Publishing Terms Defined

Everyone in the writing biz is talking about the changes that have occurred and are still occurring. The debate over where publishing is heading is keeping writers, agents and editors on their toes as we all try to navigate the very tumultuous publishing world.
Writing Tip for Today: How about a short primer on the definitions of different publishing options? I got this list from the recent OCW conference:

  • Commercial/Traditional/Royalty Publisher: Pays all the costs of producing your book, as well as providing editing, warehousing and promotion for the book.
  • Vanity Publisher: Prints books at author’s expense. Will print any book the author is willing to pay for. May offer editing, marketing help, warehousing or promotion at the author’s expense.
  • Subsidy Publisher: Share the costs of printing and binding of a book Often more selective than vanity, but the completed books belong to the publisher, not the author. Author may buy books from the publisher and also may collect a royalty for books the publisher sells.
  • Self-Publishing: Author pays all the costs of publishing the book and is responsible for all the promotion, marketing, distribution, etc. Author may select a service package that defines the cost and services to be rendered. The books belong to the author and he/she keeps all the income from the sale of the books.
  • Print-On-Demand (POD): Sometimes called “publish on demand,” it is a printing technology and business process in which new copies of a book are not printed until an order has been received. “Print on Demand” developed only after digital printing began because it was not economical to print single copies using traditional printing processes such as letterpress and offset.
  • E-Book Publishing: The electronic counterpart of a printed book that can be viewed on a desktop computer, laptop, smartphone or e-book reader such as Kindle or Nook. When traveling, a large number of e-books can be stored in portable units, dramatically eliminating weight and volume compared to paper. Electronic bookmarks make referencing easier and e-book readers may allow the user to annotate pages and to search for a specific page or topic.
  • Please note that not all of these types of publishers may interpret their services in the ways listed. Be sure you know what to expect before signing a contract. For more resources, see the current edition of either Christian Writer’s Market Guide or Writer’s Market guide for the general market.

About Linda S. Clare

I'm an author, speaker, writing coach and mentor. I teach both fiction and nonfiction writing at Lane Community College and in the doctoral program as expert writing advisor for George Fox University. I love helping writers improve their craft and I'm both an avid reader and writer of stories about those with wounded hearts.

5 comments on “Publishing Terms Defined

  1. Linda,

    I saw the same list of definitions at the OCW Conference. I disagree with how they define the different categories–especially as it relates to Intermedia Publishing Group where I’m a Publisher. We are in the subsidy category where the author pays but we do not own the author’s work. In fact, under Intermedia’s system, the author owns everything (including the production files–which is a critical element that the author needs to own if their book moves to a traditional house–yet is often not the case with many other companies).

    If your readers want to know more of my definitions of the distinctions between self-publishing, traditional publishing and a hybrid model like Intermedia, I recommend they download a FREE hour and a half teleseminar, Insights to New Era Publishing at:

    author of Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams

  2. Terry–I too wondered about that definition. I can think of other companies that are like yours–they are author-funded but not company owned. These definitions are not meant to be in stone, but to help writers learn in general where the differences can lie. Thank you for the comment and the link–I’m all about “clarification.” ~Linda

  3. Perfect timing! We’ve been talking about this very thing at this summer–helping teen writers become familiar with some of their options in publishing. You (and those who have commented) have explained it better than I have. May I have your permission to quote this post and link to your site?

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