In this post, we’ll explore and explain a few of the terms you may have heard along your publishing journey.
“Self-publishing” is just what it sounds like: You’re on your own. Now, this doesn’t mean that you have to do everything yourself; it simply means that you’re in charge of all the moving pieces. Essentially, you’re the quarterback of your publishing process. If the book needs to be written, you’ll either be writing it or finding a ghostwriter on your own. Same goes for all the other aspects of the book: editing, proofreading, interior design, cover design, printing, metadata, sales, royalties, marketing, etc.
To self-publish properly, you’ll either need to learn how to do all of the above yourself or hire individuals to take care of each aspect. This can be done. It can even be done well. But it’s research-intensive, requires a lot of trial and error, and may involve a team of people that you have to stay on top of. Most importantly, it will take up a lot of your time—and money.
As for the books themselves, when you self-publish, distributing your title also falls to you. You can do that through print on demand services like IngramSpark or Amazon KDP. With print on demand, you can choose to order copies of your book to sell or have them printed as they’re sold through a retailer. Either way, it’s a passive form of distribution, and you’re responsible for all the marketing efforts, managing returns (if you choose to accept them), and talking to individual stores to potentially carry the books (which, frankly, they almost never do).
Historically, this is what most people think of when they think of publishing models. But in order to have a book traditionally published, you will likely need an agent and either a completed manuscript or proposal. If your book is accepted, the publishing house may pay you an advance based on factors such as genre, your personal platform, sales expectations, etc. Then, you will receive a small percentage of each book sold, likely in the 10 percent to 15 percent range, while your publisher keeps the rest. That means 85 percent to 90 percent of every sale you make on your book goes to the publisher.
Some authors don’t have a problem with this. Many authors with an entrepreneurial mindset who use the book as a brand anchor do. But the stark reality is, without a track record of book sales or millions of followers on social media, securing a traditional publishing deal is nearly impossible.
That leaves the final publishing option:
With the right hybrid model, you get the best parts of both traditional publishing and self-publishing:
- A single outlet that provides professional editors, writers, and designers, all working together on your book
- Mainstream sales channels to the biggest retailers in the world (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Costco, Target, etc.), as well as the small ones (independent bookstores and specialty shops)
- The same printers that the big New York houses use
- Warehousing and distribution
- Professional marketing and public relations work
- Total creative control
- Complete financial control
- Final say on all publishing decisions
- The lion’s share of royalties
In the end, there is no “one way” to publish a book, and every author should choose the path that works best for them. If you’re interested in exploring an industry-leading hybrid model, feel free to get in touch with a Ballast Books acquisitions editor today by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Jon Finkel Jon is the director of publishing for Ballast Books and its children’s book imprint, Blue Balloon Books. He’s navigated the publishing landscape as the author of Hoops Heist, 1996: A Biography, and Jocks in Chief.