Years ago, if you wanted to publish a book, you sought a literary agent to pitch your manuscript to publishers, hoping one would want to buy the rights. If all went well, the publisher paid you an advance against the first-year sales of the book, and your agent took their cut from that. Then, in a couple of years, you finally got to hold your book in your hands.
This publishing model is still available today and is commonly referred to as “traditional publishing.” Many consider it to be the gold standard of publishing, and they covet the contract that proves their book’s worth.
As more people tried to land publishing deals, though, the demand for publishing solutions outweighed the availability of publishing contracts.
That gave rise to print-on-demand platforms, which enabled authors to become their own publishers. And “self-publishing” was born.
However, many authors found they had a lot to learn to be successful as publishers. Publishing a book is a major project with many moving parts and arcane details that most people only notice when things are done wrong, not when they’re done right.
Learning these details didn’t appeal to everyone, so a middle-ground arose where service-based publishers offered knowledge and expertise to authors for a fee. These became known as “hybrid publishers.” Many such companies upheld the ethical and professional standards of the industry.
As with any profession, though, there were also those that did not. Instead, they used pressure sales tactics, accepted every submitted manuscript (regardless of the quality), charged exorbitant fees, and produced sub-standard products. Since they appealed to the vanity of the author more than caring about the quality of the manuscript, these became known as “vanity publishers.”
Given these different publishing models (and the multitude of options in between), it can be distressing and confusing to pick the right option when you’re finally ready to publish your book.
Here’s a quick look at the defining characteristics of each to help you choose the right path for your specific needs.
With traditional publishing, the publisher takes on the expense (and risk) of producing the book. Therefore, they require creative control of your material and retain the lion’s share of the royalties from book sales.
However, the author pays no publishing fees and may even receive an advance against the first-year sales of the book. They also benefit from knowing their book is in the hands of professionals intent on selling as many copies as possible to earn back the money spent producing it.
To be attractive to a traditional publisher, not only does your book idea have to interest them, but there must be a proven market for it. This means you need to have a large platform of potential readers for your book.
If you’re writing a book to build your business, pursuing traditional publishing can create significant problems. The publisher isn’t interested in the success of your business, but in selling books. So the cover design is unlikely to tie to your branding, and the editing may actually remove your “voice” so the content doesn’t even “sound” like you.
After you sign the contract, it often takes 18 months to 2 years for your book to be released. But if the publisher decides there’s not a sufficient market anymore, they may decide not to release it. It’s also their decision when to retire your book, regardless of your business needs.
With self-publishing, you pay the expenses of producing the book without having to share the profit from sales with anyone. You also are 100% in control of everything from creative decisions to timelines, meaning that there’s a lot you’re responsible for knowing and doing.
For example, having full creative control of your material means you have to decide what your cover looks like, how the writing sounds, and how the interior is laid out. This requires an investment of time to learn what you need to do and when, and what the applicable industry standards are.
This method of publishing is the most time-consuming because there is a lot to learn. But it’s a great option for those who plan to publish multiple books and want more control over the process. Just beware of what my mentor calls “unconscious incompetence.” You don’t know what you don’t know. So commit to continually learning how to produce a quality product to avoid potential problems.
With hybrid publishing, you benefit from partnering with a skilled team who already knows what you don’t about publishing. Just like some people would prefer to take their car to a mechanic rather than fixing it themselves, some authors find the convenience of having a ready-made team appealing.
While you do pay for their experience, with most hybrid publishers, you retain creative control and have a say in project timelines. They work with you to create a high-quality book, ensuring that it reflects well on you and appeals to readers.
Reputable hybrid publishers vet their submissions, ensuring your manuscript is ready for publication and there’s a market for it. They also take special care to produce your book according to industry standards so it provides a good first impression of you and your business.
The Independent Book Publishers Association has defined a set of criteria that all reputable hybrid publishers strive to adhere to. (For more information, visit emeraldlakebooks.com/ibpahybrid.) Hybrid publishers that don’t meet those criteria are likely vanity publishers and should be avoided.
Publishing a Business Book
When it comes to publishing a business book specifically, traditional publishing may offer some prestige that’s nice, but the long wait time and limited creative control mean you may end up waiting a long time for a book that doesn’t sound like you or accurately reflect your brand and that doesn’t accomplish the specific goals you had in mind when you wrote it.
You could certainly self-publish, but that requires enough knowledge and expertise to effectively manage the project team you assemble. Remember, publishing is a business and there are quality standards that need to be met in order to for the book to be a success and to reflect well on the author. And not everyone is cut out to self-publish.
Hybrid publishing is the only option that provides a shorter timeline than traditional publishing while providing a good deal of creative control that ensures your book still sounds like you, reflects your brand, and accomplishes what you set out to do with it. And the best part is, you have a professional partner to work with so you don’t have to learn a whole new industry while continuing to focus on your own work too.
So if you’re interested in talking with Emerald Lake Books to see if hybrid publishing is right for you, I invite you to schedule a call with us at emeraldlakebooks.com/discovery.