What’s What in Publishing Today

Once upon a time, there were two types of publishing. The first was traditional where an author had an idea, created a proposal or manuscript and sold it to a publisher with the assist of an agent. Preferably, a New York publisher. The other was one that was looked at with disdain and pooh-poohed … the vanity press. Traditional authors were viewed as snobs by the vanity press crowd … and envied.

Authors went the vanity press route as a publishing format of the last resort. Vanity press had a variation; some were small shops that you would pay to publish your book. Within the vanity press umbrella was self-publishing, the do-it-yourself model.

If you took the vanity press route, any success your book would have would be exclusively in your ballpark. It got printed and you paid for the books. Mass distribution, marketing or PR were nominal, if non-existent. The problem with vanity press was/is, well, it looks vanity press.

With the traditional publisher, the author got thousands of books into print, a real media release created by the publisher that was sent out to the media and bookstores, a book in the publisher’s catalog that reps took around to bookstores and pitched and the author might get a book tour to boot.

Ahhh, times have changed. With the Internet and today’s technology, traditional publishers are being turned on their heads and vanity presses have morphed into new critters. Authors are choosing to bypass the traditional method that had been so coveted by the majority of authors just a few years ago.

At Book Expo in 2009, it was announced that there were over 400,000 books published the preceding year. It’s almost impossible to count the number of publishers in the United States today. The top six states that house publishers are California (16,000+), New York, Florida, Illinois, Texas and Colorado (just shy of 3,000).

The Players

There are seven major publishing formats authors opt for, knowing the new ones will be birthed as time evolves: Traditional, Independent, Self, Subsidy, Packager, POD (print on demand) and eBook. POD is also used in the subsidy are, standing for a publish on demand format. Each has merits and deficits.