The Three Types of Publishing
Publishing is a daunting task! Don't for a second think that Authors just whip up a manuscript and just send it to a Publisher and then start making huge amounts of money from Barnes and Nobles. It's a long and arduous process that usually leads to low profit returns for the Author, but don't lose hope!
The first thing you have to figure out is what type of publishing you wish to do, and exactly how much control you want to have over your manuscript. There is a big difference between the types of publishing, and I am here to walk you through the muddy waters of choosing the right one for you!
Ok, so there are three basic types of publishing: Traditional, Vanity, and Self-Publishing. There are some stark differences between the three and honestly, it's all about selecting the one that suits you the best. For authors who want to see their books on bookshelves and want the marketing to be handled by someone else, then Traditional publishing is the one for you!
Traditional publishing really hit its stride in the mid to late 1900s, mainly because venture capitalists, during a major boom to the economy, realized there was major money to be made by profiting off of author's work simply by promoting it and taking a portion of the profit in return. Is there a major difference now? No not really. Please don't misunderstand me, this is the most likely way to see your books on bookshelves in major retailers across the world. And it most definitely is what every first-time author hopes to have happen to them. This is why so many authors send out hundreds of Query letters each year to Literary Agents in hopes of being represented. Absolutely no judgement there at all!
The Big 5 houses (Penguin/Random House, Hachette Book Group, Harper Collins, Simon & Schuster, and MacMillan) dominate the literary landscape, and for good reason! They are amongst the oldest and, frankly the best managed. Every Editor and Agent worth their salt attempts to land a job at these houses. There are other smaller traditional publishing houses and honestly many of them are fantastic. Don't just stop at trying to be published by the monster publishing houses.
Here is where the important difference between the other two types of publishing comes into play. Besides marketing and handling printing for you, Traditional Publishing usually gives you an advance in pay for the rights to your book. Sometimes a small amount, others, a hefty lump sum. This all depends on what your Literary Agent works out for you. I do want to point out that I said, "for the rights to your book". There is a tradeoff for being traditionally published. You need to be prepared to make these kinds of decisions.
Vanity Publishing is the second of the publishing options. I know that you have heard a lot of negative things about Vanity Publishing, and for good reason. Historically it hasn't always had the best reputation. Before I go into the pros and cons of this type of publishing, I will warn you to do your research into each company.
A Vanity Publisher is a publisher whom you pay to publish your book. Clear and simple, no other definition will do. And because of this it has left a bad taste in the mouth of authors all over the world. Which is a shame frankly, because at the end of all avenues of publishing, you are paying, whether it's on the back end or the front end, you are paying someone other than yourself.
Sadly, corrupt Vanity Publishers have also taken advantage of many authors over time. Usually in the way of not living up to their end of the deal or taking over the rights to the book in hopes of further financial compensation later. This leaves the writer with a poorly designed cover, a badly edited manuscript, and a low-quality printed book sitting on their shelf.
I am happy to announce that this is not always the case! Many publishers who don't bill themselves as Vanity Publishers, because they follow a strict moral code, technically still fall into this category. For example, some Vanity Publishers (I won't and can't name names) don't publish just anybody's manuscript, but due to budget restraints for the company do require the cost of publishing to fall on the author. The upside to these companies is that they do leave all the rights to the author along with all of the profit, save a design and services fee which is mixed into the publishing price at the beginning. This fee usually includes your ISBN registration and copywriting as well as a copy edit and a cover design.
So don't give up on Vanity Publishing quite yet! DO YOUR RESEARCH and if you decide this is still an avenue you want to pursue, then by all means, reach out a Vanity Publisher who has a long history of moral business practices. There's no shame in a having a company do the leg work for you!
I do want to leave a side note that literally almost all of the marketing falls on the shoulders of the author in both Vanity publishing and the last type of publishing.
Which brings us to the last type, Self-Publishing.
Ever since the dawn of the printing press in 1440, authors have been self-publishing their work. Walt Whitman, Mark Twain and Virginia Woolf all self-published their early works until a traditional publishing house started publishing for them! Imagine, Mark Twain running down to his local print-shop and running off a few copies to drop off at a local shop to sell. It boggles the mind. And yet at the same time, it doesn't.
In the past few years self-publishing has skyrocketed! 30-34% of all eBooks sold are self-published, 300 million self-published books are sold each year, $1.25 billion worth of self-published books are sold each year and Amazon pays $250 million in royalties to self-published authors each year! Yeah... and that's why everyone and their mom is jumping on the Indie Publishing bandwagon. If you own your own rights, the skies the limit.
The problem with this meteoric rise of self-published books is the poor quality. When you aren't an expert writer, or editor, or a cover designer than the quality of your work suffers in at least one of these avenues. And that is not ok. The first thing that a reader looks at when they are picking out a book is the cover, it's so important! If you aren't an expert cover designer find a service that is! If you aren't an Editor, find a service that is! And finally, for the love of whoever you worship or don't worship, if you can't write, HIRE A GHOST WRITER! Literally, no one is going to judge you. We all want the population of the worlds readers to increase, and that starts with quality books. So, while we all believe that everyone has the next best seller in them, sometimes it means letting someone else help get it out of them.