Where Does My Book Fit?

Where Does My Book Fit?
About the Author
Where Does My Book Fit: A Primer of Publishing Houses

You’ve invested months in writing the book of your heart and you’re finally finished. Now you want to share it with the world. The question is how. There are a number of publication avenues. You’ll need to choose which is best for you. There are four main publication options: Large Publishing House, Small Press, ePress, and Self-publishing.

Large Publishing Houses

Large publishing houses, also referred to as traditional publishers or New York City publishers, produce the largest percentage of book sales. If you can readily find a book in a brick and mortar bookstore, the book was probably released through one of these publishers. Large publishing houses pay both advances and royalties. They release books in mass market paperback, trade (oversized) paperback, and hardcover formats. Many also release eBooks, which are available on the publishers’ websites or through other Internet venues such as Fictionwise.com. The author or the author’s agent negotiates a contract with the publisher. The contract will stipulate the amount of the advance, the percentage of the royalty the author will receive, and what rights the author will retain or turn over to the publisher, (i.e. foreign rights, film rights, merchandising rights, etc.), among other things. Generally, authors have little control over production aspects such as cover design, but even that can sometimes be negotiated into the contract. Books published by large publishers are sold at independent and chain bookstores, supermarkets, drug stores, and large box stores such as Wal-Mart, Target, and Costco. Examples of large publishing houses are Simon & Schuster, Random House, HarperCollins, and Harlequin Books.

Small Presses

Small press and independent press are terms that are often used interchangeably. Many small presses rely on specialization in genre fiction, poetry, or limited-edition books. These houses should not be confused with “vanity presses”. Vanity or subsidy presses require payment by authors. Many also require the author to purchase a minimum number of copies. Small presses make their profits by selling books to consumers, rather than selling services to authors or selling a small number of copies to the author’s friends. Like large houses, these presses engage in a book selection process along with editing, marketing and distribution. Small presses enter into a contract with the author, and they pay advances and royalties to the author. Publishers own the copies they have printed, but do not own the copyright to the book itself. Small presses generally have lesser distribution than large publishing houses, selling mostly to independent bookstores and some chain bookstores. Some small presses sell mainly to the library market. You’ll rarely find small press publications in supermarkets, drug stores, or large chains like Wal-Mart, Target, and Costco. Small presses also generally do less promotion of their authors and books. Examples of small presses are Avalon Books and Sourcebooks.


Electronic Publishers primarily offer their products, eBooks, through web based publishing houses. It is an increasingly popular format for fiction, especially erotic romance. They often provide consumers with books that might not be found in standard retail outlets such as short stories, novellas, or books that address certain topics. Epublishers, like large and small presses, enter into a contract with the author, and they pay royalties for being allowed to sell the book but generally don’t pay advances. Many ePublishers have a print program for books that exceed a certain word length and some of these books can be found in major book chain stores. Again, publishers own the copies they have printed, but do not own the copyright to the book itself. Examples of ePublishers are Ellora’s Cave, Loose-id, and The Wild Rose Press.

Self-Publishing/Subsidy Press/Vanity Press

According to Wikipedia:

    True self-publishing means authors undertake the entire cost of publication themselves, and handle all marketing, distribution, storage, etc. All rights remain with the author, the completed books are the writer’s property, and the writer gets all the proceeds of sales. However, most authors who choose to self publish use a Subsidy Press/Vanity Press.

Vanity publishing is a negative term, referring to a publisher contracting with authors regardless of the quality and marketability of their work. They appeal to the writer’s vanity and desire to become a published author, and make the majority of their money from fees, rather than from sales. Vanity/subsidy publishers, take payment from the author to print and bind, distribute, and warehouse. Some would try to differentiate between vanity and subsidy presses by pointing out that some subsidy presses offer editorial and marketing services, however those services are paid for by the author. With a vanity/subsidy press, the author pays all of the cost of publication and undertakes all of the risk.

As with commercial publishers, the books are owned by the publisher and remain in the publisher’s possession, with authors receiving royalties for any copies that are sold. With most subsidy/vanity presses cover art needs to be provided or purchased by the author. Also with many of these companies you can select the format in which the book will be printed. Of course, this will also affect the overall cost of publication. Naturally, mass market would be the least expensive and hardcover the most. Examples of subsidy/vanity presses include iUniverse, Xlibris, Book Surge, and LuLu.

Hopefully this primer on the four main avenues of publications will assist you in finding the direction that is best for your story.

Rayna Vause

Rayna Vause

Rayna Vause has a B.A. in English creative writing. She earned additional degrees in computer information systems and is working on degrees in computer graphics and vascular technologies. She currently works as a freelance website designer. Her debut novel ONLY IN HER DREAMS was released by The Wild Rose Press.

For more information on Rayna, please visit www.RaynaVause.com.


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