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BH Mag, Smart Marketing

The Rules of Book Publishing Have Changed

The Ongoing Battle Between Self (Fee-Based) And Traditional PublishingWe have all heard the conversations about which method of publishing is better? Is it fee-based publishing or traditional publishing?In this ever-changing world of processes and technologies, it is no longer a place where a traditional route of publishing is necessary to be a successful publisher. A person can make millions or zero dollars through fee-based publishing; the same can happen with traditional publishing. People fervently defend each side. Person 1 is pro fee-based, Person 2 is pro traditional, and so on and so on. Are the following examples familiar?

Person 1 – Who needs a traditional publisher? I can publish my book by myself.

Person 2 – Traditional publishers will get you out there. They are established.

Person 3 – Don’t pay a publisher to publish. If the publisher wants money, run.

Person 4 – I don’t care how my book gets published. I just want to get paid.

The list goes on and on. Everyone has an opinion about the best route to take to publish a book. The bottom line is you must take the best route for your project. Make your decision based on all of the factors involved in the publishing, production, and distribution process. For example, decide if the cost is suitable for your budget and the royalty payments are fair. Determine if a publisher can meet your requirements to give you the results you seek. Let’s tackle these examples (costs, royalties and processes) to get you thinking about the big picture instead of making decisions based merely on hearsay minus whole truth.


There is a lot of talk about fee-based publishing being the wrong way to go because the author pays to have his or her book published. Many people believe that you should run from someone who wants to charge you for publishing your book. Guess what? Whichever method you choose, fee-based or traditional, you will pay in some form. You pay in upfront costs or royalties, but you pay. People who invest in their own projects often get more of the royalty share (35% to 100%) than people who don’t invest (around 10%). Though it may cost more to get your book off the ground, the rewards may far exceed the investment. Also, 10% royalty may be just fine if you sell one million books and make $1 per book. You do the math. Ask yourself whether your book will sell enough copies to make money, regardless of the publishing route.

And what else is truth? A publisher cannot pick everyone, traditional or fee-based. The business would fail if everyone were picked up. Why? Because everyone did/does not write a great book that appeals to the public. Some people are attracted to traditional publishers, believing the big publisher’s books are better than books without a heavyweight stamped on the cover. Some people believe fee-based publishers have no scruples and they will publish anything to make money. This is, simply, not true. There are fee-based publishers who will not publish a book that does not fit within a model of niche and excellence. And we know, excellence is subjective. Just as with any service or product, you will find potential business partners that mean you well, those who don’t, and those who only work for the money. You must do your research to determine who is right for you. There are large publishers that have taken on authors, and many of those authors have no sales. What have you paid for? You paid for nothing and you got nothing, in this case.

Whichever drives you, upfront costs or backend royalties, you must do the math. Determine what you want out of the project. Does money even matter to you? Are you writing a book to make money or is getting the word out more important? Do you want to invest in yourself by paying for the publishing, production, and distribution of your book or do you want someone else to spend all of the money upfront? It all comes down to whether you want to pay now or later.


Whichever method you choose involves similar ‘bird’s eye’ processes: write the story, illustrate and/or photograph imagery, prepare materials for book printers, review proofs, edit, approve, and publish. Both methods, traditional and fee-based, require you to be familiar enough with the publishing process so you do not get taken for a blindsided ride. Each method requires you to do research to determine which companies can meet your needs regarding printing and distribution. Through both routes, one must stay on top of the publishing house to make sure the book’s production is on schedule. There are more similarities, but you get the point – whether fee-based or traditional, there are processes involved in getting your manuscript converted to a book and to the public.

While the overall processes involved in book printing and distribution are similar, the steps within each process are different. For example, the goal is to distribute books, but do I distribute through online, brick and mortar or both retail outlets? Do I need distribution beyond my country? All books have a cover, but do I have the publisher take control of the art or do I play a key role? Most books get printed in some form for brick and mortar distribution, as well as author direct sales, but do I print my book at 5 x 7 inches or 8.5 x 8.5 inches? Do I use glossy paper or matte? Will the book’s interi or be white or cream? Do I have exterior and interior bleeds? Do I want to manage inventory? Do I publish paperback, audio book, e-book or all? Will I have enough pages to get the book title and my name printed on the book’s spine? Again, regardless of the route taken, these questions will come into play. Whether you participate in the stages or not, don’t be clueless as you are ultimately accountable for approving your project before it goes public.

Ask yourself the above questions, and many more, when you seek a book publisher. Not all people want brick and mortar distribution. As example, someone may be writing a book specifically for blind people, and only require audio books. Another person may be working on a project that will only be sold via paperback to a small niche where physical copies are required to take notes in a work-study book. Another person might only want to sell a book in their local country, having no need for foreign distribution. Another person may want to invest upfront and make more on backend royalties. It’s about your needs.


This article touches on a few areas involved in the process of getting a manuscript from you to the public in the form of a book. You must do your homework to determine what you need, where you will get it, and what you are willing to pay to get it. Your needs determine what is best for you. Do you need to put up little money because of budget? Ask questions. Do your homework. Talk with people that have used the services, which you are eyeing for your project. Go to bookstores, libraries, and look at your book collection. Look at publishers’ names. Check out the quality of paper, printing, formatting. Pay attention to the details. How is the spine printing? Do you like the art on the cover? Is the book filled with errors? Did anybody seem to care about the finished product?

Some of the top publishers in America, meaning highest in market shares, include Random House, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, Penguin, Scholastic, John Wiley & Sons, and St. Martins. There are also many fee-based companies that are doing very well with making a profit and publishing outstanding titles. If a traditional or fee-based publisher wants to publish your book, and the deal is appealing, then go for it.

If you are convinced that your work is great and no publisher picks you up, do you just shelf your book and let dust accumulate or do you publish your book by investing in yourself? The choice is yours. It is your dream. Follow it on the path that transforms your dream into reality, whether it is fee-based or traditional. Remember whatever route you choose, you will pay a price. Whatever price you pay, seek no less than excellence.



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