Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Traditional Publishers and Small Publishers, Pros and Cons

You have your novel finished. Now what?

You have lots of options -- ebooks publishers, small press publishers, traditional publishers, or some form of self-publishing.

In the next few days, I'll talk about each form of publishing with some pros and cons to consider with each type of publisher.


Traditional publishers are the publishers you find in bookstores. In US publishing, many are based in New York City. Some of these publishers of genre/popular fiction include Tor, Pocket, St. Martin, Dorchester, and Kensington.

The major advantage to these publishers is distribution. Their books are usually carried by all the major bookchains and distributors so anyone can walk into the neighborhood bookstore and buy or order your book.

The better the distribution, the more books sold.

They will also give you an advance on your earnings and cover all the costs of creating the book itself including editing, the cover, and the printing.

Authors published this way are on the top of the author pecking order.

The major disadvantage is competition. You will have an uphill battle to gain a coveted slot in a publishing schedule and your competition will include many published authors.

In some markets, you'll need to get an agent even before you begin the fight for that slot, and this is an equally difficult and slow process.

Another disadvantage is lack of control. You will have almost no say in your book's title and cover. More often than not, you will also be required to change some of the book's content.

Pigeonholing is another problem. You must write to fit the current trends in popularity. It's a rare book that can be totally different.


Small press is a minature version of the traditional publisher, but rather than being owned by a conglomerate, it is owned by individuals. Many are niche publishers specializing in a particular market like regional mystery or paranormal romance.

Some have the advantage of good distribution through book chains and distributors so they can be found in bookstores, but others do not. It will be much harder to find your book in a bookstore, but it should be available for ordering.

All the expenses of editing, cover art, and printing are covered by the small press, and some offer advances on earning which are usually much smaller than the traditional publisher.

The amount of author impute in the publishing process ranges from none to a great deal according to the individual press.

The disadvantages include poorer distribution, the vagaries of the how each runs its business, and the inherent risk of working with a small company where an owner's illness can stop the presses.

TOMORROW, I'll discuss self-publishing and vanity/subsidy publishing.

1 comment:

Karina Fabian said...

Nice review of the different types of publishing, but I have one comment on your terminology:

Traditional, as I've seen it used, means a press that pays you royalties and does not ask for you to pay. Therefore, small presses, whether or not they are in the bookstores, are considered traditional. I've always heard "Large traditional press" and "Small traditional press" to distinguish.

Many small presses put on their websites that they are traditional, so I mention this so that your readers don't read such a site and think they are lying or confused.

Karina Fabian