularity of e-books, as well as print-on-demand options, self-publishing is becoming more and more accepted, and self-published books are getting straight to the hands of readers. Many authors have made a significant amount of money through self-publishing.
  • Unlimited control over access to these books. If you want to give out a hundred free copies to reviewers, you don’t need to ask anyone’s permission.

Cons:

  • All costs come out of your pocket. Unless you trust your own editing and cover-design skills, or have a very competent and very generous friend, you must be prepared to spend a significant amount of money to hire someone to do this. This can cost in the thousands.
  • All marketing responsibility falls on the author. You must be active on social media to spread the word, and all printed “Swag” such as posters or bookmarks come out of the author’s pocket.
  • “How do I know when I’m ready?” Without a team working for your book, it’s easy to be unsure when your book is ready to be seen by the world. I’ve known people who have self-published, and then regretted doing it before their book was truly “ready.”
  • Unfortunately, there is still sometimes a stigma around self-publishing. Despite the fact that more and more authors are choosing to publish independently (and making a lot of money doing it!), there are still people who look down on these authors. Luckily, this attitude is starting to shift.

Ask yourself:

  • Am I in a place financially where I can afford to hire a professional editor and cover designer? If not, am I comfortable doing these tasks myself?
  • Am I active on social media? If not, am I willing to start?
  • Am I willing to accept that my book will likely not be in bookstores?

———If you answered “no” to these questions, self-publishing might not be the best route for your book.

 

In conclusion, there is no “right” answer. There is no perfect publishing option. Each option has pros and cons, and in the end, it’s a very personal decision. You need to do what’s not only best for you, but for your book!

Happy Writing!
-Meredith

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