Why We Must Understand the Continuum of Book Publishing

Book publishing options are no longer a black and white decision but an array of grays

Why We Must Understand the Continuum of Book PublishingIn past posts, I discussed the benefits of traditional publishing and the benefits of self-publishing, as well as the downsides of traditional publishing and the downsides of self-publishing.

Book publishing, however, does not exist as two sides of a coin, with traditional publishing (often called royalty publishing) on one side and self-publishing (once disparaged as vanity publishing) on the other.

Instead, book-publishing options exist on a continuum. At one end are the major presses who carefully screen, edit, produce, and promote books, much as they have done for years. At the other end are the do-anything-for-a-buck outfits who will print any book, for anyone willing to pay their fees, regardless of its content, quality, or marketability.

In between them lies a vast array of options, from indie presses, to assisted publishing, to outsourcers, to any number of companies with intriguing labels, seeking to find a niche and fill a need. Although a few of these presses care nothing of books and only about money, most possess a sincere desire to help writers become published authors, advancing the cause of book publishing in the process (as well as earning a profit). They just do it in different ways.

These permutations of publishers are too numerous and evolving to delineate with any accuracy. An author should carefully vet each publisher before making a selection.

The key in evaluating them is to realize that each has a business plan and must make money. Comprehending what their plan is (sometimes we needs to dig a bit) and understanding how they make money (even nonprofits must generate income) will provide a basis for determining if their sweet spot matches a writer’s needs.

Book publishing exists on a continuum, as do the needs of the authors they serve. Finding the right match of publisher and author is essential for the success of both.

What I Learned By Researching Competitive Titles

A common part in many book proposals is a “competitive works” section. I recently researched this for one of my book proposals. What I saw enlightened me.

What I Learned By Researching Competitive TitlesFirst were three books from traditional publishers. They gave me pause. I had to think a bit to determine how my book was different and how it would stand out. This challenged me, but it was a good exercise. Each book was impressive: an attractive cover, nice title, a great concept or theme where the content flowed nicely, and professional editing and formatting. However, I didn’t think about any of these qualities at first. I expected these characteristics. Since they met my expectations, I gave these traits no thought – until I looked at some self-published books.

Next, I looked at some books that were self-published using CreateSpace. At first glance, the covers were of similar quality and the titles were almost as good. The content, however, was not the same. The concept of these books was lacking and their execution, disappointing. Also, the writing wasn’t nearly as good. One didn’t even appear to have been edited, with sloppy formatting and missing words – and that from reading less than one page. The fault in all this is not CreateSpace. CreateSpace is a tool. If you put garbage into the tool, you get garbage out of it.

Last, I considered a pair of self-published e-books; they offered no print options. These suffered even more. Their covers weren’t as good and their concept was questionable. As far as the writing, I didn’t look at enough to tell: the interior layout was so bad that I couldn’t force myself to read it. I almost didn’t even include them in my “competitive works” section because I didn’t view them as competition, merely a distraction.

From all this I’m reminded, once again, that self-publishing is an attractive option and an affordable solution when traditional publishers take a pass on our books. While this could be for reasons outside of our control, it might also be that our content is ill conceived or our book still needs work. Sometimes this is hard to determine, especially after we’ve poured ourselves into writing it.

Regardless, if we choose to self-publish, we need to keep in mind that our finished product must look like a traditionally published book if we hope for folks to take it seriously.

What is your experience in reading self-published books? Have you ever self-published a book? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Six Flavors of Book Publishing

In last week’s post, I talked about traditional publishing and vanity publishing (once the only two options), with hybrid publishing now filling the space between. Hybrid publishing is a combination of the two, with varying options.

Although hybrid publishing is a common term for this ever-evolving assortment of book publishing options, it’s also a descriptive name, with some book publishers opting for other labels.

One reader mentioned entrepreneurial publishing. I like that. It reminds us that publishing a book is a business and the author needs to take part in the process in order to be successful.

Indie publishing (short for independent publishing) or indie press can take on a wide array of meanings, from a traditional publisher that is small and therefore independent, to a niche publisher, to self-publishing.

Custom publishing is a broader term that in addition to books can alternately cover magazines, newsletters, brochures, or whatever else can be imagined.

However, regardless of the label, the main thing is to analyze what they do and don’t do, determine how money flows between publisher and author (and in which direction), and realize this is a business, for both publisher and author. Then, after finding the one that’s the best fit, carefully read the contract, and hire an attorney who is familiar with publishing agreements.

Happy publishing!

What other labels have you heard of for book publishing?

Hybrid Publishing: Providing a Continuum of Publishing Options

Once upon a time, authors had two options to publish their books: a traditional publisher or a vanity publisher.

In today’s challenging economic environment, traditional publishers are risk adverse, making it harder for a new author to sign with them. A traditional publisher simply doesn’t want to take a chance on an unknown, unproven, untested author. This isn’t to say it never happens, just that it doesn’t happen as often as it once did.

The other possibility, vanity publishing, however, isn’t much of an alternative. Selecting this option is often an effort in futility, costing much and providing little, except for a garage full of books that can’t be given away because of their poor production quality. This doesn’t always happen, but it happens too often.

However, as these two options fade, an array of hybrid publishers fills the void and offers a plethora of opportunities to fill the space between these two extremes.

The hybrid model of publishing combines elements of traditional and vanity publishing, taking elements of both to produce something more accessible and possibly superior. Hybrid publishing exists on a continuum, with an assortment of manifestations to pick from. Regardless of what publishing options an author seeks, there is likely a hybrid publisher, somewhere out there, who will meet the need.

If traditional publishing is out of reach and vanity publishing is, well, too vain, than hybrid publishing is the way to go. But don’t jump at the first one you find. Carefully consider several and then continue looking until you find the one that’s the right match for you, your goals, and your writing.

Three Perspectives on Hybrid Authors

A hybrid author is someone who uses both traditional publishing and self-publishing. Though the reasons for pursuing this dual approach are many, there are two base motivations: more sales or more income.

Generally, traditionally published books are better vetted, have higher quality, enjoy wider distribution, and produce more sales.

The benefits of self-publishing tend to be faster publication, more author control, greater profit per sale, and much faster access to profits.

Author Perspective: For the author, self-publishing some books, while traditionally publishing others, offers the best of both worlds. Taking the hybrid approach results in dual revenue streams and potentially more books on the market with greater readership. And at its base level, isn’t that what every author wants: more readers and the chance to earn a living?

Publisher Perspective: Publishers can have many worries about authors who take the hybrid approach. From a macro standpoint, more self-publishing means less traditional publishing – and that’s bad for the industry.

From a practical assessment, authors who also self-publish divide their focus, time, and energy between two or more projects. This suggests they spend less time writing, so the quality may not be as good. They may have less time to promote their traditionally published books because they spend more time promoting their self-published works. They could damage their reputation if their self-published books are not as good. Also, they could confuse their audience (be it called their community, platform, or tribe) if they publish in multiple genres, use different styles, or target different readers.

Enlightened Publisher Perspective: While all these publisher concerns are valid, an alternate view is that if these risks can be minimized or controlled, the result can be a larger author platform, a better reputation, and the likelihood of selling more of the author’s traditionally published books.

To do this, traditional publishers can offer their authors career advice and strategic planning for all their books. They can encourage their authors to pursue greater quality in their self-published works, even to the point of letting them tap into their network of freelance editors, designers, and marketers.

When done wisely, hybrid authors can benefit themselves as well as their traditional publishers.

[Also consider hybrid publishing.]