About this Work
What is a Royalty Publisher?
What is a Service Publisher?
What is a Hybrid Publisher?
Comparison of the Three
About the Author
This work is written with the sole intention of informing authors and prospective authors about the publishing industry and how it works. It’s meant to describe the different types of publishers to assist and help authors when they’re looking for someone to help make their dreams of becoming a successful author come true.
This book is written by Christopher Hamby, a licensed literary agent with Paradigm Literary Services and publishing executive with Scribbcrib Publishing LLC. With nearly ten years of experience in the publishing world, Christopher’s insight from both sides of the publishing world will allow insight to how the publishing process works and what authors need to consider when trying to get their work into the hands of literary professions. In this work, he will add several NOTE TO AUTHOR sections to offer advice to perspective authors and to give them something to consider.
Books have been around for ages, whether written by hand on papyrus and bound by string, or printed in mass quantities on cheap paper. Thanks to Johan Gutenberg, the publishing industry was created, and the model didn’t change for hundreds of years. Authors would create their works, submit them to people who would debate whether or not it would be profitable to print and distribute, and them the process was done. The author would write more books and the publisher would print and distribute the books, paying the author a percentage of each sale, called a royalty. While variances have occurred in the business model over time, the industry remained virtually unchanged, with five major publishers becoming the vultures with several smaller presses trying to keep up.
However, during the first years of the internet, the model started to change. With the vast amounts of books being written and turned down by the larger publishers, several smaller presses started to emerge, growing in stature and taking the scraps that the big publishers deemed to be inconsequential and unprofitable. These publishers, with an incredible hunger, were able to market, drive, and push these books that the big publishers didn’t want, making them profitable and in turn, creating a business that thrived on them. Even though they were around, and more literature was filling the shelves, the big publishers still remained the most profitable. Their large stature made their buying power immense, making it to where the top retailers would pay higher prices to ensure that they got the works their customers wanted. Also, because of their size, they’re able to keep production costs down, purchasing their paper in much large quantities and having the money to obtain the best, fastest machines.
Over the past five to seven years, the business model has started to change. With the emergence of social media playing a large role in our day to day lives and the easily accessible marketplaces, on top of the switch to digital copies of works instead of physical copies, the publishing industry was forced to adapt. As sales in physical stores dropped for the large publishers, other smaller ones were able to work their way in by using their marketing power on social media. With the right amount of skill and know how, marketing on social media doesn’t cost anywhere near as much as any other form of marketing, which turned out to be the tipping point.
Self-publishing has emerged as the largest publishing force in the world. Various websites and companies compete for creative works, charging exorbitant fees for the things publishers used to do: editing, formatting, printing, distributing, and marketing. These companies sign authors into contracts and the authors pay for the entire publishing process, signing into “packages” and “deals” that they believe to be their source to success. Several authors flooded the online bookstores with works that, while creative, are not up to the standard a conventional publisher would distribute. Where the traditional publishers acted as a net to catch the works that weren’t up to a certain standard, self publishers, who were already paid, allowed them through.
This is not a bad thing; not even a little. Everyone who has an idea has a dream of becoming successful. Self publishing companies give people a chance to realize that dream, though they are responsible for all of their marketing and other tools needed to be successful. Self publishers are, in a sense, author-entrepreneurs, turning their work and their creative ideas into a business. Self published authors are businessmen, and if they enter the publishing world with that intention, they can be a forced to be reckoned with.
With the breakdown and expansion of the publishing world in the 2000s, the business model of the publishing industry changed. From the wreckage, three types of publishers emerged, all offering various degrees of products and services to make authors successful: the royalty publisher, the service publisher, and the hybrid publisher.
The first, and oldest of the three, is the Royalty Publisher, also referred to as the conventional publisher. Royalty publishers still use the older model in terms of acquiring works and distributing them. They still accept submissions, whether solicited and vetted by a literary agent or unsolicited and queried by the author. These publishers have a staff of slush readers who read the works and determine if they’re acceptable to move on in the process. Following that, they have a lead, or chief editor who makes the final decision on the works. They will also be responsible for the work going forward, if the author signs on with them. Several publishing companies have removed the slush readers from their staff, instead having the lead editor read a few sample chapters and a synopsis instead.
Once signed to an agreement, the work will be in the hands of the lead editor and his staff. They will break the book down, paragraph by paragraph, checking for grammar, spelling, syntax, and readability. They will make adjustments were needed to ensure that the work meets their standards for distribution.
NOTE TO AUTHORS: Publishing is a business and publishers have to make money, else they cannot publish anymore works. A publisher will, unfortunately from time to time, make changes to your work without consulting you because it is what’s best for business. When you’re negotiating, always ask about creative control of your content if that is important to you.
The publisher will commission an artist to make a cover designed to attract the eyes of potential readers and will begin the initial phases of marketing prior to the release of the work. At this juncture, authors will need to start discussing with their agents or with the editor (if they don’t have an agent) what steps they will personally need to take in marketing their work at this point in the process.
[*NOTE TO AUTHORS: Many royalty publishers are actually starting to place marketing requirements in publishing agreements. These can range from simply having an active facebook page or twitter account, to having a full service blog or website. These are things you will have to negotiate with the publishers, because they will insist that you handle a great deal of the marketing on your end, creating content and engaging with your readers while they will handle the back end work of ensuring search engine optimization through their distributers and getting your work into as many places as possible. *]
At this stage of the setup, with royalty publishers, it is crucial for you to build the framework for you success. Talk to them and ask what they want you to do, whether during negotiations or after the book is released. Your assistance in marketing will only help you sell more works.
Following the completion of the editing process, the cover will be added and all of the formatting will be completed. Table of contents will be created and finalized and the book will finally appear as it should. The publisher will set a date for release and the author can begin to look forward to potentially having a career. Several publishers release primarily in an electronic format, instead of physical. The costs of production for an electronic work are much less than a physical version. The formatting required is different and it’s much easier to market electronic works. Many of these publishers will offer physical release, depending on how well the book performs.
[*NOTE TO AUTHORS: This is becoming the norm with most royalty publishers and it shouldn’t discourage you. If you have your heart set on a physical version of your book, then this is something you need to discuss ahead of time with your agent or publisher. The cost of creating and distributing physical works is far greater than the cost of creating and distributing electronic ones. The profit margins are exponentially better as well. *]
In most agreements, you’ll notice where there is a section about returns. Returns are when a book vendor returns the work to the publisher for lack of sales. This return will be removed from your royalties as the books will have to be resold, a lot of times at a discount because the condition may not be optimal. With electronic works, you rarely, if ever, have returns, and if you do, it’s because of an issue with the file format or readability that the publisher or distributor can handle before a refund is given.
*I encourage you to consider these publishers who distribute primarily electronically if your work does not have a great deal of pictures and is not something that is meant to sit on a coffee table. If you wrote a book on underwater photography, showing several detailed pictures and slides about the various fish and reefs, you may want to consider avoiding electronic only publishers. However, with electronic works, you can link pictures and images to various websites or blogs, namely your own. Electronic works offer a great deal of flexibility and marketing tools that you do not get with physical works. *
But, I understand the feeling of holding a work in your hand that you created. It’s incredible, and if that’s what you’re after, then that is something you will need to discuss with your agent or publisher.
A service publisher is also referred to a self publisher. These are companies that were created to facilitate the demand for individuals who either chose not to pursue royalty publishing, or were turned down. The service publisher does not make any money off of royalties, so they do not have a stake in whether or not your book sells a single copy. Because of this, they’re able to be simple, straight forward, and direct with their business message.
Service publishers will provide you with the tools that your book will need to be successful; the same tools a royalty publisher offers for free. They will edit your book, format your book, convert your book, and create a cover for your book, all for various fees. They charge for whatever they do, opting to make their money from the authors directly instead of waiting to see if the book generates any sales. Service publishers also sell generic marketing plans, offer search engine optimization, and assistance in acquiring readers. Service publishers also have print services. Thus, if you’re insisting on having your work as a physical edition, then they can provide that service for you.
However, every service that these companies offer can be acquired elsewhere. Other companies exist that will edit or format your work. You can find an artist somewhere that will make you a cover (so long as you know the dimensions you need). These service publishers will create your work for you and distribute it at no charge, but everything they’re selling can be bought elsewhere and potentially cheaper. It is also possible to distribute your work for free. Websites like amazon, Shakespir, barnes and noble, kobo, apple, google play, and more will allow authors to distribute their works themselves for free, not needing the Service Publisher to do it for them.
NOTE TO AUTHORS: Service Publishers are slowly dying out, because other companies and freelancers have come in to replace them. While several large ones still exist, the smaller ones have been bought out or merged with the larger ones, similar to what has been happening with the larger royalty publishers. Essentially, companies created to edit, ghostwrite, format, and market without the restrictions of publishing have supplanted the Service Publishers. These companies also help smaller publishers, as well, so it only makes sense for authors to go with a company that is geared and experienced to help them. Do your homework and shop around. You can get an amazing price and save yourself a lot of money if you do that.
A hybrid publisher is the evolution of a service publisher, as many of them have converted to this business model. These publishers charge lower fees for the services offered by the service publisher, but maintain a royalty. Essentially, they will charge you half the price of the service publisher, but still keep a percentage of all of your sales. They offer a bit more assistance in marketing, but since they’ve already generated revenue from your work, they’re not as bound to its success.
The easiest way to think of this is that a hybrid publisher does not have any connection to your work. They charge you about what it would cost for them to provide the service in terms of man power and resources, though realistically, they do profit on this. The prices are much less than the service publisher, because the hybrid publisher will profit from any sales of the book. Thus, they’re gambling on the success of your book without investing anything themselves. They will get a cut of every sale, usually between twenty and forty percent of the sale. Authors can save money by going through these companies, but will not generate as much revenue as they potentially could.
- Royalty Publisher
- Invests time and money into the success of your book
- Is tougher to get into an agreement with
- Does not make anything unless your work sells
- Service Publisher
- Does not invest anything into the success of your book
- Only generates revenue off of the services sold
- Turns the author into an entrepreneur
- Hybrid Publisher
- Does not invest into the book
- Provides services at cost or minimal profit to the author
- Generates revenue from sales of the work
Whatever you decide, don’t get discouraged; but remember, publishing is a business and each of these three types of publishers have much different operating plans. Not everyone in this industry wants you to succeed, and no matter what, it’s on you to ensure that you’re set up correctly. A publisher that fits what you want as an author can help you with your career. Do your homework and research before you choose your publisher, or hire an agent to help you through the murky waters.
NOTE TO AUTHORS: If there is any personal advice that I can give to an author, it’s to heed the words of Douglas Adams: Don’t Panic. Research every publisher and analyze what they can offer before you sign an agreement. The publishing process is very slow, tedious, and above all, frustrating. Be patient and don’t panic; if you’ve got an agreement in place, you should be great.
[*And if Royalty Publishing isn’t for you, my personal advice is to shop around for products, getting exactly what you need for the best price possible instead of settling for a service or hybrid publisher. The work that you’re going to do to promote your book and market it yourself will benefit you in a much greater sense if you cut those two companies out and distribute the works yourself. *]
[*Essentially, if you want to publish and distribute your work on your own, then you need to start thinking like a business. Find someone that can help you strategize your marketing. By sitting down with someone and letting them help you with how to setup your foundation, you’re putting yourself in a position to succeed. Hire a professional editor; many colleges have English majors who would love to freelance and help you for a fraction of the cost. Find someone to create an amazing cover that makes it stand out on an online retailer. Enlist some help create your tag line (the hook) so that when potential readers come to your work, they click on the description to read more. *]
With degrees in English and History, Christopher Hamby has been involved in the literary world since his early twenties. As he helped ghostwrite and edit works for his professors, Christopher went on to represent them and have them published at various collegiate presses and publishing houses. He is an expert at representing non-fiction works, especially those set in the historical realm. At the behest of his classmates, he began representing several of the students at the university, assisting them in having their small works, novellas, and even novels, published by respectable publishers. After finishing his bachelors, Christopher enrolled in graduate school with the intention of learning about the publishing industry by majoring in History with a focus in research and archiving; and English, with a focus on grammar, syntax, and creative writing. While working on his masters, he began to freelance for various publishing companies across the nation, creating works for them and editing their submissions while still trying to help his collegiate friends get published.
Following graduation, Christopher toiled a bit, still freelancing while trying to find the right opportunity, which presented itself officially in 2012. Though he had assisted several people with self publishing and distribution, Scribbcrib Publishing came into fruition and it became his career and life’s focus with Paradigm Literary Services being founded that same year. No longer had publishing and representing as an amateur, Christopher finally begun pursuing his life’s dream: helping authors realize their dreams. Whether publishing them through Scribbcrib, or by helping them by getting them to a publisher more tailored to what they need, Christopher is considered an expert in the entire publishing process.
You can reach Christopher directly at [email protected] You can also reach Christopher through either of the company websites. www.scribbcrib.com or www.paradigmliterary.com.
The publishing industry is a very complex, fickle entity that has grown over time. Now, with print not the only medium, several publishers exist with different business models. Whether looking into royalty publishers, service publishers, or hybrid publishers, you need to be aware of what each of these businesses have to offer and which one suits you best.