- Traditional/legacy publishing
- Hybrid/supported publishing
Each option has its pros and cons – here’s a quick summary of each. You’ll find more detail in our free-to-download e-book The Publish Pathway.
The Traditional Publisher
The ‘traditional’ publishing business model is for the publisher to contract the author to publish their book. This might include the publisher buying the copyright of the author’s intellectual property for a defined period of time, which may limit your freedom to use your material for other purposes. These days, you’re unlikely to get an advance unless you’re already a big name author and your royalties are typically 8% to 10% of net receipts from sales of your book. The traditional publisher then takes all the financial responsibility for getting the book published.
Although landing a big name publishing contract is often the dream for many aspiring authors, being published with a mainstream traditional publisher is not for everyone. Whatever the quality of your content, you are only likely to be offered a publishing contract if you have a substantial list of followers, fans or clients you can sell to.
The pros of traditional publishing:
Kudos: for some, a big name publisher is an ego boost. Distribution: your book (at least for a limited time) is more likely to find its way onto more bookstores’ shelves. Marketing: most big, and some small, traditional publishers have in-house marketing and publicity departments – not necessarily that effective. No upfront cost: you won’t have to spend any money on the production of your book.
The cons of traditional publishing
Loss of Freedom: your book will need to fit their brand. Loss of Control: what you can do with your book (or even say about your book) will be limited. Loss of Ownership: you may be signing over your IP and copyright. Lack of Speed: traditional publishers are slow, cumbersome and full of political, financial and shareholder pressures. This leads to a long delay between submitting and then getting a response to your proposal; then landing a deal and selling any books.
Self-publishing can look like an attractive publishing option financially, but if you are not technically knowledgeable, prepared to put in a lot of time learning how to, or pay other freelance individuals to help you, you will need to think carefully about this option.
The pros of self-publishing
Freedom, Control and Ownership: your book is your own and no publisher can tell you what to put in or how to position it. Maximum Profit: 100% of your sales income comes directly to you. Time: you are working completely to your own timescales. Low Risk: You can spend virtually nothing (though professional editing and cover design is strongly advised) except your own time.
The cons of self-publishing
Lower Kudos: if your book looks amateurish in content or production values it could do you more harm than good. Distribution: you won’t be able to get such good listings with wholesalers if you are not a ‘publisher’ with a list of at least ten books. Project Management: unless you pay someone else to manage the process for you, every aspect of the publication of your book is down to you. Lack of Marketing: as a self-published author, marketing and promotion is 110% your job. Hidden costs: you can self-publish an e-book for almost no cost to you, but to publish a printed book means you have to source and invest in professional services. If you get it wrong, you might have to start again.
This is what we do at Rethink Press; we work mainly with entrepreneurs, business owners, coaches and consultants, helping them write and publish high quality books that bring them income, impact and influence.
Reputable hybrid publishing companies should be entirely transparent about their costs and contracts, and provide authors with only the services they need and want. There are some large (and some small) ‘self-publishing companies’ (a misnomer and contradictory term) that provide poor services at high cost, over-selling and under-performing, selling services such as marketing and promotion, which are rarely justified. Some of these ‘self-publishing’ giants service the ‘self-publishing arms’ of big traditional publishers.
Pros of hybrid publishing
Freedom, Control and Ownership: your book is your own and will appear how you want and need it to be, in content, look and positioning. Professional Production: the editor, designers, typesetter will be experienced, used to working with authors such as you, and with each other. Project Management: as well as not having to search for the right professionals to create your book, the time-consuming task of managing them, the technical and post-publication aspects will be done by an experienced publisher. A Real Publisher: although there should be no stigma about self-publishing, your book will have all the benefits of being produced and branded by a real publishing company. Quality: if you choose well, the end product will be high quality and professional.
Cons of hybrid publishing
Financial risk: You will always have to pay some upfront costs to get published. Most authors we work with get their investment back through the business their book attracts, not necessarily book sales. Lack of Marketing: as with self-publishing, you have to be the social marketer, PR agent and spokesperson for your book. Distribution: your book is unlikely to find its way onto many bookstores’ shelves. Predators: there are ‘self-publishing’ companies who regularly take money from first-time authors, deliver poor services, publish low quality books and up-sell additional services. All authors should check out any potential hybrid publishing company before they sign contracts with or pay money to them.