The Pros and Cons of the Three Common Publishing Models

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When it comes to publishing a book authors have many options. There are three common methods for publishing, and they all have their pros and cons. 

Traditional Publishing

Traditional publishing is what comes to mind for most people when they hear about the publishing industry. In this method of publishing the author writes the book and then other professionals take over the process of getting it out to the public. Traditional publishing is the most time consuming for hopeful authors. In order to be published with a large traditional publishing house an author has to write a book, put together a querying package, pitch themselves to an agent, likely face dozens of rejections, be picked up by an agent, and then hope that the agent is able to sell their book to a publisher. Publishers also like to see that an author already has some sort of following because despite popular belief, the work of marketing the book still falls on the author. A lot of the process just to be offered a contract is out of the author’s hands. However, this method is the cheapest way of publishing because an author has no out of pocket expenses. The agent does the footwork of selling to the publishing house, and they only get paid if they manage to get the author a contract. Then the publisher will either offer an advance (typically very small for first time authors), or if it is a small press, they might even offer to publish for royalties only. The agent does most of the work negotiating the contract to get the author the best deal possible. Once the contract is finalized the publisher and author work together on editing the book to meet traditional publishing standards. The publisher is also responsible for getting a cover (with or without the author’s input, depending on the agreement), formatting the book, working with the printer, and distributing the book to bookstores.

Although the publisher covers the costs of production of the book, traditional publishing also comes with many downsides. The first major downside of these types of book deals is that the publisher purchases some of the rights to the author’s story. This may include rights to publish, foreign rights, film rights, and any other rights outlined in the contract.  The publisher can make changes the author isn’t fond of, or they can choose a cover that the author hates, and the author doesn’t have a huge say in what the final version of the book looks like. The publisher can also sell their rights to other companies if they choose, and the author will only get a fraction of the deal’s value. The other major issue with traditional publishing is that the process is long. It can take an author years of trying and failing to get an agent or publishing deal. Then when they do finally land a deal it can take years before the book is released. A first time author usually gets a four figure advance which is typically gone well before pub day. Then the author has to wait until their royalties pay back the entire advance before they see another penny from the book.

Hybrid Publishing

Hybrid publishing is when an author pays a publishing company to publish their book for them. They usually have different packages you can choose from. They might include editing services, cover design, formatting, and distribution. Some even offer assistance with marketing, although those services are usually very expensive through a hybrid publisher. 

The first pro of hybrid publishers is that they are very good at catering to the needs of the author. If the author already has a cover, they can adjust the package for that. Or if the book has already been professionally edited and formatted they can omit those services. The author can pick and choose what services they need. Another great benefit of hybrid publishing is that the publisher usually does not get rights to the book, and all royalties are kept by the author. (Read through your contract, because some hybrid publishers do charge royalties in addition to their fees, but if that is the case they should be very low percentages compared to what a traditional publisher keeps.) The best part of hybrid publishing is that you have someone to ask questions and work with when there are bumps in the road, and when pub day comes you should have a book that looks just as professional as any traditionally published book.

As great as the help, and quality that you get with a hybrid publisher is, there are also several downsides. The biggest being the cost. Publishing packages can cost thousands of dollars, and the ROI (return on investment) might not be as good as the author is looking for. Most authors that are just starting their careers don’t have that much money to invest, and even if they did, they might not have the knowledge to market well enough to earn it back. Another major downside of hybrid publishing is that finding a reputable publisher can be difficult. There are many companies that will say they are a hybrid press, but they are really just a vanity press. A vanity press usually charges the author a large fee AND a large royalty percentage so that the author can say their book was published through a publisher rather than self published. It can take a lot of research to distinguish between vanity and hybrid publishers and it is easy for authors to be taken advantage of when they go this route. 

Self Publishing

The last publishing option is self-publishing. In this type of publishing the author is in charge of every step of the publishing process. They write the book, hire the editors, cover designers, formatters, and whatever else they need, and then make the book available to the public via their choice of publishing company (KDP, IngramSpark, Bookbaby, etc.) Then, they also market their book and direct traffic to their listings, or sell the book directly to customers. 

Self publishing comes with a lot of advantages. The investment can be whatever you want it to be – totally free, to thousands of dollars. Authors that invest in their books to make them as professional as possible are often the most successful, but those who cannot afford even a tiny amount can also access this option. The book becomes exactly as the author wants it to be, there is nobody else making design or editing choices. The royalty rate is 100% for self published authors, and many people have made successful careers for themselves using this publishing method. 

The worst thing about self publishing is that it can be very difficult to learn. There is a lot of information available about every step on the internet, but it can be overwhelming to do the research and find all the instructions you need. It can also be stressful to hire out services like editing and cover design when there are so many options. 

Each type of publishing has its benefits and downsides, but they are all viable options for publication. If you have questions or need guidance about what is best for you and your book, feel free to reach out to us!

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