May 16, 2011

Publishing Explained (sort of)

I’m starting with a big disclaimer. I believe there is no form of publishing that is inherently bad if the author knowingly chooses it. I make no discrimination against model, content or category of publisher as long as the author is educated going into the process on what is involved in producing a readable, quality product and knows what to expect from the publishing path they have decided on. It is up to each author to decide what is best for them as an individual in the end.

So let’s talk some publishing definitions and what they mean. We’ll start with basics.

Big Six – These are the major publishing houses such as Random House and Harper Collins who have many, many subsidiaries or Imprints between them.

Independent Publishers ­– Sometimes called Small Press. Smaller Publishing houses, normally not part of a larger group although some may have one or two Imprints.

Micro Publisher – Micro Press, these are the small time publishers selling a tiny number of books per year.

E-Publishers – Publishers who only operate through the electronic book format and do not make use of any type of printing.

What all of the above have in common (presuming they are not a scam) is that they require no payment upfront from the author towards any part of the publishing process. They take a cut of profits and will be advance and/or royalty paying. It is always up to the author to research and be sure they are signing to a reputable publisher.

Vanity Publishing – Assisted self-publishing. Vanity publishers will handle things like editing, cover-art and distribution for an upfront fee. There is no submitting process. A vanity publisher will accept all-comers and is often used by authors who wish to self-publish but lack the all-round publishing knowledge to do so.

Scams – There are a lot of less reputable vanity presses masquerading as small and micro presses. Or presses that make their money from selling books only to the author. There is little to no editing and in some cases errors are placed in the manuscript. Avoid, avoid, avoid… a red flag is the request for money after a manuscript is accepted through a normal submission process.

Self-Publishing – When the author is their own publisher either under their own name or a Publisher’s title. They are responsible for writing, editing, cover art, marketing and distribution. This requires a lot of work and dedication to do well. There can be a lot of expense involved to achieve the same production grade as experienced, established publishers. How expensive and how well produced can vary wildly.

Now things get a little more complicated and definitions begin to overlap. We will talk about publishing models. That is the technology used to create the end product— the book, audio book or e-book.

E-books – A lot of people equate e-publishing with self-publishing due to the recent rise in self-published authors using this format only. This is wrong. E-books are publishing model and not a route to getting published. E-books such as Kindle and Nook can be and are produced by Big Six to Self-Published and everyone in between.

Off-Set Printing – When a number of book copies are printed off by a printing press with a view to distribution. Normally it runs from low hundreds to tens of thousands. Generally micro presses won’t have a need to use this type of printing. Self-published authors sometimes use off-set to produce their hard-copies.

POD – Print-on-Demand. An electronic book file is used to produce one off copies of a book as required. Again this is utilized by all types of publisher. It requires no storage but individual copies usually are more expensive than those created with off-set. Larger publishers use this to print out of print books as required and smaller publishers use it to keep overheads down.

Last but most important is the Author.

Indie Author – In the past an Indie Author was a writer published by an Independent Publishing house. Some Self-Published authors have adopted the title for themselves as Indie or Independent Author. This is in most cases unintentionally misleading by the earlier definition. Let me explain.

As said above a self-published author is an author who publishers their own book. A small number of self-published authors are very successful and want to share that success by helping others to publish. They set up small houses for their own books and others becoming an Independent Publisher. So while the other authors signed to them become Independently Published or Indie Authors they remain Self-Published because they are still putting out their own books. Therefore an author cannot be both Self-Published and Independently Published for the same book as the same time. That is the traditional definition as I’ve learned it. 

Publishing is always changing and adapting. As I’ve said already there is no right or wrong way to go as long as a writer takes the time to learn what they are getting into and what they can realistically expect in return. It’s a big playground, there are bullies who will steal your lunch money and the meaningful kids with the big hearts who will always look out for you regardless of if you want them to. There are the brave kids hanging from the top of the monkey bars, the less brave waiting to see if they fall before climbing. There are timid ones waiting on the sidelines the entire day that never get to play because they are afraid to join in and sadly the few who run around blindly and never get a turn on the swing set. There is room for everyone, so play nice. 

On to the hop!
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  1. Thanks for sharing that information, Carol! I hadn't known the difference between self-publishing, vanity publishing, and indie publishing before.

  2. I'm following from the hop. Great site!

  3. Excellent timing on this info! I'm supposed to do a talk at a local library (yeah, we'll see, it's STILL not showing up on the Library's website, grrrrrr) and part of what I want to talk about is the various forms of publication---this provides me w/ an excellent summary. Thanks. :)

  4. Thank you for stopping by. It's a rough overview but I hope it gives a little insight. :-)

  5. thanks for the insight, i am always learning something from you.