Options for publishing can be confusing and there are some you’ve probably never heard even considered.
Do you know your publishing options? Most articles online won’t contrast and compare them. People are generally set in one camp or another. Today, I will attempt to give you an overview of the publishing options as they stand in 2018.
This is a concise version of the set of articles that will be published over the coming weeks, where I will highlight each option in detail. For the sake of giving you a quick overview, we will highlight what each is and give you good information in a completely objective way. Use this information to begin.
your evaluation process on the Writer’s Success Worksheet.
Traditional Publishing House
Of course, this is on the top of the list because this is the first thing people learn about when they look for publishing options. Everyone knows about traditional publishing houses but they are generally separated into two categories – Traditional Big 5 and Boutique Traditional or Small Press. There are some similarities and differences between the two and knowing the differences is key.
Who are the Big 5? Penguin Random House, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, Hachette, and MacMillan.
These five big houses own at least 75+% of the market share. When the market began to shift with the introduction of the e-book as well as streaming audio options, their response to stay alive was to acquire smaller presses and consolidate. Many of these smaller presses operate under their own imprint with their own genre choices thus they can be hard to detect.
The industry now offers many other alternatives to traditional publishing which means they are beginning more fiscally aware of their budgets and they are tightening their belts. To get into a Big 5, you need to meet certain criteria (generally, any rule can be broken if done the right way):
- Previous publication credentials.
- Why is this necessary? Because Big 5 are risk averse, meaning they offer advances. They are not the only ones who offer advances but in general, you won’t get an advance from a smaller press as they just don’t have the budget. If your book doesn’t perform the way they project it to, they are out that advance and that scares them. They do lose money this way month to month and year to year.
- Literary Agent
- The Literary Agent is like the wholesale middleman in retail. They have examined the product and done the due diligence most Big 5 publishers don’t have the time or budget to do. Agents invest the time in the author and the manuscript to ensure it’s as ready as possible for publication. This shift is relatively recent. It used to be the editor at the publishing house prepared the author and the manuscript but their role had shifted more to the priority of marketing their authors and making them stars.
- 10,000 people in your base network/tribe/fandom/funnel – whatever you choose to call it.
- Your network/funnel/tribe need to be established because it’s much easier to market to an established audience. They want a proven track record of fans, hence why they generally prefer those with a larger network or those who have already been published. Can you possibly have a large enough network to get a contract without being previously published? Sure – asked Ben Hardy, number one writer on medium but his network is relatively large and constantly growing.
A Big 5 will take care of addressing all the different formats and distribution for your book but be wary about the contract. Know what rights you have concerning your work that goes beyond the printing and distribution of the story.
Biggest Myth about a Big 5 contract: You are signed with a big house so you won’t have to worry about any marketing at all and your book will be a success and on lists and winning awards everywhere. NOT TRUE! I cannot stress enough, just like the wealth in the country, the book marketing efforts of Big 5 go toward their top 10% of authors. These are usually established and well-known authors. They want to maintain their presence and won’t waste time on yours until your sales hit high enough to hit a list (which usually only has 100 spots). You must do your own marketing even if you get a Big 5 contract.
Boutique Publishers/Small Presses
How do the Big 5 differ from boutique publishing houses or small presses? Simple, it comes down to advances and reach. Many of the smaller houses can’t offer the reach, network or advance like the well-funded and established Big 5. That is not to say they aren’t a great option but you have to decide how important an advance is for you.
Boutique publishing houses have smaller budgets thus they are pickier but you will get a more family-like experience. More one on one time and they will be more open to allowing you to guide the vision of your book in general. Their marketing budgets can be small too and if they already have a big author carrying them, that author will be receiving a fair amount of the marketing budget.
Small publishers can be sharks. Make sure you read the contract from the first to last word. Anything you don’t understand, learn to understand it or find a lawyer. If you’re ever in doubt, negotiate. Sharks swim in any water.
Biggest Myth about Boutique Publishing Houses: They’re easier to get into because you don’t need an agent. While this may be true for some smaller presses trying to establish themselves, it’s not true about all of them. Do your research. Know who you’re sending your work to and how they operate. This is crucial in the long run.
Vanity Press/Partner Publisher
And we have reached the sewer rats if the industry – vanity presses or partner publishers. Now, I don’t call them rats but others do. Why? Because they charge you for publishing your book and it ain’t cheap. People can spend thousands and still have to wait a year or more for their book to get published.
This option may be right for you if you are someone who uses their book as a tool in their business, like a public speaker or comedian but if you’re just the average Joe, you won’t have the money for it in most cases and honestly, there are better options.
Biggest Myth a salesman from a vanity publisher will tell you: you have to spend money to get your book published if you want it done your way. Their packages are the best and safest route to guarantee hassle-free publication. While the former may be correct as it can cost to self-publish, there is no publishing process that is hassle-free.
This is all the time I deem necessary for these publishers because they aren’t looked on very favorably by almost everybody. Hopefully, they are a fading point in the publishing history. I know, it doesn’t sound very objective but I tried.
An emerging market called the Mentor Publisher has surfaced over the last few years. These ones can be hard to find because people often mistake them vanity publishers but they aren’t. How are they different? They strive to marry the best of both worlds. So this is a different type of publishing house. Most of them run off the model of acquiring work like a regular publisher, but they are more flexible on the terms and your royalty rate will depend on how much you are relying on the publisher.
Mentor publishing is a good choice for first-time self-publishers as well as established authors who want more control over their books and branding. This can be a good hybrid option that is not hassle-free but gives more direction and assistance than attempting to go through the process yourself. It can make it less daunting for the first-timer.
This option can also lend credibility to the author as they will be represented by an actual publishing house. Think of it as having most of the right of a self-published author but the standing in the market as a traditionally published author.
Biggest Myth about mentor publishers: they are just a different form of vanity publishing. NOT TRUE. They operate using completely different objective and options. If you want the power and the assistance, this is truly the way to go.
This is a big market and while many traditionally published authors will scoff at the idea, it is a very valid road and it is gaining acceptance every day. While the disdain can be warranted because there are many bad writers that self-publish, there are plenty of good and great self-published authors out there as well.
As the market is evolving, so are your options. Cost varies by option. So does distribution. Here are the major players in the market today.
Createspace/Amazon: This option can be completely free unless you want worldwide distribution. If you’re happy selling your books only on Amazon, this is a great option for you. Again, read terms and conditions and make sure you understand the terms for things like a free ISBN and the like. Amazon also offers services to create your e-book for audible, which is the biggest emerging market in books right now. Audio books are becoming wildly popular and this option will ensure you have every format to sell. While Amazon is probably one of the simplest routes, they do not offer the opportunity for pre-sales, which have become pivotal in the marketplace.
IngramSpark: A lesser known option because it can cost you money. They ask for a nominal fee to upload your book but you can get a paperback or hardback and the digital copy to distribute for $49. That’s all it costs. They offer tools for cover layout and calculators and industry information to properly price your books. Createspace actually uses IngramSpark’s extended distribution network and you can get your book on Amazon through the Ingram Spark distribution network. I.S. also allows for pre-sales and a reduced rate on larger book orders made by the publisher. But they don’t offer a free ISBN and those aren’t cheap. They also don’t offer audiobook creation or distribution. So you would have to do that through another company.
Wattpad: Fanfiction has created many writers and now they are a niche and while Wattpad services this niche, it also services those who want to be published in other genres as well. It started as a fanfiction site and has now grown to include all genres and authors of all ages. To publish, all you need is an account which readers are required to have as well. There are contests which assist in marketing your work and they do recommend covers for your stories, however long they are. This is an open-source tool however and is free for both the author and the reader. There is an ad-free version you can pay for as a reader but you don’t get royalties for your work. Some authors use this in conjunction with another service as a marketing tool to get readership.
If you’re fine having your book online and only in digital format, you can check out these options too:
Some of them cost money while some don’t. These sites offer comprehensive publishing tools and assistance and while the print book isn’t completely dead and probably never will be, these can be cost-effective options for getting your work out there.
And this was the short version. If you’re looking into publishing options because you’re on the verge or have already finished the almighty book, then check out my Writer’s Success Worksheet to see what next steps you can take to be ready for the publishing process.