Publishing 101

Traditional, Self-Published, or Hybrid?

One of the topics I’ll be writing about here is publishing, and within that field, book publishing. Consider this to be a broad overview — the 30,000’ view — of the basic options. I’ll drill down into each of these areas in future posts.

If you have a book you are writing or have written, one of the most important decisions to make is whether to seek out a traditional publisher, publish the book yourself, or use the services of a hybrid publisher. Each has pros and cons.

Traditional Publishing

When you use a traditional publisher, the publisher handles editing, designing, printing, and distributing the book. For each sale, they receive a (substantial) percentage of the wholesale price of the book, and you receive a (smaller) percentage. These percentages are spelled out in your book contract.

Your percentage is called your royalty.

When you sign the book contract, you receive an advance on your royalties. Typically, you get half the advance when you sign and half when you complete the book. You don’t receive any more payment until you have earned more royalties than the advance you received.

The main pros to working with a traditional publisher are:

  • You have no up-front costs
  • You get paid before your book makes a single sale
  • The publisher takes care of all the design, production, and distribution aspects of the book
  • They do at least some of the marketing
  • The book is more likely to be reviewed by traditional media

All of this sounds great, but there are also cons. Some of these include:

  • Unless you have a very large following consisting of people likely to buy your book (your platform), you are unlikely to interest most publishers, especially if you are writing nonfiction. Sometimes, a publisher will be attracted to a novel by someone without a platform because they see a high probability of selling the story for use in television or movies.
  • You are unlikely to interest a publisher unless you are represented by an agent
  • You may not find an agent willing to represent you
  • The agent may not be able to sell the book
  • If you do find an agent, and the agent does sell the book, the publisher may not be able to sell the book
  • If you do publish the book, the publisher owns the rights to current and future uses, as specified in your contract


When you self-publish, there are no editorial gatekeepers, but it’s your responsibility to do everything a traditional publisher would normally do for you.

Within self-publishing, there are two basic options:

  1. Print and distribute the book yourself
  2. Use one or more Print-On-Demand services

Self-publishing has existed for decades, but until recently, only the first option was available.

To self-publish you pay for any editing, book design, and cover design. With option 1, you pay the printer up front to print copies of the book. A typical print run is 500-1,000 books. Once you receive your books, it is your responsibility to store, market, and sell them. Any profit you make beyond your initial outlay and distribution/sales costs is yours.

Print-on-demand (POD) is a more practical option for most authors. With POD, you still need to pay for any pre-print costs (editing, book design, etc.), but the books are printed one at a time, and unless you order individual copies — for instance, to sell at a reading or conference — you only pay for books when they’re sold. The main downside of POD is that the cost per book is typically greater than when you hire a printer, so your profit per book sale is less. Also, POD quality is often not quite as high as conventional print quality.

The pros of either type of self-publishing are:

  • Although each type of printer has some basic requirements, there are no real gatekeepers
  • You control the design of the book
  • You own the rights to your book and their contents
  • You have the option of doing the book design yourself, so the upfront costs can be minimal

The cons of self-publishing are:

  • All phases of the book, from initial manuscript to files ready for printing, is your responsibility
  • You may have to hire people to create the book cover, design the book interior, write the book description, and market the book
  • If you use option 1, above, you will have to pay up front for printing, storage, and distribution.
  • You will probably have fewer opportunities for reviews in traditional media
  • Unless you have a substantial platform or spend considerable time, money, or both on book marketing, you may not sell many copies of your book
  • It’s difficult to make a profit unless you write in a popular genre and have books in a series

Hybrid Publishing

Hybrid publishing is, as the name implies, a blend of traditional and self-publishing. Hybrid publishers are essentially vanity presses. For a fee, they will design and publish your book. Some offer editing services and some also offer marketing services. Most require a substantial initial investment and some also take a percentage of profits from book sales.

The pros of hybrid publishing are:

  • The requirements for acceptance by the publisher are minimal
  • The publisher handles editing, book design, and book production
  • Some hybrid publishers handle book distribution
  • You receive a higher percentage of profits from book sales than you do with traditional publishers

The cons are:

  • The initial cost is often much higher than the cost of paying for your own editing, design, production, and marketing services
  • The quality of the services offered is often inferior to services you can find through editorial service providers
  • The marketing efforts made on behalf of authors is often minimal
  • Although there are some reputable hybrid publishers, several well-known ones are charlatans, offering little to the author in exchange for their high fees.
  • As with self-publishing, you’re unlikely to make a profit unless you have a significant platform to whom you can market your book

I’ll stop here for now. More on each of these approaches in later posts.

Hope this helps someone –


Copyright 2022, David J. Bookbinder

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