It can seem sometimes as if there is a smorgasbord of terms involved with publishing. The first step is to understand the terms and what they mean. So let’s get started.
This section here is just an overview to understand terms. We’ll get into the nitty-gritty of each type soon.
It is interesting that we now call this category “traditional” publishing, when self-publishing has just as long a history. But it’s good to know how terms are being used in modern times, regardless of how they got there.
In our modern world, the idea of “traditional publishers” generally refers to New York City based large companies like Penguin Random, Macmillan, Harper Collins, Hachette, and Simon and Schuster. Many of these companies have merged or re-integrated over the years. Many of these own a number of subsidiaries. For example, Simon and Schuster has sub-groups, called “imprints”, of Scribner, Touchstone, Pocket Books, and more.
A traditional publishing house never asks for money up front. They pay you out of sales. They generally do the cover design, editing, and arrange for some marketing. In return they take a large portion of the profits and give you a portion.
Small Press Publishing
Not every publisher can afford the enormously high rent of New York City. Not every publisher wants to focus on Best-Sellers-Or-Bust. There are a variety of smaller publishers who generally focus on one specific niche or sub-niche of writing. They develop loyal fans based on a sub-topic.
For example Llewellyn is a well-known publisher which handles “new age” types of books. Dover is known for its reprints of classics. There are smaller presses which focus on gay & lesbian topics, on pet topics, on women’s issues, and just about any other sub-topic you can name. The line between traditional publishing and small-press publishing is quite vague. It has to do with whether an outside observer feels a company is “big enough” to qualify for one or the other.
Like traditional publishing, a small press company would never ask for money up front. They handle the editing and cover design. They then take most of the profits and give you a portion as the books sell.
Vanity Press Publishing
The word “Vanity” can have a negative connotation for some, as if the person is “vain” and wants to release a book which is not “worthy” somehow of “real” press consideration. Nothing could be further from the truth. Stephen King paid for his own publishing of his first book at age 15. L. Frank Baum of Oz fame did the same when he was 17. Edgar Allen Poe got a printer to make up some books for him way back in 1827.
A Vanity Press means you pay up front to fund the costs. That is the “vanity” aspect of this process. You are paying the company to do the “work” of publishing for you. You pay them to edit. You pay them to design a cover. You pay them to format it. And they ALSO take a portion of the profits of sales. So they are getting paid up front and on the sales side as well.
Self Publishing Self publishing has the word “self” in it – this means that you are handling the publishing of your work. This rarely means you have a printing press and binder in your back yard ?. Normally what this means is you personally choose and arrange for the various tasks that you can’t handle yourself to be done. Quite a number of self-publishers do their own book editing and layout. Both tasks can easily be handled on pretty much any copy of Word (or Word lookalike). Other authors hire helpers from places like Fiverr.com or Freelancer.com to handle the cover design or file generation.
The list of places to get the book actually printed is fairly large. There are a range of options – Amazon, Lulu, CreateSpace, CafePress, iTunes, Nook (Barnes & Noble), and much, much more. Most authors do this part themselves. Some authors hire a helper to make their posts from them.
Every time you hire a helper you are taking money out of your pocket – but for those who do not wish to take the time to learn the systems, they may be willing to forego that in order to get the book done and available.
With self-publishing the process can absolutely be FREE FREE FREE to the author. 100% free. Once you start hiring helpers to assist with editing, cover design, or other tasks, that is where the money comes in. So it’s a very good idea to shop around and get the best price for what you need to be done.
Print On Demand
Print on Demand is a term associated with several self-publishing options such as CreateSpace via Amazon. When you self publish with CreateSpace, it’s not that CreateSpace prints out 500 books and puts them into a warehouse for you. Your book exists in electronic form only. When a buyer orders a copy CreateSpace prints one copy of the book, binds it, and sends it to that buyer. They then send you your author share of the sale. So no physical books exist until a purchase is made.
This is fantastic for all concerned. For an author, it means you don’t have to pay for books up front. For the Amazon people (or whoever you use), it means they don’t waste tons of warehouse space with books that might or might not sell. And, heck, for the buyer, it means they don’t get a 3-year-old book where the binding might be getting iffy. The book they get is literally hot off the presses.
Now that we’ve covered some of the basic terms involved with publishing, let’s get into how each one has pros and cons!
Publisher Options - main page
Overview of Publishing Options
... Pros of Traditional Publishers
... Cons of Traditional Publishers
Small Press Publishers
... Pros of Small Press Publishers
... Cons of Small Press Publishers
Vanity Press Publishers
... Pros of Vanity Press Publishers
... Cons of Vanity Press Publishers
... Pros of Self Publishing
... Cons of Self Publishing
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