Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Book Publishing: What Are Your Options?

 Writer’s Digest recently ran an interview with one of my favorite authors, Anne Lamott.  In it she touched upon the positive and negative changes she’s seen in the publishing industry over the years.  She felt that an ever growing online community has had an incredibly positive impact for writers or anyone looking to share their lives or histories on the internet.  There’s no disputing that.  There’s quite literally an online community for every person with every plausible interest out there.

On the negative side though, Lamott notes how the publishing industry has grown the “big time” publishers to the point that the numbers of small-press-run books are beginning to decline.  Her comment made me think about publishing companies.  Most people know that if a book is bound and set to print, a company somewhere must have published it.  Come to find out, there are several kinds of book publishers, each serving a different need or purpose.

Vanity or Subsidy Press:  A vanity press/subsidy press is a publisher or publishing house that puts out books at the total expense of the author. Most often the author has no say on details like paper color or binding style, but he retains all rights to his work.  These companies do little to no editing or promoting and often inflate all of the costs for what minute amount they do.  Vanity or subsidy presses are usually not taken very seriously and should never be mentioned as a source of credibility in the writing world. 

Self-publishing:  Self-publishing is when an author essentially becomes his own publishing company and takes on the responsibility of proofreading, editing, promoting, and all other activities that go along with publishing a book for sale.  It is done entirely at his own expense and often done with print-on-demand technology.  It’s especially ideal for niche markets like regional cookbooks or histories, how-to and other books of the sort.  There is certainly something to be said for the hard work and perseverance that go into making a self-published book a success.  

E-Publishing:   E-publishing is relatively new and certainly one of the most up-and-coming methods of having a book published.  E-publishers offer their books in several different formats including those that can be downloaded to computers, phones, readers and other devices.  Some also use digital technology to make books available in print.  This is an ideal option for anyone who seeks to promote themselves, their business, or even to keep a book circulating that is no longer sold in print. 

Small Press Publishing:  Small press publishers, also known as “indie publishers” or “independent press” usually print a limited number of bound books and have annual sales below a certain level – in the US it’s $50 million.  Many times they do not publish more than ten titles per year and they usually cater to a niche market like library market, nonfiction, or mystery.

Small press publishers don’t pay very high advances, but are more enthusiastic about promoting their authors’ works than larger companies, have more flexible schedules, and are well-informed in the area of social media marketing – which can help a lot with promotion. 

NY House:  Anybody who knows anything at all about book publishers has heard of Random House, Penguin, Simon & Schuster and several other big names like these, including some independents like Dorchester.  They are located in New York City (hence the term “NY House” or simply “New York”) and they are the crème de la crème of the industry.

NY publishers can pay million dollar advances and get an author’s book in every bookstore, library, or supermarket imaginable.  Of course, going with NY House doesn’t necessarily mean that this will happen. 

In the following weeks I will write a series of posts, each one breaking down the advantages and disadvantages of going with each approach to publishing.  Until then keep in mind that all of these methods (except Vanity or Subsidy Press) are credible ways to get a book out there and available to the public.  Excellent writing, hard work, perseverance and impressive promotion are sure to get it on the best-sellers list.


Anonymous said...

I really appreciate that you have shared such important information for writers. I will be sharing this article with others. Can't tell you how proud I am of you, my beautiful girl. I look forward to more!! BRAVO!!
Venice Rogers

Lisa Vella said...

Thank you so much for your kind words! I can't tell you how much that means coming from someone like you! You have been such an inspiration to me and so many others. Your influence on my life was instrumental to me learning the fundamentals of writing and the love for literature!

Have a very blessed day!


Danielle Empson said...

Lisa, I've shared this with one of my good friends who is trying to get some of her works of fiction published. Thank you for sharing with us! I'm so proud to have you as a friend!
Danielle E.

Lillie Ammann said...


In the last few years, I'm seeing somewhat of a blur between subsidy (NOT vanity) and self-publishing. Print-on-demand companies like CreateSpace and Lightning Source enable writers to publish their own work much more simply than old-fashioned self-publishing using an offset printer. Lightning Source is a printer and distributor. CreateSpace offers a range of services from printing only to full service, including editing, cover design, and interior layout. Printing only is completely free—you pay only for the books you buy, and you receive royalties for the books CreateSpace sells through their site,, and other retailers. I hope you will cover that type of publishing in your series, as I believe it is fastest-growing segment of publishing.

Lisa Vella said...


Thank you so much for your kind words as well as for sharing my article with your friend. I hope she finds it, and the ones to follow, to be useful.

I am so proud to have YOU as a friend, Danielle! You are a beautiful woman - inside and out and my life is richer for knowing you!

Lisa Vella said...


Thank you so much - that's very useful information. I actually do plan on expanding on that form of publishing as well. Since you have so much experience in the area of publishing, I might have some questions for you if you don't mind.

Have a blessed day!

MegB said...

Great I m not aware of such a different type of Publication but just heard about E-Publishing. I like your post due to brief information so keep sharing such type. As per my viewpoint I prefer E-publishing coz it an speedy and easy PROMOTING option but fact is also there that it might be little bit EXPENSIVE procedure.