In 2020, there are many publishing models available to authors.  We will be looking at a few of these publishing models, so you can decide which option is best for you.

Traditional publishing

This is the publishing model most authors think of when they want to publish their book. The process involves submitting your manuscript to a publishing house that specialises in your book’s genre. You need to research which publishing houses publish books like yours and see if your book would be a fit for the publisher’s list. If you submit to a publisher that does not publish books similar to yours, they will not look at your manuscript. In addition, each publishing house has a very specific process in place for submitting and selecting manuscripts. It is important that you pay close attention to the submission guidelines of your chosen publisher. If you do not, it is unlikely that they will consider your manuscript for publication.  The Publishers Association of South Africa is a valuable resource when researching and trying to find a publishing house.

In the traditional publishing model, the publisher pays for the production and printing of the book, and the author receives royalties once the book starts making sales. The publishing house may also offer an advance, which means you get paid a certain amount upfront whilst writing the book, but this is rare in South Africa.

Advantages

  • The publisher pays for the production and printing of the book.
  • They will do marketing for the book, and can get media coverage, reviews etc. Publishers tend to have an in-house or freelance marketing team that finds publicity opportunities for your book.
  • They will distribute the book. Established publishing houses have good distribution networks that have been built up over several years. They also have in-house salespeople who go out and sell your book.

Disadvantages

  • The publisher will own most of the publishing rights for your book and can use those as they see fit*.
  • For new authors, the royalties offered can be quite low*.
  • The publishing house has final say over production-related matters, which means they make final decisions on cover design, layout, print quantity, etc.
  • You are still expected to do a lot of marketing yourself, for example, book tours, social media engagement, etc.

*This all depends on the kind of contract you sign with the publisher so make sure you read it thoroughly and seek legal advice before you sign.

Assisted self-publishing

This is the Staging Post model. In the assisted self-publishing model, the author pays for book production, printing, marketing and distribution services. The assisted self-publishing service provider will ensure a professionally produced and printed book and will also guide you through the publishing process. They will ensure top-quality editing, cover design, layout, proofreading, printing, and e-book conversion because they have in-house staff or freelance teams that have been in the book business for many years. Some service providers also have marketing and distribution packages to help you with book sales.

What should you consider when choosing an assisted self-publishing service provider:

  • Expertise
  • Guidance
  • Range of services
  • Industry links
  • Quality of the final product

For more information one each of these points, read our blog post, ‘5 ways to identify a good self-publishing service provider and why you should use one’.

Advantages

  • All rights remain yours.
  • You have full creative and business control. This means that you have final say over aspects like cover design and layout, as well as where you want to sell your book.
  • Profits from book sales made are 100% yours. The service provider does not take any money from book sales made, as you paid for the book to be produced.

Disadvantages

  • There are many fly-by-night services that claim to offer high-quality production and never deliver. Some authors have even had their money taken and no production work was ever done.
  • Although your service provider will do the work, you will still be expected to check and approve what has been done.
  • Marketing will be your responsibility, and this can be very time-consuming.
  • You will need to track your sales, even if the service provider offers a distribution package. The distribution package also might not cover all the possible distribution channels.

Do it yourself self-publishing

DIY self-publishing is a model where the author becomes the publishing house themselves. The author is responsible for everything, from hiring the freelance team (editors, designers, proof-readers) to marketing and distributing the books through various channels. All decisions are the author’s alone. This model allows for complete control over the publishing process as any and all decisions rest with the author. DIY distribution has been made easier in recent years with e-book retailers and distributors like Amazon KDP, Apple Books, PublishDrive, Kobo and Smashwords. In addition, print on demand through platforms like Amazon KDP and IngramSpark has made it possible to sell printed books without having to invest in a print run. These services also take the pressure off having to do stock control and shipping fulfilment. Each of these platforms also offers the author marketing opportunities and packages to get the book seen by their readers.

For more information on these services, visit their websites below:

Advantages

  • Full control over the publishing process, from editing to distribution.
  • This model allows you to keep the maximum amount of profit from each book sale.

Disadvantages

  • If you are not experienced with the publishing process, you will likely not do very well with this model as it requires a fair amount of knowledge about the publishing process. This model is not advised for first-time or inexperienced authors.
  • This model is extremely time-consuming, and if you do not have time enough to dedicate to each aspect, you are not likely to do very well.

Hybrid publishing models

This category refers to any publishing model that mixes elements of the three models mentioned above. You could have a mix of traditional publishing and self-publishing, where the author and the publisher share cost of production and/or share royalties.

For example, at Staging Post, although our main focus is assisted self-publishing services, we do offer select authors distribution contracts. If a book fits with Jacana’s existing list and our sales team feels it is a product they can sell, a distribution deal is offered. Jacana’s sales team will then handle this, and the author receives money from each sale made on a monthly basis.

Another model that many authors use is a combination of assisted self-publishing for production and printing, with DIY distribution and marketing through platforms like the ones mentioned above. This ensures that they have produced a top-quality book with the help of publishing professionals, and they are able to leverage the distribution services and platforms to sell their books far and wide.

Why have all these models developed?

Simply put, there are just too many books out there for all of them to be published only one way, and a one-size-fits-all model does not work for every author. These models have arisen to give an outlet for all kinds of content, whether mainstream or niche.

Sources consulted:

‘The three basic publishing models’. 2020. Warren Publishing.  https://www.warrenpublishing.net/types-of-publishing.html. Accessed: 10 April 2020.

Friedman, J. 2019. ‘The Key Book Publishing Paths: 2019-2020’. Jane Friedman. https://www.janefriedman.com/key-book-publishing-path/ Accessed: 9 April 2020.

Beckwith, S. 2017. ‘6 book publishing models in 2017’. Build Book Buzz. https://buildbookbuzz.com/6-book-publishing-models-in-2017/ Accessed: 10 April 2020.

Morgan, R. 2016. ‘Self-Publishing in South Africa: Which Platforms To Publish Your Books On. Rachel-Morgan. https://rachel-morgan.com/2016/03/self-publishing-in-south-africa-which-platforms-to-publish-your-books-on/. Accessed: 9 April 2020.

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