How to Publish a Book: 3 Book Publishing Options
If you're interested in publishing a book, but don't have any idea how, this article is a great starting point for you. We’re breaking down the basics of the different types of book publishing methods so you can get informed about how to successfully write and publish your work.
Different Types of Book Publishing Options
Writing a book and claiming authorhood for the first time is an exciting experience, but making the decision for how to successfully publish should not be taken lightly. Oftentimes, new authors get caught up in the idea of publishing without actually understanding how it all goes down on the business side. This leads to authors losing out on time, money, and, sometimes, the rights to their work.
Thankfully, there are a variety of options available to aspiring authors to get their books into readers’ hands. Hybrid and traditional publishers all offer their own unique set of publishing models, as does self-publishing.
But which is the best path for you? That’s a personal decision.
Choosing the right one depends on your project and your goals. Let’s explore an overview of the three main publishing models and how they work so you can get acquainted with ways to succeed in this industry as an author.
What is Traditional Publishing?
Traditional publishing involves a publisher offering a contract to the author for the rights to print, publish, and market their book. With traditional publishing, the author will work with a team who will cover the cost of production to create a finished product. This is the most common type of book publishing. It involves a publisher paying the author an advance (usually) and then receiving a share of the profits when the book is sold past the advance amount.
How Traditional Publishing Works
Publishers like this will typically take on a new book project if it is commercially viable. They are more likely to take on books from established authors, or from authors who show promise to sell a certain number of books. Depending on the publishing agreement, traditional publishers will take care of all the publishing logistics, including the design, editing, production, marketing, and distribution of the book.
In traditional book publishing, many authors will choose to seek a literary agent to help represent them in the market. Agents will ensure you get the best deal for your book from traditional publishers. Acquiring an agent requires you to craft a query letter, usually followed by them asking to see pages of your book if they’re interested in representing you. If your book is not complete or is still in its outline stages, a book proposal may be needed.
Attaining a literary agent and seeking a publisher can be a long and complex process that requires a lot of careful planning and coordination. Traditional publishing can be a highly competitive field, and getting used to rejection is part of the process. Be patient as you seek out the best representation for your book.
Here's a basic overview of how traditional publishing could work after you have piqued the interest of a publisher:
A publisher acquires the rights to publish a book.
The publisher creates a publishing agreement with the author (and literary agent). This document outlines the rights and expectations of both the publisher and the author.
The author completes the manuscript, working with the publisher’s team of editors.
The publisher reviews and approves the manuscript.
The publisher’s designers create the covers and formatting for the book.
The publisher distributes the book to bookstores.
The author receives royalties.
All of this does vary significantly based on the publisher and/or agent’s submission guidelines and business models. Doing research, asking questions, and seeking guidance about what offers are being presented to you is crucial. If you’re giving up the rights to your work, you want to know as much as you can about what the publishing path will look like and what type of creative control you have.
Who are the Big 5?
The big five publishing companies that are currently dominating the trade publishing world in the United States are:
Hachette Book Group
Simon & Schuster
These publishers are the most well-known publishers in the country. However, there are thousands of publishing companies around the world. Nowadays, you may also hear the term “independent publishers.” These are smaller, independent book companies that take less of the profits than traditional publishers and generally have smaller budgets. They follow similar models to traditional publishing on a more grassroots scale.
What is Hybrid Publishing?
A hybrid publisher can act as a traditional publisher, charging a fee for their services while helping to produce and market your book. Generally, there is a shared royalty requirement in this model, as well. Many people choose to use hybrid publishers because the initial cost is more affordable than going all-in on self-publishing and is generally quicker than traditionally publishing a book. Working with a hybrid press gives you more creative control than a traditional publisher might, though still offering you support and resources. You might also hear them called “partnership publishers” or “agent-assisted publishers.”
How Hybrid Publishing Works
Hybrid publishing is a blend of the traditional publishing model with a self-publishing one. It is similar to self-publishing in that you are responsible for the cost without sacrificing creative control or waiting on long publishing delays. But, like traditional publishing, hybrid publishing offers you the help of a publishing house to design the cover, polish the text, and market your book. It’s a great option for authors who want to self-publish a book, but want to work with a partner who has the experience and resources to help them create polished and marketable work.
All publishers should follow the landscape of the Independent Book Publishers Association, though their processes for taking on authors will vary. For the sake of a broad overview, to publish a book with a hybrid publisher, it will most likely look like this:
Sending a pitch to the publisher with interest in their services
The press offers you package choices for their offerings
The publisher gives you an agreement based on those services
Implementing the tasks agreed upon to edit, produce, and market your book
Hiring a hybrid publisher is like working with a project manager, someone who oversees the functionality and operations of your project to ensure things go smoothly. You can publish quicker, with a front-row seat to the process, knowing you’re working with a team who advocates for your success.
A Note about Hybrid Publishing
Many authors who have sought after traditional presses have avoided this method of publishing because of the conventional vision of successful trade publishing. However, readers don’t generally care who publishes the book. They just want well-produced work. She Writes Press is one of the most reputable partnership publishers in the market, curating books by aspiring self-published authors.
However, hybrid publishers could be vanity presses in disguise, so it’s important to vet potential publishers with an in-depth process. If there’s a chance you may not keep control of your intellectual property, or if the out-of-pocket costs are too high in accordance with how much of your book royalties you’ll have to share, you might want to consider other options.
The hybrid press you choose should:
Promise high-quality editorial and design work.
Follow publish industry standards.
Have a clear mission and model that is transparent.
Be author-focused in terms of publishing rights.
Offer reputable marketing and distribution.
The best thing to do is research many different hybrid publishers, comparing their vision and processes with their competitors. Consider it an interview process, having consultations with some who stand out to you. Be sure to ask high-quality questions so you know they can offer you what you need.
What is Vanity Publishing?
Vanity publishing is becoming more popular as a way for authors to get their work published without having to go through a traditional publisher. However, most vanity publishers will end up causing more harm than good to your project. Their name is quite leading, as these generally smaller, self-publishing companies will glorify the book publishing process.
Vanity presses are known to charge large out-of-pocket sums for services while still taking a portion of your royalties without much help in the distribution and marketing department. With a vanity publisher, you'll pay them upfront to publish your book, and then you'll be responsible for all of the marketing and sales work. The negative connotations of vanity presses tend to scare away a lot of would-be authors, but it can also trap them. Even if the name of the publisher is innocuous, the public may still associate vanity presses with low-quality work.
Publishing scams are rampant in the vanity publishing world and you should be especially vigilant when it comes to deals that seem too good to be true. There’s no precise way to tell if a press has a vanity business model, but you can be aware of the signs that the publishing house is not going to benefit you. Be sure the packages they’re offering are useful to you. Ask questions about your intellectual property and the rights you will reserve. Request evidence of how they’ve helped other authors in the market, if at all.
We call them our “book babies” for a reason. It’s our job to protect them and make sure they’re well taken care of by people who want them to live their best life!
What is Self-Publishing?
Self-publishing is growing in popularity for people who want to write and publish a book on their own. It is the fastest-growing book publishing industry and the benefits of self-publishing are plenty. You get to choose the book cover, the text, the price, and the distribution. With traditional publishing, the publisher decides how your book will look, where it will be sold, and how you will market it. With self-publishing, you're in charge of these details with complete control of your book’s destiny.
With the rise of digital media, self-publishing has been made easy with print-on-demand and digital publishing widely available. Print-on-demand companies like Ingramspark allow you to print as many copies of your book as you need. Digital retailers such Draft2Digital allow you to publish your book in electronic form, and you can also sell your book through Amazon Kindle for free.
By handling the entire book publication process, you essentially become a small business owner. Your book needs a marketer, a bookkeeper, an editor, a publicist, and a sales representative. While that may seem overwhelming, it can actually be an incredibly empowering experience to take charge of your writing career in this way. It’s all about proper research and planning.
That’s where we come in!
Let Our Galaxy Help You Decide How to Publish
Think of us as your D-I-Y publishers. We give you the tools and resources you need to outline, write, publish, and market your book, and you take the reigns while we guide you along the way. Our Galaxy Publishing offers authors an affordable service-based, educational approach to publishing a book. We exist to help authors make knowledgeable decisions about how they should get a book published while also retaining complete ownership and control over their book.
If you’re unsure of which method of publishing is best for you, we can help you decide. No publishing path is linear. You want to ask things like:
How much time do you have to publish a book?
What are your publishing goals?
Are you comfortable managing a book project on your own?
How interested are you in marketing your book?
Do you have an established author platform already?
Is it important for you to maintain the intellectual property rights to your book?
Our Galaxy will help you answer these questions and make the best plan for you to publish based on those answers. If you’re seeking to traditionally publish, Our Galaxy can help you understand the query process and professional editing services before you go on to seek publishers. If you want to self-publish a book, Our Galaxy can help you build a strategic production and marketing plan for you to succeed in the market.
No matter what path you choose, do so with intention. If the dream of becoming an author means the world to you, take your time in deciding which publishing model will suit you best. Reach out to us when you feel stuck or confused about what to do. We will always do our best to point you in the right direction.
Christine Weimer is an award-winning poet, content writer, publishing advisor, and spoken-word artist from Queens, New York who co-founded, Our Galaxy Publishing, an educational and service-based platform for aspiring writers, to which she is the editor-in-chief. In 2022, Christine spearheaded Our Galaxy’s first multi-genre, Amazon bestselling anthology, Venus Rising: Musings & Lore from Women Writers. She is the author of three poetry collections; Tainted Lionheart, which won the Gold Medal Poetry Award for Readers’ Favorite 2021, I Got to Know Nature, and Claiming the Throne. Christine can mostly be found sharing her introspections as they ebb and flow on her Instagram at @amindfulwriter or on her website at christineweimer.com. Some catch her peeking out to say hello and share writing and publishing advice through @ourgalaxypublishing’s Instagram and blog. If lost, check the crevices of Washington Square Park—look for the disheveled lady with toddler in tow.
Our Galaxy Publishing is a New York City-based, women-owned, and operated independent press with a nationwide team serving aspiring authors the tools to write and publish. Our seamless publishing experience focuses on action-based tools and resources to publish, exploration of all core storytelling elements, and empowering an entrepreneurial mindset. Whether seeking to self-publish a book or find a traditional publisher, work with us for book publishing, book editing, book marketing, and writing mentorship to publish a successful book.