Hello readers and writers! Today, I’m sharing a bit more insight into the publishing world and your options. There used to be a lot of stigma around self-published books—it seemed like only desperate people published their own books and did little to provide a professional product. Now, self-published authors are competing with traditionally published books in ways that no one could predict.
You may be wondering which option is best. I’ll spoil the answer by saying: there is no “best” option; it’s just which option is best for you and your book. Your answer will depend on your author goals, your target audience, genre, and more. Below, I’ll compare the three options (based on 2022 trends) and offer some suggestions for how to choose your own publishing path.
1. Traditional/Represented by a Publisher
Every aspiring author has an idea of what traditional publishing is. In short, you write most or all of your manuscript, pitch it to a literary agent, and wait for the literary agent to find the right publisher. After you sign a contract, a publishing house handles all the editing, design, and formatting of the book. The publishing company makes money in preorders and book sales, so they do a lot of work to get your book(s) out there. However, authors still have to do their due diligence to market their books and plan/attend public events.
Traditional publishing is often difficult to get into; your agent and your publisher have to agree that your manuscript falls into current trends and can turn a profit. It’s also widely known that big publishers are still operated by mostly white, straight people. It means that these “trends” tend to focus on what appeals to white readers and ignoring other demographics. Traditional publishers can only publish so many books a year so they try to push books that they think will appeal to consumers.
Overall, most authors shoot for traditional publishing. But it’s common to spend years pitching and not getting a contract. From what I know, many authors enjoy the traditional publishing process—there are horror stories, too. However, it’s very common to pitch your book for years and get stuck in the literary agent step, especially if your book does not fit in current traditional publishing trends.
Traditional Publishing Is Ideal If:
- You don’t want to spend money or time hiring editors, formatters, etc.
- You’re publishing nonfiction—showing that you have a team fact-checking your content speaks volumes to the community.
- You want help distributing your book; it’s in your publisher’s best interest to sell as many copies as possible.
- You have a book idea that fits current publishing trends.
- You’re willing to put in the time and effort to secure a literary agent.
Traditional Publishing Is Not Ideal If:
- You can’t get a literary agent/publishers don’t seem interested in your work.
- You want more control over royalties, the story itself, or the design.
- You don’t want to wait for someone else to pick up your work.
- You want control over your book distribution options.
Self-publishing is an ever-growing avenue for publishing. As I mentioned, if you are ready to tell stories that are risky, fresh, or creative, you don’t have to wait for someone to say “yes” to your project.
Of course, there’s so much to learn about publishing on your own. Authors must wear all the hats. They’re not just crafting a story; they are learning how to run a website, set up public events, hire editors or designers, promote their work online, avoid scammers, get reviewers, and make actual money as an author. This is why many authors tend to look at self-publishing as a Plan B if traditional publishing doesn’t work out.
Despite all the stigma surrounding this option, there is still a lot of success stories. Romance authors specifically are making bank and regularly turn out books each year (sometimes quarterly) for their fans. Indie authors enjoy being the boss of their own schedules. Most of us have families or jobs to juggle, which means we can take our time if necessary.
Overall, authors who have experience with marketing and business can accomplish what traditional authors do on their own dime and schedule. However, it’s not for everyone; it can sometimes takes years and multiple books for an author to finally get adequate publicity and credibility.
Self-Publishing Is Ideal If:
- You want complete control over every aspect of the process.
- You want to set your own deadlines/schedules.
- You or your work represents marginalized voices; you don’t want to dull your message for anyone.
- You want to earn higher author royalties.
- You have “small-scale” publishing goals; popularity isn’t your top goal.
Self-Publishing Is Not Ideal If:
- You are not excited about nor willing to do your own marketing or public events.
- Your project requires a certain amount of credibility that an established publisher can provide.
- You are not willing to spend the majority of the process on your own.
- You are overwhelmed by the choices, options, or ever-changing marketing methods.
3. Hybrid Publishing
Hybrid publishing is not necessarily new—they are just gaining more attention and credibility. And I’ll show my bias now in reminding y’all that I work for a hybrid publisher. Hybrid publishers tend to make their money by guiding authors through the complete publishing process as opposed to book sales. This means that they’re focused on being a “one-stop shop” for indie-minded authors but they ensure the author retains full rights over their books and profits.
Many authors gravitate toward hybrid publishing because traditional publishing doesn’t work out but they don’t have to be a one-person show, either. To afford the entire publishing process, many authors set up crowdfunding campaigns or save up the money. But if the authors learn how to set up an platform and community, they can earn a significant amount of royalties and compete with traditionally published authors.
For some authors, hybrid publishing sounds like a dream come true. Work with professionals and keep your royalties? Yes please! Like many other industries, there are scammers to avoid. Luckily, there are standards and guidelines for hybrid publishing that you can look for—they’re set by the Independent Book Publishers Association.
Hybrid Publishing Is Ideal If:
- You want the best of both worlds. You get backed by a publisher, you glean their professional insight, and yet you publish the book you want and keep your royalties.
- You prefer more focus on your wishes instead of the publisher’s wishes.
- You thrive on set deadlines instead of setting your own.
- You’d like to avoid pitfalls or mistakes that green indie authors make
Hybrid Publishing Is Not Ideal If:
- You want a publishing team to stick with you long after the book is out.
- You are unsure which publishers are legit or scammers.
- Real life makes it difficult to meet deadlines and make decisions.
- You’re okay with doing your own marketing but you want a lot more distribution help.
There are entire books and resources that go deeper into each publishing route but I hope this quick overview gives y’all a better idea of which route is best for you. The good thing is that you don’t have to stick with one avenue for the rest of your life. You could self-publish a series and then query your newest project, for example. You could take everything you learned about publishing from a publisher and go solo. All that matters is that you feel like you’re doing your goals and your books justice.
Do you have more questions about publishing? Did I miss something? I’d love to hear your thoughts and feedback. Until then, happy reading and publishing!
2 comments on “Choose Your Own Adventure: Trad, Indie, or Hybrid Publishing”
Excellent overview, Whitney. Thanks for sharing your awesome knowledge.
Thank you thank you!