There are so many options for writers struggling to find a home for their work. So many different routes to publication. Many authors these days are opting to self-publish – either going it alone or as part of a collective. And for some this has proven to be a very successful route.
But I’m not here to talk about self-publishing today. I’m going to talk about the different sorts of publisher out there. Because not all publishers are created equal. And one way of distinguishing between them is to look at their business models and ask yourself – who is the customer?
1. Vanity Publishers
These are full service publishers. They will edit, print, format and design the cover art for a fee. In this business model the author is the customer. Not the reader. Of course you may wish to use one of these services for a specific project such as a memoir or a community project and would prefer to pay someone else to do it for you rather than do it yourself. In that case you’ll have plenty of choice.
2. The Subsidy Publisher
These initially appear to be standard publishers. The author receives an e-mail saying how much they love the book and would like to publish it. However, they then go on to state that they will require the author to make a contribution. This can be in the order of thousands of pounds! The problem here is that in their business model the author is the customer. If you sign with one of these publishers, yes, you’ll have a published book in your hands but the editing may be woefully inadequate and marketing will be non-existent. They’re got their money so why should they do anything else? If you follow this link you will find a thread on the Absolute Write Forum which discusses just such a publisher.
3. The e-book publisher
There was a huge proliferation of e-book publishers that appeared at the start of the e-book revolution. Now some of these have done extremely well and in some genres such as romance there is a huge e-book market and excellent opportunities for authors. But not all e-book publishers are equal. There are some that accept nearly every book submitted to them and push out large numbers of releases with minimum editing effort and basic covers. Here the business model is to sell small numbers of lots of books. This is good for the publisher, but not for the author. Interestingly this business model is not one that can be sustained and I’m noticing more and more of these types of publishers are folding. There’s a thread here on the Absolute Write Forum discussing one such publisher which recently went under. It’s quite shocking to see how low some author’s sales were and how the publisher used unpaid interns to do the editing.
4. The Small independent Publisher
Sometimes these are e-book publishers, sometimes both e-book and print. These publishers may be small but they invest in their authors and titles providing sound editing and decent cover art, but most important they put a good deal of effort into promotion and marketing. Of course if they end up with a big hit on their hands they might struggle to keep up with demand, but the key point here is that it is the reader who is the customer and they will do their best to get your book into as many readers hands as they possibly can.
5. The Big 6.
Again, the reader is the customer, as it should be. Generally these will only accept agented submissions, but occasionally they will offer open submissions windows. It’s worth keeping an eye out – you never know – it could be your break.
So when you are trying to decide which publishers to approach or whether to accept that offer you’ve just received, take a long hard look at their business model and then decide if they are right for you.