Nowadays, there is so much activity in the nontraditional publishing space that authors sometimes become confused by all the seemingly random terms thrown around by various companies.
And who can blame them? For one, many of the terms are so new or broad that it seems like many companies fall into more than one category. And the nontraditional publishers are not doing themselves any favors by sometimes muddying these waters in their marketing efforts to broaden their potential client base.
Despite some of the liberties that many of these companies take, some generally agreed-upon, broad-stroke definitions may help writers successfully navigate this tricky terrain of the wild wild publishing west.
“Traditional Publisher” is the most commonly used term to define “publication,” whereby the author submits a manuscript (typically through an agent). If the manuscript is accepted (a big if), the publisher foots the entire cost of the publication and, in many cases, rewards the author with some advance. This is far and away the most desired type of publication in most writing circles. But did you see that big “if” up there? That “if” is why traditional publication now trails nontraditional publication for most books being published.
Here’s where things get messy because the terms “self-publishing,” “vanity publishing,” “independent publishing,” “eBook publishing,” “hybrid publishing,” “author-assisted publishing,” and others have all been used to define an equally established, yet rapidly growing segment of the nontraditional publishing space. Unfortunately, some terms hold more malice/stigma than others. Hence, we experience the nontraditional publishers’ creative methods of removing said malice/stigma by arriving upon another term, thus, adding to the confusion!
Almost all these nontraditional publishing companies can correctly fall within the broadest term among the bunch: self-publishing. If a traditional publisher does not accept you, you are therefore publishing your book yourself, in one manner or another, and you’re either doing so with your own time and/or money, or both. In this broadest of definitions, you are therefore self-publishing your book.
But among that broad definition exist more specific definitions as companies attempt to carve out marketing—or service-oriented—niches in this growing segment of the publishing business. “Vanity publishing” is a term that is falling by the wayside as “self-publishing” becomes more accepted, while the traditionalists who introduced “vanity publishing” in the first place are losing interest in participating in a losing battle.
“Independent publishing” is now most often associated with the process whereby an author wears all, or nearly all, the hats involved in publishing the book without the assistance of a company, online platform, or publishing service. He/she vets cover designers, vets interior designers, requests quotes from offset printers, works with wholesalers, distributors, and retailers, markets, and handles all the financials (positive, like book sales and negative, like printer bills and taxes). That’s a lot of work for most people, especially writers who tend to gravitate toward right-brained abilities. But for the proper author with the right tenacity and author platform, this is still a viable way to go.
Contributing to the slow demise of “independent publishing” is the rise of publishing services and online platforms which promise to do most of the work (mentioned above) for the author while still leaving all the rights, royalties, and creative control in the hands of the author. Some “self-publishing companies” offer these services for a fee, much like when one pays for the services of a doctor, lawyer, accountant, hairstylist, etc. Others are online, computerized self-publishing platforms that offer these services for free. The right choice typically comes down to the author’s budget and faith in their work or the quality they desire for their masterpiece. It’s rarely difficult to identify a book published by a service-oriented company compared to one published by a conglomerate’s algorithm.
“Hybrid publishing” is a term cropping up more and more these days and is the closest cousin, in terms of pure business model, to the now nearly defunct “vanity publishing.” In most cases, this business model requires the author to relinquish their rights (and often the rights of their future books) while also promising to purchase a set number of books (typically in the thousands) in exchange for “free publishing” on the hybrid publisher’s dime. Like independent publishing, this can sometimes work for authors already possessing a successful author platform and a lot of tenacity since the initial investment is usually roughly the same as with independent publishing. However, since hybrid publishers often sell their own authors’ book quantities in the thousands, they are more likely to use offset printing to lower per-unit costs. While that helps keep the retail price down, it becomes concerning, for the author is not always confident they have the marketing prowess to sell thousands of books.
Therefore, when it’s time to share your story with the world, call and talk to an Outskirts Press Publishing Consultant who can help you on your journey to publication. They are here and dedicated to assisting you on your walk in this journey!
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