By Jori Hanna
Most authors, after typing “The End” for the first time on their manuscript, very quickly learn there’s a lot more to the publishing industry than meets the eye. After all, their cousin is making decent income from the book they published on Amazon, and authors like Steven King and J.K. Rowling have brought publishing into the public eye. Why shouldn’t they have that same type of success?
But the deeper they dig, the more there is to learn about the publishing industry, and it turns out there are a lot of ways to get a book published.
Of the different possible options, there are three main paths to publication in the modern age of publishing: Traditional Publishing, Hybrid Publishing, and Self Publishing (also referred to as Author Publishing or Independent Publishing, as the author takes on the additional role of publisher). There are many other options out there, but these are the most common options.
Let’s talk about a few of the differences and key parts of the path for these publication options so you can find the right path for you.
When you think of book publishing, this is likely the version of publishing in your mind. In this version of publishing, the author submits their book to publishers, sells their rights to the work, and the publishing house handles production costs, some publicity and marketing costs, distribution, design, editing, proofreading, formatting, and everything else involved in sending a book out to the world.
Curious about what it takes to create a book? We walk through our publication process here.
Depending on the publishing house you go with, you may have to begin your process with submissions to literary agents who will represent you and your work to publishing houses and negotiate contracts for you, possibly allowing you to keep more rights to your work than you otherwise would have, or negotiating a higher advance or royalty percentage.
Most larger houses—the names you probably know from walking through a brick and mortar store—will require a literary agent. But, if you’re interested in a mid-sized publisher or a small press, there’s a higher chance you’ll be able to submit your own work and represent yourself.
Author (Self) Publishing
With the rise of eBooks and Print On Demand services, Self Publishing has become a strong contender in the many paths for publication. The author, acting as their own publisher, takes on all the roles of the publisher and becomes responsible for all design work, the book layout, cover design, branding, editing, marketing, and sales. For some authors, this is the perfect option. These authors often have a background in marketing or have connections to industry professionals who can help them produce a high quality product.
The danger with Self Publishing is that it carries a high financial weight to produce a solid product, and unless you’ve sold products before, you’re completely on your own. Any copyright issues, purchasing an ISBN, combating piracy, and any other legal complications will fall on you. This higher risk does come with a higher reward, as you’ll keep both the author and the publisher’s cut of the sales made from the book, but you won’t get any money up front and you won’t have built-in help to get the word out about your title, which can impact your book sales and decrease the overall financial gain from the publishing of your book. Self Publishing is a fantastic option if you’re confident in your ability to sell your book or if you’re not too worried about the financial cost vs. the gain.
No publishing contract ever comes with a guarantee of sales or making your investment back, but there are things you can do to give yourself the best shot at success. If you can do those things on your own, Self Publishing may be the right path for you. If you’re not sure, we highly recommend you explore the other options available to you first. No one path is perfect for everyone, and it’s okay to jump around until you find the path that feels most comfortable for you and meets your needs. However, if you self publish your book, there is a drastically decreased chance any publisher, Hybrid or Traditional, will take it on. Most want original work. Additionally, if you’ve produced and sold a previous version of that book, your updated and professionally produced book will be competing with the past versions of the books out there already. So before you take that leap, make sure to explore your options thoroughly.
Following the rise of Self Publishing, many reputable publishers saw a new need in the publishing industry and created a new path that could fill that void. Hybrid Publishing is a happy medium between Traditional and Self Publishing. A book is submitted to a Hybrid Publisher, and they will assess the manuscript according to their publishing standards. (Take a look at these standards for vetting a Hybrid Publisher from IBPA, one of the leading experts on the book industry for Independent Publishers and Independent Authors.)
If the Hybrid Publisher agrees that this book is ready for publication and that they’re a good fit for the book, they will offer a contract similar to a traditional contract.
The main difference is that the author joins as a partner for production. The author helps mitigate the cost risk of publishing a book—every book ever published has the risk of never making back the investment, even books like the Harry Potter series—and in exchange, the author gets part of the publisher’s royalty cut, resulting in higher royalties paid per book sold than in a traditional contract.
That money from the author helps cover the upfront costs of industry standard materials—cover design, printing, layout, editing, etc.—and in the end, the author ends up with a high quality product designed and put together by the publishing house’s experts in the field. The author then receives a higher royalty base than traditional publishing offers. For more on how this royalty plays out, check out our F.A.Q.s. where we lay the numbers out with an example.
If you’re interested in publishing with us, Torchflame Books is accepting submissions for Hybrid Publishing contracts.