AllWrite Sisters

ezine for writers, readers

Traditional Versus Non-Traditional Publishers

Jean Says:

Choosing between traditional and small press for a first time author is an individual decision. Traditional pays better but it is easier to be published with the small press. Therefore, I intend to target the small press for my novel. I will consider subsidy publishing as a last resort.

Beware of publishers or agents who ask for money up front. Although there are legitimate self-publishers whom you will need to pay for their services, there are other presses who promise to publish and promote your book for a large fee. Before signing a contract with a subsidy publisher, one should have the contract looked at by an attorney.

Then there are small presses who pay royalties without asking for initial payments from the author. Publishers Weekly estimates that over 7,000 new publishers are established annually. Small presses have the luxury of publishing what they want without answering to a large corporation. New writers often target these presses. The money may not be great, but becoming a published author will give you perks when you submit to a traditional publisher. Legitimate small presses never demand money from the author in advance.

Subsidy publishing is often confusing and the author feels she has thrown her money into a slush pile. Still others sing the praise of presses who have helped them get their name before readers. They feel their money was well spent.

It is up to the author to research the company before handing over money. Preditors and editors website lists many companies whom they consider scams. They also publish a warning page advising authors of red flags to look for before signing a contract with subsidy publishers. You will find this information at


Becky says:

First whether you choose a traditional publisher or someone else, you will have to do a lot of work to get your book noticed. Traditional publishers are those publishing houses that you send a query letter to as the first introduction of your writing. If you're  lucky, someone asks for the first three chapters. If that someone likes what she reads, she'll ask for the entire manuscript. If it's accepted for publication, they will send you a small advance and a proposed date for publication. This process, from query letter to publication date, can take up to two years. Your payoff per book will be between 7 and 10 percent. This may seem low, but your investment is usually nothing. The publisher is spending a lot for the printing, advertising, and distribution to get your book noticed, and their high profit margin per book helps them to get their investment back. If your book sells well, at least 10,000 copies, they may want you to write another book for them. If not, you'll probably have to prove your writing with an independent or small publisher, before a big publishing house will consider another novel. There are two big down sides to traditional publishing; they only publish 20 books a year, at the most, and three fourths of them do not take new writers. I say, try the big publishers first. They like to discover unknown writers and you're more likely to get a first novel published through the ones who will take first time novelists. Just be patient, and be prepared to do a lot of self-promotion, and your book may be the next "overnight sensation".    

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