Monday, 9 January 2017

What Are My Publishing Options?

By Iola Goulton

Last week, we looked at a question many authors have: Is My Novel Publishable?

The short answer was, yes. The long answer was, it depends. (Helpful, yes?)

This week, I'm going to run through the main publishing options:
  • Trade Publishing
  • Small Press Publishing
  • Self-Publishing
  • Vanity Publishing

Note that while these are all options, only three of them are options worth considering, and the "best" option will depend on your personal aims in writing and publishing. For example, if you want to see your books on sale in your local KMart, you probably need to aim for a trade publishing contract.

Trade Publishing

Trade publishing is the official term for what can also be called traditional publishing, trad publishing, or legacy publishing. 

If you visit your local bookstore or library, most of the books you see on the shelves will have come through these big trade publishers, with names like HarperCollins, Penguin, Random House, or Simon & Schuster. Each publishing house will have a range of imprints, each of which will target a different market. For example Harlequin, Love Inspired, Mills & Boon, Thomas Nelson and Zondervan are all imprints of HarperCollins.

Most trade publishers don't accept direct submissions from new authors, preferring to deal directly with literary agents. Authors are paid through advances and royalties (with a portion of each payment going to their agent). Real trade publishers don't charge you for publishing. If they say there is a fee of any kind ... they're a vanity publisher.

For more information, see Paths to Publishing: Trade Publishing

Small Press Publishing

Small presses are still trade publishers, but they're smaller. You're less likely to see their books on the shelf at your local store, or in your library. Many will accept direct submissions from authors. Few pay advances, but all pay royalties. As with trade publishers, small presses don't charge you for publishing or require any compulsory book purchases. If they do, they're a vanity publisher.

Not all small presses are created equal. Some offer professional editing and cover design that's as good as the biggest trade publishers. Others ... don't. Do your research before you submit. It's a whole lot easier than dealing with problems later.

For more information, see Paths to Publishing: Small Presses


With self-publishing, the author wears all the hats:
  • Writer
  • Publisher
  • Marketer
(I've heard it said that publishing is the easiest of the three!)

The essence of self-publishing isn’t that the author does everything themselves, but that they are in control of the process and contract out those parts of the process they can’t do themselves (like editing) or that could be done better by a professional (e.g. cover design).

I'll discuss self-publishing in more detail in the final post in this series.

Vanity Publishing

The most important maxim to remember in relation to publishing is simple:

Money flows from the publisher to the author

If money is flowing from the author to the publisher, that’s commonly referred to as vanity publishing. Not that any publisher ever calls themselves a vanity publisher. Of course not. No, they call themselves a traditional publisher or a hybrid publisher or a cooperative publisher or even a self-publisher.

I'll cover vanity publishing in more detail over the next two weeks, but the key is to look at how the earn their money: from readers, or from authors.


Meanwhile, here are some resources to help you in examining your publishing options:

Any questions?

About Iola Goulton

I am a freelance editor specialising in Christian fiction. Visit my website at to download a comprehensive list of publishers of Christian fiction. 

I also write contemporary Christian romance with a Kiwi twist—find out more at

You can also find me on:
Facebook (Author)
Facebook (Editing)


  1. Excellent summary, Iola. You may wish to interview authors who've done a couple of these options as an adjunct to your series to provide their perspective on the pros and cons of each.

    1. Great idea, Ian.Loved your blog, Iola. I'll be happy to be interviewed anytime.

    2. Great idea, Ian. I'll talk to the other admins about it.

      Hazel, thanks for the offer.

    3. Ian, I agree, author interviews on their publishing journey is a good idea. The publishing landscape is changing all the time. A strategy that worked for one author 12 or even 6 months ago may not be a good publishing strategy for a new author this year.

  2. Thanks again Iola. Also appreciate your advice about going Indie. I'm on to my next book of which you both edited & assessed its early manuscript.

    1. I'm looking forward to seeing the final product, Rita. It's a fun story.

  3. Iola, great post! I agree, vanity publishing is always a bad option for authors.