What Is Author-Assisted Publishing and Is It the Right Path for You?

By Chris Olsen

Traditional publishing is unattainable for many authors. Several groups are grossly underrepresented in traditional publishing—women of color, women with disabilities, members of the LGBTQ+ community, or any combination of these.

Alternate models like author-assisted publishing (also called author-subsidized publishing) enable underrepresented authors to publish their work. These models have been around as long as traditional publishing—since the early 1900s—and have been instrumental to the spread of knowledge and ideas. They have made books more accessible and affordable and have helped facilitate the democratization of information.

On the publishing spectrum, author-assisted publishing falls between traditional publishing and self-publishing. It is a form of self-publishing where authors enlist the support of experts to publish their books.

Two well-known author-assisted models are hybrid publishing, which came into prominence in the 2010s, vanity publishing, which emerged in the 1940s. With both, the author typically sells the rights to their material for a set amount of time, pays for book publishing services, and shares the royalties with the publisher. While both of these fall under the category of author-assisted or subsidized publishing, they have been hotly debated fornot the same. Be sure to educate yourself on the differences.

Key Points About Author-Assisted Publishing

  • The author typically sells the rights to her book to the publisher for a set amount of time.
  • The author subsidizes the cost of book publishing.
  • Some assisted publishers also require the author to subsidize book inventory (printing and warehousing).
  • Some assisted publishers invest in book marketing (the author is expected to contribute significantly).
  • Assisted publishers typically manage distribution online.
  • Some author-assisted publishers negotiate sales and manage distribution in stores.
  • The author receives a percentage of profits (royalties).
  • Lifetime sales average fewer than 500 books.
  • If there is unsold book inventory, the author must pay to have it destroyed or shipped back.

Pros and Cons of Author-Assisted Publishing

  • The author invests in herself and the publisher’s expertise.
  • The author need not work with an agent.
  • The author typically has input on the content and process.
  • The process is typically quicker than traditional publishing.
  • Marketing and distribution in stores are not guaranteed.
  • Some books do not meet publishing industry standards.
  • Beware of vanity publishers that employ high-pressure sales tactics. (Read more about hybrid publishing vs. vanity publishing.)

A Different Kind of Author-Assisted Publisher

Publish Her is not a vanity publisher, nor are we a hybrid—though we are a member of the Independent Book Publishers Association. We have been recognized multiple times by Publishers Weekly magazine as a grade A publisher. Some key differences between Publish Her and other author-assisted publishers:

  • We believe authors should maintain full ownership of their work always, which means we don’t request rights like most publishers do.
  • We believe authors, not publishers, should profit most from book sales, which means—unlike most publishers—we don’t retain a portion of your royalties.
  • We primarily work with on-demand printers and never mark up the cost of printing, so in addition to helping save the environment, authors save money by making their own decisions about inventory.

To support women on their publishing journeys, Publish Her offers two models: Guided Self-Publishing and Collaborative Publishing. We also publish a limited number of books traditionally through our grant program. (Publish Her shares royalties with the author for books published traditionally through our grant program.)

To learn more about the book publishing industry, and the services Publish Her provides to support authors, check out our Choosing Your Publishing Path workshops.

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 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.