Overview of Traditional Publishing

What It's All About

Getting your Book Published I have an entire section which goes in detail through the pros and cons of the four main ways of publishing in modern times –

- Large traditional press
- Small indie press
- Vanity press
- Self-publishing

This area here covers the large / small press options. Really, the only difference between large traditional press and small indie press is the size. If an indie press gets large enough and builds up enough of a reputation it’s now considered a large press house. I suppose conversely if a large, traditional press fell onto hard times and got broken apart into pieces, those pieces could then be considered small press.

In large and small press, you can expect a few things.

First, there will be a selection process. These companies only have the manpower to work on X books in a given year. There are millions of authors out there vying for this opportunity. The publishing houses turn down thousands and thousands of books. In many cases it isn’t that the book is “bad”. Some books are stellar and would be perfect for another publishing house. But publishing houses often map out a plan for a year with the exact types of books they want to release. Maybe one cyborg science fiction story. One time-travel Scottish story. They do their research and try to determine what is “hot”.

If your story comes in and is a time-travel Scottish story, you may be in perfect luck.

If your story comes in and is a sweetly romantic tale set in Roman times, it may just not be what they’re after this year.

Next up, a traditional press will always pay you an advance up front. THEY WILL NEVER CHARGE YOU. If someone is charging you to apply or to sign up, keep looking. They are a vanity press. No matter what they call themselves, that is not how a traditional publishing house works.

That being said, that up front money is NOT free money. It is an advance on your profits. If they give you $5,000, it’s not that you got a $5,000 bonus. It’s that the first $5,000 you earn from sales has already been given to you. If your author contract says you earn 10% of net sales, that might mean you actually get 10 cents from every book sold, once they subtract all their costs for printing, distribution, marketing, and so on. It could take quite a while for you to “earn back” that $5,000 advance and start actually earning additional money. Be aware.

Traditional publishers usually have control over editing, illustrations, and cover design. They might ask you for feedback – or they might not. They usually think they know far better than the author does what will sell well. You could be pleased by what the result is – or you might be fairly unhappy. Just be prepared.

On the up side, traditional publishers give you a lot of credibility. You more easily can get TV and newspaper interviews done. You’re now eligible for book awards that many self-published authors can’t apply for. You can join writing groups that require a “real” publishing credential.

So let’s see how we get into a traditional publishing arrangement!

Traditional Publishing - main page
Overview of Traditional Publishing
How Copyright Works
Working With A Literary Agent
... My Concerns about Agents
Finding a Publisher
... Writer's Market
Writing a Query Letter
... Query Letter Tips
... Query Letter Issues to Avoid
Getting To a Contract Offer
Negotiating the Contract
Working With the Publisher or Agent
... Publishers and Editing

Submitting to Magazines
Tips for Submitting Short Stories


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