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What Type of Publishing is Right for You?

Wait, there are different types of publishing?

Yes, publishing falls into four main categories: Traditional, Hybrid, Vanity, and Self. They are entirely different from one another. The goal of this article is to help you understand what kind of publisher (or not, in the case of self-publishing) is right for you. Your goals for publishing your book will be a critical deciding factor in which is right for you. So, let’s start there.

Your goals

You may not have spent much time thinking about what your goals are for getting your book published. Submitting your work to publishers is the next logical step after you finish your work after all. It’s what everybody does, right? The first question we ask authors when we’re interested in their manuscript is, “What are your goals?” Here is a list of different goals an author might have:

• I’m interested in sending copies to my family and friends

• I want to be a New York Times Bestseller

• Being published will get me more speaking engagements or help my business

• I want to be in the driver’s seat when it comes to editorial and marketing decisions

Think about what is important to you. Do you want readers all over the world reading your book? Is sharing your story exactly the way it is more important to you? Do you have a chunk of money to invest? Are you willing to give up total control? Get your goals together and bounce them off the different models. One will likely speak to you more than the others.

Traditional Publishers

What most people think of when they think of a publishing house. What traditional means, in a practical sense, is that you will be offered a contract that pays you royalties and maybe even an advance. Traditional publishers pay for editorial, production, and marketing so there is never money out of pocket for you. Additionally, traditional publishers are only successful if their books are successful in the market. This means that your success is their success and vice-versa. You and your publisher are in the trenches together. It’s an excellent model and ensures that your publisher only wins when you win — symbiosis at its best.

However, traditional publishers have demands they expect you to accept. You will give the publisher an exclusive right to publish the work in various forms. That means you can’t shop around if you’re unhappy. It’s like a marriage. Because they only succeed if your books succeeds, traditional publishers will likely have strong opinions on the work itself. Practically this means that you can expect your publisher to propose changes to the work and have their ideas on how it to market it. For some authors, this is welcomed and encouraged. For others, it isn’t. Again, it comes back to your goals.

Pros

• Take care of all the expenses of editing, producing, and marketing your book

• Skin in the game: are only successful if you are successful

• Prestige, high standards

Cons

• Exclusive grants of rights and other onerous contract terms

• Will likely propose changes to your work

• Are driven by the business of publishing, they want to make money

Hybrid Publishers

Exactly what the name implies. They are a blend of traditional publishers and vanity publishers. The key difference from a traditional publisher is that hybrid publishers expect their authors to cover some or all of the cost of editing, producing, and marketing the book. The critical difference from vanity publishers is that hybrid publishers care if an author’s work does well in the market. The better books do, the more customers a hybrid house can attract.

The upside of hybrids is that they “work” for the author. Practically this means they outline exactly what they are going to do for the author and how much it is going to cost. Authors select options that make sense for them depending on their unique situation. Additionally, hybrids, for a cost, can typically get a book to market much more quickly than a traditional house. When it comes to rights, authors maintain them. Further, the author makes the lion’s share of the royalties.

Pros

  • Highest royalties

  • Less onerous contract terms

  • More editorial control for authors

Cons

  • Money out of pocket

  • You only get what you pay for

  • Conflicted business model: authors and readers are customers

Vanity Presses

Are houses that charge a fee to publish a book for an author. They are similar to hybrid houses in that they offer services to authors that require the author to spend money. They are different from traditional and hybrids in that they are not invested in whether or not an author’s book sells in the market. The upside of a vanity press is that they will publish anything. So, if you have a memoir of your family that you would like edited, bound, and shipped to your house to give away for gifts, they are an option.

The downside of vanity presses is that they are typically predatory. They will gladly accept your manuscript submission, call you two days later, and gush about how amazing it is. Then they will try and talk you into a “package.” They will pressure you into signing an agreement. Their business model is predicated on getting you to part with your money. Additionally, their editorial and marketing practices are sketchy at best. There is no reason to work with these houses. The rise of self-publishing has made them defunct. Unfortunately, they and the authors they prey on haven’t accepted it yet.

Pros

  • You can publish whatever you want

Cons

  • Too many to list

Self-publishing

Exactly what the name implies, it is an excellent option for some authors. There are many articles written about the benefits of self-publishing. We’ll sum it up this way: you call all the shots. You get to publish the book you want. No one is going to tell you to change anything. You hold all the rights to the work. It’s relatively inexpensive. Plus, there are some wild success stories for motivation.

The downside of self-publishing is that you are in it alone. You don’t benefit from the editorial, production, and marketing expertise of a traditional house. You also have to cover all the costs associated with producing and marketing your book. You will research freelancers, interview them, and decide if they are the right fit. Additionally, you have to manage those resources. It is the most labor intensive of all the models.

Pros

  • Maintain all rights to the work

  • Publish what you want

  • Relatively easy these days

Cons

  • Can get expensive

  • In it alone

  • The author is a project and resource manager

Which is the right model for you? Only you can answer that question. Like we said initially, it all comes down to your goals as an author.

Erik Evans