The Vast World of Publishing! – Which Option is Right for You?

I joined Oregon Writers Colony earlier this year, with the hopes of building rapport with other local writers and have plans to participate in writing workshops and retreats. I recently attended OWC’s Stumptown Lit, and participated in a Publishing Workshop with the fantastic Mary Rosenblum, also know as the Literary Midwife. At the end of this session, and after wandering around the exposition/book fair and meeting a number of local publishers, I was overwhelmed (in a good way!) with information, ending the day in a pleasant haze of “Dang, I’m a lot further along than I thought!”

The 2 hour publishing workshop primarily focused on the benefits of self-publishing. Mary was definitely a proponent of self-publishing as she believes, from her decades of both personal and professional experience, that if the author is able and willing to put in the time and money to self-promote and market, it can be the most lucrative and beneficial option available to the author. After the workshop, I had the opportunity to ask her a number of follow up questions, wanting some additional information regarding the differences between the variety of publishing options.

The pros and cons of each of the different ways to publish were detailed further, with the basic differences being:

New York Publishers – Traditional, big name publishers (Random House, Harper Collins, Simon & Schuster, etc.). Author must be represented by a literary agent. Publisher buys the rights to the manuscript. Publisher handles all facets of publishing (editing, marketing, promotion, printing, etc.). No costs to the author, the author retains a small percentage of royalties (5% – 15%), and the publisher makes up the costs of production through book sale profits.

Small/Commercial Publishers – Traditional, smaller publishers. Author may or may not need to be represented by a literary agent. Publisher buys the rights to the manuscript. Handles all facets of publishing (editing, marketing, promotion, printing, etc.). No costs to the author, the author retains a small percentage of royalties, and the publisher makes up the costs of production through book sale profits.

Subsidy Publishers – Author typically retains the rights to their manuscript. Author pays a fee to go through the editing, production, and printing process, and retains a larger percentage of the royalties (e.g., 50%). At any point, the author can leave the relationship with the publisher to pursue self-publishing to retain all profits of sales, or to enter into a contract with a larger publisher.

Hybrid Publishers – The most difficult option to define because of how many options there are. A combination of self-publishing and traditional publishing that benefits both the author and the publisher. Examples of the combinations include: authors who have self-published in the past and are picked up by a traditional publisher (coming to the publisher with an existing, published manuscript and fan base), or authors who get a book deal for print publishing but self-publish e-books.

Independent/Self-Publishing – Author retains the rights to their manuscript and handles all components of the production process. Author must submit a completed manuscript to the printer (all copy and content editing they are responsible for). Author funds the entire cost of production including editing, printing, and marketing and promotion. Because the author funds all aspects of production and retains the rights to their book, the author retains all proceeds from sales.

The two options that seemed most appealing to me as a first-time author were subsidy and self-publishing. I met with two subsidy publishers and discussed in detail the process, end product, and profits and it all seemed to be a nice happy medium. Hybrid sounds like it would be a nice option down the road, if self-publishing ends up being something at I decide to pursue as I publish my first book. It seemed to me that commercial and larger publishers would be a good option IF you are an established author and are making enough in advances and the small percentage of royalties to make a living.

At this stage in the writing process, I am hoping to have my first novel finished within the year (written, professionally edited, and ready for submission) and will be ready to embark on this journey that is book publishing!

What about you, fellow writers? Which options have you explored and have used in the past? Did I leave anything out with regards to the basic differences in publishing options?Which options do you recommend and why?

Happy writing!! 🙂

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