Monday, 29 January 2018

Two Ways to Publish (and One Way Not to Publish)

By Iola Goulton


Last week I looked at the main options for self-publishing paper books and ebooks. But what do you do if that all sounds too complicated?

There are basically two ways to publish:

  1. You can hire people to help you publish your book.
  2. Or you can pursue a publishing contract.

What you shouldn't do is sign a contract with a "self-publisher".


1. Hire Help

Savvy self publishing authors do hire people to help, especially editors and cover designers. None of us—not even editors—can edit our own work. Most of us shouldn't attempt designing our own covers unless we have serious graphic design expertise.

There are several other services self published authors often hire external experts for:


Publish Like a Boss! has some great advice on being a professional indie publisher. Click here to read my review.

Note that there is one thing no reputable author or publisher ever pays for, and that is book reviews. But that's a big topic, so I'll save it for another post.

2. Go Traditional

I've covered this in previous posts here at ACW:


Large established trade publishers will generally offer an advance and a royalty. Note that the advance is an advance against future royalty payments, so if you're offered a $1,000 advance and you earn $1 in royalty payments for every copy sold, you won't get any royalty payments until the 1,001st copy of your book is sold (no, these are not typical advance or royalty payments. That would be too easy!).

A smaller publisher or a digital-only publisher might offer a royalty-only contract. This means no advance, but it also means you start earning royalty payments from the first book sold.

Don't Sign With a Vanity Press (Please)


A vanity press is not the same as a traditional publisher. Instead of making their money by selling books to readers, they make their money by selling publishing and marketing services to authors. Unfortunately, too many of them prey on Christian authors. Writer Beware says:
Christian writers are more likely to trust a company that self-identifies as Christian ... a perfect honey trap.
There are a few ways to spot a vanity press:

They require you to pay them (not the other way around).

A reputable trade publisher will never ask for money up front. A vanity press will, although they'll never call themselves a vanity press. Instead, they'll call themselves a traditional publisher or trade publisher. Or a co-operative press or a hybrid press or a partnership press.

Those are all terms designed to confuse you, persuade you that they are a legitimate trade publisher. But if they are asking you for money, they are not a trade publisher.

I've discussed vanity presses in several previous posts here at ACW:

If any publisher is asking you for money, please read these posts. Because the chances are that they are a vanity press, not a reputable trade publisher.

They require you to purchase hundreds of copies of your book. 

A trade publisher may give you the option of purchasing author copies at a discount e.g. to use in your own promotional efforts, to give as gifts, or to onsell. They will not require you to purchase copies—it's purely an option. Requiring you to purchase copies of your book makes them a vanity press.

They require you to pay for their marketing services.

A reputable trade publisher will require you to undertake some marketing at your own expense. For example, they may require you to have your own website which you develop and maintain. But they won't insist on building your website for a fee. Nor will they insist on you paying for compulsory or optional marketing services (which are usually expensive and of dubious value).

It all comes back to the first rule of publishing:


Money flows from the publisher to the author. Not the other way around.


Anything else is vanity. Please don't allow the desire for validation to blind you to the point of vanity.

If you have any doubts, ask.


Ask me. Ask in the Australasian Christian Writers Facebook group. Or click here to download the 2018 edition of Publishers Specializing in Christian Fiction.

About Iola Goulton


Iola Goulton is a New Zealand book reviewer, freelance editor, and author, writing contemporary Christian romance with a Kiwi twist. She is a member of the Sisterhood of Unpronounceable Names (Iola is pronounced yo-la, not eye-ola and definitely not Lola).

Iola holds a degree in marketing, has a background in human resource consulting, and currently works as a freelance editor. When she’s not working, Iola is usually reading or writing her next book review. Iola lives in the beautiful Bay of Plenty in New Zealand (not far from Hobbiton) with her husband, two teenagers and one cat. She is currently working on her first novel.

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