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Blurred Lines of the Publishing Industry

If you are getting paid for your manuscript, you are working with a traditional publisher. If you’re paying any portion of money to the publisher, you are working with a non-traditional publisher. Seems pretty simple so far, right? Here is where the blurred lines come in.

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Blurred Lines of the Publishing Industry

Apr 30, 2015

Jessica Parker

While driving home one night, I was listening to Robin Thicke's song "Blurred Lines," and I started thinking about the publishing industry and how much it has changed in last couple of years. Although Robin was singing about something entirely different in his song, my mind kept wondering back to the blurred lines that the rise of self-publishing has created for our industry.

The publishing world is continuously evolving. New publishers are popping up every day, and each has their own approach, or marketing strategy, to how they approach publishing. How do authors keep up? Traditional, independent, self, vanity, hybrid, publishing support, etc….the list goes on and on, and it seems like every day there is a new term or a new approach to getting your book published.

Well, today I am here to liberate you and educate you on how to identify the type of publisher you are speaking to, regardless of what they say. Being a fan of the KISS principle—Keep It Simple Stupid—I’m going to break this down for you in the simplest way I possibly can.

There are two schools of publishing: traditional and non-traditional. The biggest difference between these two schools is how money is transferred. If you are getting paid for your manuscript, you are working with a traditional publisher. If you’re paying any portion of money to the publisher, you are working with a non-traditional publisher.

Seems pretty simple so far, right? Here is where the blurred lines come in. Within the non-traditional realm, you have a whole slew of different types of publishers who boast different ways they can help you. Self, vanity, hybrid, and even printers. They are all common in that you will be required to dig in your pockets and fork out some cash in some way, shape, or form.

Self-publishing is when you decide to publish your book yourself. You are now acting as a publisher and contracting an editor, a cover designer, interior layout designer, printer, and distributor. You can either find all of these people on your own, or you can enlist the help of a company to assist you. However, you will retain full rights to your work and creative control over the entire process.

Should you decide that you don’t want to do that much work in gathering all the necessary components to publishing your work, you can seek the help of a self-publishing support company. This type of publisher will bring all of these necessary components to you under the umbrella of the company. They have editors, designers, and marketing services at your disposal. It’s your one-stop shop. You will have to pay for their services, and you should retain all the rights. If not, you’re looking at a vanity press.

A vanity press, on the outside, appears just as a self-publishing support company would. You pay them to help you edit, design, sell, print, and market your book. However, what sets them apart from a self-publishing support company is that they may assert control over the rights to your book, as well as provide only limited editing, distribution, and marketing. Be wary of the "We Create, We Own" section of their contract. This means that if they design a cover for you, you do not own the rights to that cover.

And last but not least, you have the newest of the bunch, hybrid publishers. These are companies that provide you with ghostwriting, editing, design, printing, marketing, and distribution. In this case, the publisher reviews your manuscript, and if selected, they will share the costs of publishing, production, and marketing of your book with you. This also means that they share a percentage of the profit in some way.

Although there are many different variations of the above breakdowns, this should provide you with the basics that you need in order to immediately identify what type of publisher they are, and if they are the right publisher for you. 



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