Publishing Choices For Authors

Publishing Choices For Authors

An aspiring author wanting to see his or her books in print has a more options today than just a few years ago.


A very popular option is to publish your book as an e-book. E-books come in several formats. I’m sure you have seen people who are hawking their how-to books online and offering them for some pretty high prices such as $79.99, or even $139.99 for a downloadable PDF of their book. Of course, they claimed the book is worth much more (but I highly doubt that it is worth anywhere near the cover price). Anyway, selling your book in PDF format is a possibility.

You can also sell your e-book on a variety of popular platforms such as Kindle, Nook, and iBooks.  Each of these requires special formatting, agreeing to their contract terms, and agreeing to their pricing structures. Going this route means your books are published through the channels of Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Apple. They sell the books and keep a portion of it for themselves. The amount you get ends up being the “royalty” they pay to you. These channels pay royalties faster than traditional publishers, so you will see your money sooner. They also pay you a higher percentage of the cover price of your book than traditional publishers do.


For authors who cannot or don’t want to learn all of the specific ins and outs of creating an e-book for publication, there are services called e-book aggregators. The two e-book aggregators that I have seen recommended most often are and  SmashWords has a few more requirements than D2D, but those requirements force you to submit files that are well formatted and meet other quality requirements.

Some people use these aggregators only for certain vendors.  Four instance, I know someone who publishes their books on Kindle themselves but uses Smash Words to publish through Apple iBooks.  Because Apple has a lot of hoops you have to jump through, they would rather let Smash Words take care of it for a fee.


One option (and the one that was most commonly used in the past), is to approach a big publisher with your manuscript. Since most big publishers do not accept unsolicited manuscripts, this method often requires first getting an agent. Getting an agent is not necessarily easy. But, there are times when agents actually advertise they are looking for authors. These adverts often appear in publications such as Writers Digest.

Writers Digest also publishes an annual book called Writers Market that lists contact info for many agents and the kinds of manuscripts they are looking for. You can purchase it or look up the info in your local library’s copy.

If one is following this option, then there is always a long lead time between completing your manuscript and seeing your book in print. First, you have to find the agent. Then, the agent has to submit your manuscript to publishers. The publishers will take time, usually a few months before they decide if they want to publish your book or not. Once they decide to accept your publication, there will be more time spent with editors. Then, when the book is ready for publication it will be about a year before you will see it on bookshelves  This is the way people have done it for a couple of hundred years, but with all the tech advancements, Self Publishers will almost always opt for a different option.


Until recently, people who wanted to “self publish” used something called a Vanity Press (also called subsidy publishers). A vanity press will accept your manuscript no matter what, because you are paying them to publish it. Basically, they take your manuscript, format into a book, design a cover for it, and print up however many copies you have contracted for. All of the vanity presses have a minimum purchase requirement. In many cases, that requirement is somewhere in the neighborhood of $5000.

Because of these high costs, many people in the publishing industry considered vanity presses to be ripoff artists. The numbers of articles written that tell authors to beware of vanity presses is legion. However, there are authors who have preferred to do it this way so they can sell their books themselves. Perhaps they sell them at speaking engagements or county fairs and other events.

There are a few Vanity Presses that have been around for decades. You have seen their ads in the back of magazines for authors and writers. For a long time, there were the big “three” in vanity publishing.

Recently however, some of the big names in publishing have developed their own vanity presses with print on demand technology. Simon & Schuster has recently launched Archway Publishing to do just that. Even though they call themselves print on demand, they have a minimum amount you must purchase. I believe their minimum is around $1999. Not cheap, especially for an aspiring writer or starving artist.  Penguin publishing started a vanity press called Author Solutions.   I believe that Harper Collins and Harlequin, have also entered the vanity press business.  Penguin’s Author Solutions includes other entities such as Trafford, AuthorHouse, Xlibris, And iUniverse. A writer that I know got a quote from one of them. They wanted $349 per book to publish e-book versions and they wanted to keep 70% of the authors royalties. Those prices are way above the normal for the eBook industry.

So, for a very long time your choices were to wait a long time to get published (if you get published at all) or to pay a lot of money to get your book out to the public. Advances in technology have enabled more options today.


These days, there is absolutely no reason to go with a vanity press when you can go with an on demand publisher.  (But beware, as many vanity presses are calling themselves On-Deman publishers these days. If they require a contract and a minimum number of books that exceeds five, they’re a vanity press, no matter what they call themselves.) Now, with advancements in technology, it is possible to get your book printed very professionally and only buy a few copies at a time.  You can publish in paperback or hardback, through an On-Demand publisher. Many On-Demand publishers can print your books one at a time. You no longer have to order hundreds or thousands of copies in order to get a reasonable price to get your book printed. For instance, I can get a book that is roughly 200 pages long, 6 x 9, paperback, black text on the inside with a color glossy cover for five dollars or less. Some on-demand publishers might charge as little as $2.75, and others may charge six or seven dollars for the same book. It will look as good in terms of manufacturing quality, as any book you buy in the bookstore.

There are many of these On-Demand Publishers available to pursue. Each one has its own pricing schemes, delivery schedules, and costs associated. Some of these On-Demand publishers specialize in particular types of publications. Some, for instance, may specialize in comic books.  Others may specialize in trade paperbacks. A few that I am aware of are:

I’m sure there are many more that I don’t know about, and you can find them by doing a web search.

When going with this option, it is important to make sure you understand all of the costs associated with doing this. What are the costs to upload your manuscript? Can you get an ISBN number? If so, what is the cost associated with it?  Do they require a minimum number of copies to be printed? (Most of these On Demand publishers do not require more than one at a time.) Will they help market your book? Do they have sales channels in which they can offer your books for sale? Do they give discounts when you buy more than a certain number of copies of your book?

I personally use for my paperback books, because they are owned by Amazon. Their connection with Amazon means with a few clicks on their website, you can offer your books for sale through all of Amazon’s available channels. Since Amazon is the biggest bookseller in the world, I find this very advantageous. I know other authors who use other on-demand publishers and they are happy with them. I tried and they produced a quality book. But, they didn’t have access to the sales channels that has.

Whichever way you go, be sure to do your research to find out what you’re getting into in terms of costs, time frames, access to sales channels and production quality.

Happy publishing!

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