What Are the Differences between Traditional Publishing, Self-Publishing, and Hybrid Publishing?

You’ve heard the terms traditional publishing, self-publishing, and hybrid publishing. But what do they all mean? And is one better than another? There is no “right” way to publish your book. However, it’s likely that one approach to publishing will be a better option for you than another, depending on your book, how much work you’re prepared to do, and how much money you’re willing to invest. This post describes each of these publishing models and considers the most significant pros and cons.

Traditional Publishing
A traditional book publishing company buys the rights to an author’s manuscript. Usually an agent, representing the author, negotiates the deal with the book publisher and in return gets a percentage of any monies earned from the sale of the author’s book. Part of the arrangement includes payment of an advance, which the book publisher will pay the author to secure the book deal. In return, the author, working with an in-house editor, is expected to finish writing the book in an allotted time. The book publisher deducts the advance from any royalties the author receives from the sale of the book. Royalties are based on a mutually agreed upon percentage of sales. The author does not receive any royalties until the advance is paid in full.

The book publisher budgets funds to promote and market the book; this amount varies greatly depending on the marketability of the book. The book publisher has the final say on every aspect of the author’s book—from editorial content to cover design to the number of copies in the first printing. The book publisher makes the determination, based on declining sales, when to allow a book to go out of print; this could be as short as a year or even less.

Pros:
• Prestige and validation. You get kudos and recognition from publishers who have been in the business a long time.
• You get a professional team working with you. You have editors working with you to edit your book and cover designers to help design your book.
• You do the writing and a lot of the marketing. The publishing is done for you, but you still need to market your book.
• You don’t have to put out money up front. You will likely receive an advance against royalties that are expected to come in depending on how many readers buy your book.
• Print distribution to bookstores is easier. A traditional publisher distributes to many different booksellers.
• Literary prizes. If you want literary or critical acclaim, it’s more likely to happen if you’re traditionally published.

Cons:
• Need an agent. Authors with no proven track record have a very difficult time getting a publishing deal.
• Very slow process. From the time you get a contract to the time your book goes to market can take 18–24 months.
• Only a few authors get marketing help. Publishers sell to bookstores and focus on that market; they don’t focus on readers. The author has to focus on how to sell to readers.
• Royalty rates can be 10–25%. While you won’t have to invest money upfront, you will lose money in the long run if your book does well.
• You give up creative control. With a traditional publisher, you don’t get a choice in book cover design or in the final edits of your book.

Self-Publishing
Self-publishing refers to publishing a book without the involvement of an established publisher. Unlike the traditional publishing model in which the author shares control with the publisher, self-publishing allows the author to control the entire process, including cover and interior design, price, distribution, marketing, and public relations. Authors can do all these activities by themselves, or they may outsource some of these tasks.

As a self-published author, you pay the full cost of producing your work and are responsible for marketing and distribution. Therefore, the finished copies, the copyright, all subsidiary rights, and all profits are exclusively yours.

Pros:
• Complete creative control. You choose what you want to write and how you want your book cover to look. You work with professional freelancers to help you.
• Faster time from initial idea to published book. After you’ve had your book professionally edited, it can be ready for sale as soon as 24 hours after you upload it to Amazon, and you get paid 60 days after the end of the month.
• Higher Royalties. You get higher royalties than if you publish traditionally. As a self-published author who publishes direct to Amazon, for example, you get between 70–85% of royalties vs. 10–25% for a traditionally published book.
• Sell by any means you want in any global market. Since you keep your rights as a self-published author, you can sell your book however you want.

Cons:
• You do everything yourself. Of course, you can find professionals to help you. As you connect with people online, it’s not hard to find editors, cover designers, and other freelancers to help.
• You run/manage all aspects of your business. You manage all the aspects of publishing a book—editing, cover design, distribution, and marketing.
• To create a professional book, you need to have a budget that includes editing and book cover design. The first thing potential readers of your book see is your book cover. That’s why it’s so important to have a great looking book cover that attracts readers to your particular genre. Having a professionally designed book cover is simply an essential business expense.
• It’s difficult to get print distribution. However, you can self-publish with IngramSpark and gain access to their distribution network.

Hybrid Publishing
Hybrid publishing, also known as partnership publishing, is a combination of self-publishing and traditional publishing that empowers both authors and publishers. It means that both parties take some level of responsibility for the book, meaning both parties are more invested in the success of that book and author.

Like a traditional publisher, a hybrid publisher carefully vets the manuscripts it accepts for publication. The publisher provides the same quality services of a traditional publisher, and the author pays a fee for those services. In the end, the author has a book that he or she can be very proud of and that will be promoted globally.

The payoff for authors in hybrid publishing comes from having more control. Authors invest in their own work or perhaps raise money through crowdfunding to finance their work, and then they keep the lion’s share of their profit, rather than paying it all out. Authors retain creative ownership and are treated more like partners in the process, instead of being at the whim of their publishers.

Pros:
• Royalties. Depending on the hybrid model, you might see up to 80% royalties as you cut away what your publisher has to do on your behalf.
• You have more “say.” You have more control over the editing of your work and the selection of a cover.
• Actually getting published. Publishing costs a lot of money. Hybrid publishers displace some or all of the risk by having authors pay some or all of the cost. This means it’s easier to get your book out there.
• Pick and choose. You might not want or need all the perks of a traditional publisher while still not being ready to hack it alone. À la carte hybrids give you access to what you want—editing, cover art, printing, publishing, marketing, industry contacts, release publicity, distribution—without having to sign up for anything you don’t want.

Cons:
• You pay a fee for publishing your book. Be prepared to pay a fee for publishing your book and possibly not get your investment back.
• Distribution and marketing. Some traditional publishers have better relationships for book distribution.
• Production time. Because hybrid publishers ensure quality, it can take 3 to 4 months or more to get your book published compared to self-publishing which can take a matter of days.

Whatever route you take to publish your book, there are pluses and minuses to each, so the key is to be informed and know your strengths, weaknesses, and available time. Then, find the best match for your situation, personality, and goals. If you have questions regarding hybrid publishing, we would be happy to discuss how it works with Lucid Books Publishing.