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Which Types of Publishing Are Right for You?

With varying types of publishing available in the book industry, it can be hard to figure out which is the right path to take.

Traditional publishing touts lucrative six-figure book deals and the potential for wide distribution, while creative control and retaining all rights are the lure of self-publishing.

So how do you figure out which path is the right way to publish your book? Is there even a “right” way?

If you’re ready to figure out the best way to publish your book, keep reading.

Traditional Publishing 101

The most common type of publishing—and the one most people imagine when they think of book publishing—is traditional publishing. This route involves securing an agent to represent you, who then pitches your proposal to various traditional publishers. This process can take anywhere from a few months to a few years depending on how quickly you’re able to find an agent and garner publisher interest.

If a publisher decides to acquire your book, then comes a lengthy editing and production process, which typically takes around one to two years before the book finally hits store shelves. During this time, the publisher will provide editorial guidance, design the interior layout and cover, coordinate printing and distribution, and take the reins on publicity.

The advantage here is leveraging the publisher’s existing distribution networks and retail partnerships to get your book prime placement in bookstores and retail outlets. Traditional publishers have established relationships with venues you likely couldn’t access on your own. So you benefit from tapping into the publisher’s sales team and connections.

Downsides to Traditional Publishing

With traditional publishing, the author pays for distribution access by accepting a lower royalty rate. Most authors receive around 10% of each sale. At a $15 book price, that’s $1.50 per copy. Translated over thousands of book sales, the dollars can add up. But it means relinquishing 90% of proceeds to the publisher.

Publishers also offer authors an advance on royalties as an upfront payment around the time of acquisition. But don’t expect massive advance checks as a new author. Without an existing author platform, advances often fall anywhere from $1,500 to $5,000. That may sound nice, until you consider publishers recoup the advance from your future royalties.

Essentially, getting a traditional publishing deal means trading control over your work for the benefits of the publisher’s distribution reach. And unless you already have an engaged following excited for your book, most of the promotion burden still falls squarely on your shoulders.

So traditional publishing suits authors who value widespread retail distribution over higher royalties or total creative control. The deal makes sense if you can leverage the publisher’s distribution and connections to reach far more readers. But selling the rights to your creative work solely for the slim chance of getting prime shelf placement is rarely the smartest choice.

Read More: How Do You Get a Book Publishing Contract in 2023?

Self-Publishing 101

Self-publishing represents the complete DIY approach on the types of publishing spectrum. This route means tackling every step yourself (or hiring help) without the infrastructure of a publishing company behind you.

The major advantage is maintaining full creative control. You make every choice about content, cover design, formats, timing, pricing and more based on your own vision rather than needing approval from a publisher. For some creators, retaining artistic control overflows any other consideration.

You also enjoy the benefits of faster time-to-market, since you operate on your own timeline rather than needing to accommodate a publisher’s 18 to 24 month production schedule. Plus you retain maximum royalties, keeping 70% or more from each book sale depending on the sales channel.

Read More: How to Write and Self-Publish a Book

Downsides to Self-Publishing

The self-publishing path demands an enormous amount of effort and learning. You take on the publisher role not only of writing the book, but project management, editorial, design, distribution, wholesaling, marketing, rights management, accounting…the list goes on.

Very few first-time authors possess the existing knowledge and skills to excel in every domain required to professionally publish a book. Expect tackling the steep learning curve to be frustrating and full of rookie mistakes that incrementally diminish the quality and sales potential of your book.

Hiring help can alleviate some work, but managing and aligning contributors still proves challenging for inexperienced publishers. While satisfying for passion projects or personal memoirs, self-publishing typically fails to achieve stellar sales numbers outside existing audiences who will support you regardless of quality.

Authors drawn to the total creative control and quicker timeline self-publishing allows must weigh whether it aligns with goals beyond expression or learning.

Hear us when we say this: be realistic about the effort required versus your ability to successfully coordinate all the intricacies of publishing.

The choice comes down to desired outcomes.

Self-publishing offers a rewarding education that will push you to expand your skills greatly. But few authors should expect a runaway commercial bestseller from taking on every publishing role solo their very first try when seasoned professionals dedicate entire careers to mastering just one such function.

Read More: What Is the Difference Between Traditional Publishing and Self-Publishing?

Hiring a Team of Experts

Rather than self-publish fully solo, many authors choose to engage a team of publishing experts to contribute specialized skills for editing, cover design, formatting, marketing and more. This option gets you quality results compared to tackling everything alone.

However, the danger is a lack of alignment across your group of experts. Each professional brings their own distinct perspectives and recommendations based on past publishing experiences. But with no overarching leadership ensuring all contributors work towards the same goals for your book, conflicting guidance pulls your project in too many directions.

For example, the editor you hired suggests restructuring chapters to frontload key takeaways while the marketing consultant wants to emphasize backstory first. Or your cover designer visualizes a bright, lively cover aimed at the young adult market while the interior formatter builds a layout suited for senior readers. Mismatched advice abounds.

Navigating this requires extensive project management on your part to mediate and clearly communicate priorities, ideal reader targeting, non-negotiable elements and other guiding decisions. But as the author with likely no past publishing experience, you may struggle to recognize if suggestions take the book off course until too late.

Hiring a skilled book coach or project manager to direct the team is wise. But the extra cost means more out-of-pocket investment. And no book coach can force a group of experts you assembled to actually collaborate effectively together if large philosophical differences emerge.

In the end, hiring a quality team does improve the technical excellence over self-publishing solo. But only with extensive oversight can you empower contributors’ strengths while aligning production to prevent wasted or counterproductive effort. If unable to lock experts into your vision, projects easily veer sideways. Define expectations clearly upfront and be ready to course correct.

Hybrid or Boutique Publishers

Hybrid or boutique publishers represent a middle ground between self-publishing and traditional publishing. These small, independent presses offer authors faster timelines, higher royalties, and more control compared to giant traditional houses.

Rather than taking nearly all the proceeds and rights like traditionals, quality boutique publishers invest in authors using hybrid royalty models. This means providing editing, design, distribution and marketing support in exchange for a split of future sales. The exact percentage varies, but 50/50 splits are common.

So unlike self-publishing where you pay all publishing costs upfront before earning royalties, hybrids share the financial risk. Their compensation rides on the book’s commercial success. But you leverage their infrastructure and expertise compared to tackling everything alone.

This appeals to business-minded authors focused on maximizing ROI more than retaining full creative license. You sacrifice some profit and total control but gain crucial infrastructure and industry relationships.

Picking the Right Type of Boutique Publisher

While finding the right types of publishing within boutique publishers, consider a publisher that aligns incentives through shared risk and reward. The ideal partner deeply understands your target readers, niche intricacies, and has direct sales avenues allowing quick access to your precise intended audience.

For commercially-driven creators seeking a faster, higher quality path to readers than self-publishing, boutique publishers can deliver serious distribution without the downsides authors face chasing elusive big five deals. Just ensure you vet selections diligently, maintaining ownership of derivative rights where possible in case wider opportunities emerge down the road requiring rights reversion.

Navigating contracts requires an entertainment lawyer, but the hybrid model squares the needs of creators and publishers beautifully when aligned behind collaborative success.

Incubator Model

Somewhere between assisted self-publishing services and hybrid partnerships lies the incubator model for empowering authors through outcome-focused book development.

Rather than paying à la carte for specific publishing tasks, incubator programs take an holistic view tailored to your aspirations for your book and overall business. Whether hoping to land speaking gigs, attract coaching clients, drive product sales or simply share a message, incubators design customized game plans for actualizing the future you envision.

This structured guidance through the confusing publishing and marketing labyrinth allows first-timers to benefit from industry expertise. Expect hands-on collaboration assessing your concept and refining your distinctive author voice. Skilled mentors pressure test ideas to translate ambitions into executed plans using proven formulas.

While most assisted publishing offers technology guidance, page layout templates or basic cover design, incubators start with the end in mind. That might mean completely reworking a concept not primed for commercial success or realigning elements like title, description and cover visuals to resonate with target readers.

You retain creative control over key directions while leveraging insight and experience launching many prior books. Greater alignment simply gives your message the best chance to ultimately reach receptive listeners. The program concludes with a strategic launch blueprint customized for your book to activate advocates.

In essence, incubators optimize for your goals not isolated publishing process steps. They ensure coherence between business aspirations and book execution. By working with authors excited to do the personal development and relationship building required to share ideas broadly, incubators transformation lives before manuscripts.

Read More: What Is Publishing?

Which Type of Publishing Will You Choose?

As you can see, there is no “right” way to get published when it comes to the different types of publishing.

Assess your priorities. Do you require speed, profit, creative control?

Once you know what your publishing goals are, it’s up to you to select the best publishing path that aligns with those goals. Good luck.

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Seize your literary destiny
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By opting in, you’re joining our vibrant community! Expect 2-3 weekly newsletters packed with curated content, exclusive updates, and valuable insights to fuel your journey. Welcome to the conversation!

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