What Every Author Needs to Know About the Three Most Common Book Publishing Models

By Chris Olsen

Are you considering publishing options for your book? Here’s an overview of common book publishing models and what you can typically expect from each.

Traditional Publishing

Traditional publishers primarily work with authors and celebrities who have a large fan base and mainstream appeal. These publishers take on the financial risk of your book, providing an advance on royalties (percentage of book sales paid to the author). They manage book marketing and distribution. The publishing process is lengthy and can take years. The publisher controls the title and cover art and retains the rights to your book for a number of years. Traditional publishers include the “Big Five”—Penguin Random House, HarperCollins, Hachette, Simon and Schuster, and Macmillan—as well as smaller companies that use the same type of author advance model. Many traditional publishers have multiple imprints, or specialized brands, which are targeted at different audiences. To work with a traditional publisher, you’ll likely need an agent, though investing in one is not a guarantee you’ll secure a publishing contract.

Self-Publishing

Print-on-demand platforms have made self-publishing attainable for many authors. Self-published authors typically retain 100 percent of book royalties and rights. The publishing process can be a more affordable one for authors willing to do the majority of the work themselves, including marketing and sales. Many bookstores won’t accept self-published titles, often because the editing and design don’t meet industry standards. In many ways, do-it-yourself publishing is like DIY home improvement. While both authors and homeowners could do the work themselves, there are parts of the process that benefit from the support of a seasoned professional. There are many companies and consultants that help authors through the self-publishing process. If you’re going to choose just one, make it a developmental editor. It’s the home improvement equivalent of hiring a structural engineer to weigh in on a new addition.

Hybrid Publishing

Hybrid publishing combines aspects of traditional publishing with some of the benefits of self-publishing. The author makes an investment in publishing services and works with experts in editing and design to ensure their book meets industry standards. The book is published with the publisher’s imprint, and most hybrids provide some promotion for the book. Hybrid publishing can be a more attainable option for many authors; however, the process varies greatly from publisher to publisher. For example, most hybrid publishers offer authors a higher percentage of royalties than traditional publishers. Many publishers ask for rights to your book for the duration of your contract.

About the Author

Chris Olsen is a broadcast media veteran turned communications consultant, educator and the author of “Whyography: Building a Brand Fueled by Purpose.” The founder of Publish Her and Publish Her Story, Chris has helped thousands of women tell their stories and publish their books.

About Publish Her

Publish Her is a female-founded and focused publisher dedicated to elevating the words, writing and stories of women. We are passionate about amplifying the voices of women of color, women with disabilities and members of the LGBTQ+ community. We aim to make publishing an attainable, exciting and collaborative process for all. Publish Her specializes in print-on-demand books, workbooks, journals, magazines and more.

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