Publishing Options

Publishing is exciting because it means your book is finally going to become “real” and tangible. Yet, this is the part that so often derails even the most passionate and determined author. One reason is that many authors struggle through the writing and then suddenly have a finished book and nowhere to send it. If you are one of them, it may be that you started in the middle—writing—instead of at the beginning—planning. What follows are the seven most common publishing options.

1. Conventional or traditional publishers

There are two choices here. (1) You submit a proposal to a recognized publishing company and it is accepted; (2) The publisher assigns the book to you as a writer for hire and pays you a set fee. In both cases, the publisher assumes all publishing responsibilities. The publishing industry is highly competitive, and many of the larger houses are gobbling up the smaller ones. Publishers are in business to make money, and they look at your book as a commodity. They ask one question: Will it sell?

2. Self-publishing

You take on these responsibilities by forming your own publishing company. For advice on how to do this, check out Independent Book Publishers’ Association (IBPA) or its local chapter in your city. The guru of self-publishing is Dan Poynter, whose book, The Self-Publishing Manual: How to Write, Print and Sell Your Book, has become the bible for self-publishers. As a self-publisher, you are responsible for printing, warehousing, marketing, and distributing your books.

3. POD/Subsidy Publishers

Author services companies until recently were called print-on-demand (POD) publishers, but that designation is changing. POD is a digital technology that prints anywhere from one to 1,000 books at a time. The rest of the time your book is stored as a digital file on a large server. This eliminates the need for large press runs and storage space. Most author services companies, such as CreateSpace, iUniverse,, Xlibrus, and LuLu offer a variety of packages to authors and contract out the actual printing to Lightning Source or some other digital printer.

4. Co-publishing

The publisher provides many of the necessary services, such as the ISBN number, production, and printing, and puts up the money on the front end. You, as the author, pay it back out of sales.

5. Independent publishers

These are generally small houses that handle from 10 to 20 titles a year, usually in few selected genres, such as African American literature, spirituality, inspiration, and religion. An “indy” publisher must put out at least 10 ISBNs a year in order to be accepted by a major distributor, such as Ingram or Baker & Taylor. This a growing segment of the publishing world. Most independent publishers belong to IBPA.

6. Electronic Publishing

Your book is published as an electronic or eBOOK through an e-publisher, on your own website, or on CD-ROMs. Or, it can be self-published and distributed through other appropriate Websites, listserves, or chat rooms. E-publishing languished a while and seemed to be going nowhere. Now, due to new technology and renewed interest, it is making a comeback. This time, it looks like it is here to stay.

7. Do nothing

Ninety-five percent of authors do nothing. That means more than 400,000 manuscripts go unpublished each year because when authors get to this point, they simply stop.

Each of the above methods fills a particular set of needs and preferences. For some authors, nothing will do but a well-known, New York publisher on the cover of their books. For others, it’s the creative control or the profit that matters. For some doing the work involved in finding an agent, approaching a publisher, or learning the ropes of self-publishing is just too intimidating. That’s why it is important to know what you want or don’t want in the publishing process before you get too far along.

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