One of the many reasons I love being a book coach to first-time nonfiction authors is because I get to help demystify how publishing works. Some of the most common questions I get are “What are the types of book publishing”, “Should I self-publish” and “What is traditional publishing”.
So I thought I’d answer these common questions for you too! Let’s dig in.
The 3 Types of Publishing
1. Traditional Publishing
This is the form of publishing that’s been around the longest and is probably what comes to mind when someone refers to the “publishing industry”.
When I am asked “What is traditional publishing?”, my typical answer is that the phrase generally refers to “The Big 5” (possibly soon to be 4) publishing company conglomerates — Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin Random House, and Simon & Schuster. Last I checked, about 280 smaller publishers are owned by these 5 giant publishing houses.
Having your book published by one of these companies is also, generally, what writers aspire for because these established leaders in the publishing industry also carry something of a cache. That said, while being published by one of The Big 5 houses may be something writers covet, it is far from the only way to publish your book, and it might not even be the right path for you.
With traditional publishing, goes a traditional process. You will need representation by a literary agent (who will take about 15%), the publishing company will produce and distribute your book, but you will likely be responsible for the bulk of the work in marketing it. You will receive an advance (low five figures for a new author generally) and will make a profit on books after a certain amount is sold. (Hint: you will not likely get rich, or live off just your book)
The next form of publishing is self-publishing and as it sounds, it is a way of publishing a book independently without a publisher.
Self-publishing has been growing in popularity along with the growth of Amazon and a whole array of self-publishing specialist businesses that make it easier than ever to publish a book on your own.
When a first-time aspiring author asks, “Should I self publish?” my typical response is “It depends” — to which I then ask the individual to tell me more about both their book idea and their goals for their book. These are the two keys to unlocking which publishing path might be right for you.
With self-publishing, you are investing your own money into the endeavor. You will pay for an editor, a cover designer, formatting into various print and digital formats — but all the profits will be yours.
There’s also a third form of publishing that’s growing quickly, hybrid-publishing.
Like the name suggests, hybrid-publishing is a blend of traditional publishing and self-publishing.
With a reputable hybrid-publisher, you gain the benefit of experts who will edit, produce, and get your book distribution. This last one – distribution, this means the ability for your book to get onto bookstore shelves, something that is extremely rare with self-publishing, but core to traditional publishing.
A few other distinguishing factors with hybrid publishing are that they are selective in which books they take on. Similar to traditional publishers, they are developing a list of books, versus just taking any old book. Because of their selectivity, your book may be eligible for important industry awards and bestseller lists typically unavailable to self-publishers.
With hybrid, you are going to be investing some of your own money up front and the publisher will likely be investing some of their own too. The financial side of things varies in this new industry, so do your research and ask questions. A publisher may call themselves “hybrid” to sound fashionable, but they might really just be vanity press in disguise.
Whichever path you choose, I wish you the very best of luck!