So, you’ve written something; a first draft, a draft in need of last-minute revising but otherwise completed, or a full manuscript ready to begin the publishing process. Next to consider is by which means should the manuscript be published? There are several options to be weighed, based on what type of work you have written. By learning about the various emergent methods within the publishing industry, as well as reflecting on more well-known establishments, you can be well on your way towards hitting the bookshelves!
Traditional publishing is perhaps the most well-known model of publishing, and the most widely used for the better part of five centuries. Requiring the inclusion of agents, editors, and publishing houses, there are many working parts to this mode of publishing. When an author wants to have their work published, they send it to a publishing house with a proposal, often with the help of an agent. This is known as the querying stage. Upon approval from an editor, the author negotiates a contract with the company. The publishing company buys rights to the manuscript and acts as an intermediary between retailers and booksellers in order to market and eventually sell the product (“Traditional Publishing”). This method takes the burden of selling or marketing from the author, and the author receives advance payment and royalties from the publisher (“How To Publish”). All in all, there are several very good reasons traditional publishing houses are touted in the industry; form, function, reliability, and some protections are incredibly important in traditional publication. The challenge, however, is finding one that will accept an indie author.
Self-publishing is an interesting foil to traditional publishing. It has essentially been something around much longer than any form of publishing, seeing as that is technically what scribes, bards, and any other miscellaneous writers did before the invention of the Gutenberg printing press, but the self-publishing known today is about the surge of popularity in the method of using personal computer technology to publish. The modern journey of self-publishing starts in 1979 with the new Desktop Publishing (DTP) technology and Print on Demand (POD) but there really began to be an explosion in the publishing world in 1990, with the introduction of the ebook. It took well into the early ’00s until ebooks really gained the trust and subsequent popularity, but when they did, traditional publishing was left floundering (Ross). Self-publishing is a medium in which the author has an incredible amount of control over their own work, in that they retain all rights to work, receive all profits, but foot all the labor and pay all expenses. Publishing houses lamented this development, as it negated a lot of the need for agents, for much of the intermediary powers that traditional houses offered, and was a boggling move for traditional houses. And, ultimately, has since lessened the significance behind having one’s work published by traditional means.
With the increasing reliance on the internet during this Information Age, and differing needs in the industry, there is a continuously growing new segment to this ever-adapting industry: professional publishing. Professional publishing may at first be confused with academic or trade-related publications, but the term actually refers to a middle ground between traditional and self-publishing. Lauded for rallying many of the best parts of other publishing models, and leaving behind more unsavory bits, professional publishers offer authors many benefits that traditional publishers have not.
Instead of writing a manuscript, sending it to a traditional publishing house, and going through the process of negotiating royalties and rights, or perhaps deciding to self-publish, necessitating a significantly more labor-intensive process with a smaller chance of wide distribution success, professional publishing companies offer their services in such a way to allow an author creative control and chance to maximize profits. These publishing companies offer a broad range of services in which the author has the opportunity to utilize how much or little they want, from the writing and revision process, all the way to marketing and distribution (Peterson). As more of a hybrid model, authors reap benefits like large marketing abilities, need only pay for services, and retain creativity and rights. An incredibly important part of these new business models is that they are designed for people “who want to write and publish ... in their words and in their voice—but don’t have the time or desire to type it themselves” (“The Scribe”). This brings an entirely new facet to the industry. With the added convenience of potential ghostwriting-like services, professional publishing is a novel medium in which all sorts of genre authors and chronically overworked potential writers may be hard-pressed to turn down, and the growing popularity marks a significant point in publishing history. However, as the industry of professional publishing is still amidst defining itself, many professional publishing houses have their own adapted take on this complex hybrid model. Nevertheless, it has since become a happy-medium to satisfy many indie authors.
Ultimately, for an author looking to bridge the gap between the two main publishing models, and excel in a wildly shifting landscape, professional publishing very well may be a great industry answer to modern publishing needs. Only time will tell if it truly is the industry-model that will shape the future.
“Traditional Publishing.” Union Square Publishing, unionsquarepublishing.com/traditional-publishing/, Accessed 10 February 2021.
“How To Publish a Book: An Overview of Traditional & Self-Publishing.” Writer's Digest Shop, writersdigestshop.com/pages/how-to-publish-a-book-an-overview-of-traditional-self-publishing#:~:text=Traditional%20book%20publishing%20is%20when,you%20royalties%20from%20the%20sales, Accessed 10 February 2021.
Ross, Orna. “The History of Self-Publishing - Alliance of Independent Authors: Self-Publishing Advice Center.” Self, 19 June 2020, selfpublishingadvice.org/history-of-self-publishing/, Accessed 11 February 2021.
Peterson, Mikhaila. “The Mikhaila Peterson Podcast #50 - Tucker Max.” 00:04:00-00:15:00, YouTube, 24 Jan. 2021, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pa_fHfJDNGc, Accessed 12 February 2021.
“The Scribe Professional Program.” Scribe Media, 31 Dec. 2020, scribemedia.com/service/professional/ Accessed 12 February 2021.