Traditional Publishing, Self-publishing, and Subsidy Publishing: What’s the Difference?

If you’re a new and yet-to-be-published writers, chances are you’ve been tempted by magazine ads promising “Get Published Now!” or “We’ll help you self-publish!” Maybe you’ve submitted material to traditional publishers and received rejection letters, and in frustration you’ve thought, “Maybe I should just self-publish.”

But where do you begin? A quick search on the web reveals a bewildering array of self-publishing options. How many are legitimate? How many are rip-offs? And how can you tell?

Let’s look at what publishing, self-publishing, and subsidy publishing actually mean.

Traditional Publishing

It its broadest sense, the verb “to publish” means “to make public.” By this definition, “publishing” can be anything from a printed book between two covers to a notice pinned up on a supermarket bulletin board. Blogs, web pages, newsletters, and self-printed pamphlets are all forms of publishing.

When we speak of “traditional” publishing, we refer to companies that buy the rights to make selected works public. A traditional publisher, whether small or large, will select the best work out of many submissions, draw up a contract with the author, take out a copyright in the author’s name, and pay the author for various rights, including first publication rights. The publisher makes the entire monetary investment, as well as taking all the monetary risk, and recoups that investment from book sales. The author may be paid an “advance,” which is an “advance against royalties.” Once the advance is earned back, the author receives any additional royalties from further book sales.

In order to succeed in the competitive world of book sales, the publisher must be highly selective about the books it choses to publish. No one can predict actual book sales, and the industry is sometimes taken by surprise by a book that suddenly soars to the top of the best-seller list (or that plunges far below expectations). Nevertheless, a publishing company cannot afford to take risks on books that it believes are unlikely to sell.

This is why so few of the manuscripts that are submitted to a traditional publisher are accepted. Each publisher receives thousands of manuscripts per year. A large number of these are unpublishable in some way: poorly written, inappropriate for that publisher, even illegible. A small number are publishable, and only some of these can be accepted, since the publisher has only so many slots in the year’s publishing schedule. In order to be accepted, the manuscript must have good sales appeal, must fill a need for the publisher, must be well-written, and should be presented professionally.


Authors who self-publish bypass traditional publishers by creating their own small publishing company. The author makes all the monetary investments and takes all the monetary risks, but keeps all the profits.

In order to self-publish a book, an author must find a good printing service that produces high-quality books. In these days of Publish On Demand (POD), finding a good, affordable service that produces a quality product is becoming increasingly difficult, as more service use POD equipment that may or may not produce quality books. Before investing in a POD service, it’s always wise to obtain a sample copy.

The self-published author files for copyright, obtains a Library of Congress number, and pays for an ISBN number and bar code. While the latter is not absolutely necessary if one plans to sell locally, it is necessary if the author wishes to sell books through online bookstores and through book distributors.

Copyright is obtained through the U.S. Copyright Office. You do not need to obtain a copyright if submitting to traditional publishers.

ISBN numbers are purchased through the U.S. ISBN office, and bar codes are obtained through Bowker’s. ISBN numbers are purchased in multiples, under the expectation that a publisher, large or small, will be publishing more than one book. They are not cheap; however, owning your own ISBN number rather than letting a subsidy publisher supply one for you is advantageous when trying to sell books through distributors. Distributors and bookstores are often leery of buying books from subsidy publishers, especially the notorious “vanity” publishers, and these publishers are easily identified in a database by their ISBN numbers.

The self-published author must be willing to do all the marketing. Getting the book listed on or Barnes & Noble Online is rarely enough. Only a small percentage of books sold in the U.S. are sold through online bookstores, and only a tiny fraction of these are self-published books. Most books are sold through bricks-and-mortar bookstores, which buy their books through distributors. Getting one’s books listed with a distributor can be expensive; however, some book printing services can help with this. Authors can also increase their sales by hand-selling their books through book signings, author tables at local fairs and events, their own website, and by word of mouth through their network of friends and acquaintances. Self-publishers must understand the market, do their marketing research, and know something about advertising and salesmanship.

Subsidy Publishing

Authors who balk at the high monetary investment involved in self-publishing may turn to subsidy publishing which is sometimes (but not always) less expensive. The author still makes a monetary investment and bears all the risks, but instead of keeping the profits, the author receives royalties from the company. The company prints the book, often on a POD basis, may file for copyright in the author’s name (sometimes for a fee), and may supply the ISBN number (also for a fee). The ISBN number belongs to the subsidy publisher, not to the author. The book also bears the imprint of the subsidy publisher, not the author’s own publishing company. This is the distinction between self-publishing and subsidy publishing: a self-published book is published by the author’s own publishing company and bears an ISBN number belonging to the author, while a book published by a subsidy press bears the name of the subsidy press, and the ISBN number belongs to that company.

Subsidy publishers often advertise in the backs of writers’ magazines, often with glowing terms of what they will do for the author. The services they offer vary from company to company. Some will provide editing and layout services. Some are selective about the books they accept. Most, however, accept any and all manuscripts that come their way. Some do so with the belief that they are helping the author. But are they really?

Some books are simply unsellable. They may be poorly written. They may have spelling and grammatical errors. In the case of fiction, perhaps the plot is weak, or the characters wooden. In the case of nonfiction, perhaps there are inaccuracies, or the topic is of little interest to the general public. In both types of books, it may be that the writing is simply too dull to hold a reader’s interest.

“But,” some will ask, “isn’t all that up to the author to decide?”

No. That is up to the reader to decide. Writers do write from their own hearts, but just because someone has written something does not oblige anyone else to buy and read it. The author who wishes to be published writes for an audience, and must consider that audience before deciding whether or not to publish a particular piece of work.

This is why it is so important to understand the market. And a company that promises to “publish” anything with little regard to its quality is not giving the author all the information necessary for success. This is why subsidy presses are sometimes called “vanity” presses: the worst ones will publish anything, offer glowing praise, take an author’s money, and offer almost nothing in the way of marketing. A vanity press exists to offer ego-stroking in exchange for money.

Some, the lowest of all, offer nothing in exchange for money. The owner of one of the worst of these, Press-Tige Publishing Company, was indicted in federal court recently for bilking hundreds of people out of their money and giving nothing in return.

Subsidy publishers also tend to put a high cover price on their books, which makes the books more difficult to sell. With marketing possibilities already reduced by bookstores’ reluctance to deal with subsidy and vanity publishers, a high cover price can put a further sharp crimp in sales.

Subsidy publishers may be a reasonable option for people who don’t expect high sales, who have a readily-accessible market available, or who have family and friends ready and willing to buy the book as soon as it is available. For people who want more control over their work, who are ready and willing to do the marketing, who are prepared to take the financial risk, and who want brisk sales, including sales to bricks-and-mortar bookstores, self-publishing may be a better option.

In Summary

In short, the three main types of publishing and their pros and cons are:

Traditional publishing: In which the publisher takes all financial risks, pays the author a royalty, and does most of the marketing. Pros: Higher potential for sales, especially with a big company, higher prestige, and professional marketing. Cons: Difficult to break into, reluctance to accept a book that won’t sell thousands of copies, sometimes a reluctance to take chances.

Self-publishing: In which the author takes all financial risks, publishes under his or her own imprint, does all of the marketing, and keeps all of the profits. Pros: More control over the book itself, able to publish books that traditional publishers may view as risky, potential for good profits if the book sells well. Cons: Author risks losing money if the book does not sell, author must be adept at marketing and standard business practices, lower prestige.

Subsidized (“vanity”) publishing: In which the author takes most or all of the financial risks, publishes under the publisher’s imprint, does most of the marketing, and is paid a royalty on the books that are sold. Pros: May be less expensive than self-publishing, often very easy to do. Cons: Author risks losing money if the book does not sell, author must still do most of the marketing, lowest prestige of all.


Authors who want to self-publish can information on the Books Just Books [] site. Books Just Books is a book-printing service that offers editing and distribution services as well.

Small Business Internet Marketing Online – Standard Marketing for a Digital Age

If you want to expand your small business, Internet marketing online offers a lot of exposure for your business. Not realizing the power of word of mouth and the many ways that a local business can be promoted online, they often use it in the same context that they would use a listing in a phone book. Although someone might find the business, there are many diverse ways to interact with customers and grow your customer base.Much like standard advertising for your small business, Internet marketing online is simply a digital version of print advertising. Instead of ads in newspapers, magazines and fliers, your advertisements are in digital format that also allow customer interaction. Very powerful information can be gathered from customer feedback on blogs, social sites and forums. When it comes to marketing your small business, Internet marketing online is easy and relatively inexpensive. Most services are free to sign up for and offer a simple interface to get you started.One of the most important things to keep in mind is that you have to make whatever web presence you choose easy for your customers to find. You want your website, twitter account, or Facebook page to be one of the first things that shows up when people search for a particular product that you offer. As an example, if your business is to provide chimney sweeping services, if someone does a search for chimney sweeps in your area, you want your business to be the first one to show up in the search engine result pages. There are several ways to accomplish this. An easy way to start would be to use Google’s keyword research tool to determine just what terminology people would use to find a chimney sweep. These terms that searchers use are referred to as keywords and are the cornerstone to advertising online.Once you have determined what people are searching for related to your business. You can then set up a website, Facebook page or other social network site built around these terms. This makes sense to Google and it is more likely that your page will show up when someone is looking for services or products that you offer. Although similar to an ad in a newspaper, digital forms of advertising can be changed on the fly to accommodate promotions or sales. This provides a unique opportunity to keep up with customer demand and feedback.Social network sites are a great way to get the word out about your local business and in a lot of cases these sites are free to use. Sites such as Squidoo, Hub Pages and Weebly all offer a free website service with a very easy to use interface that does not require any web programming or special knowledge. By putting your digital “fliers” out on the Internet, you’re casting a wider net to a broader audience. Some consumers shop strictly online and, even though they’re local to your small business, Internet marketing online lets them know you even exist.With the convenience of being able to search online, fewer people are using traditional phonebooks. When promoting your small business, Internet marketing online should include a listing in Google Places. Google Places is a free to use service that acts as an online phonebook that can be found easily by searching for a product or service in the searcher’s area. Having a listing in this free to use directory pays large dividends with people being able to locate you quickly when they need your services.When promoting a small business, Internet marketing online is the next logical step in expanding your business. Inexpensive to get started, once your business grows you can expand your small business online presence to include mailing lists or online store. With this growth potential, small businesses need to step into the digital age.

Mobile Advertising Trends: Facts to Keep You Abreast

The advertising platform seems to be taking another huge turn with mobile marketing taking over the markets. According to the Forbes magazine, mobile marketing techniques are 18% more effective as compared to other advertisement platforms such as the web and banners. The reality of the matter in mobile advertising trends is that, it is much cheaper to use this platform, and one is assured that users will see these ads. It is due to this reason why marketers are taking a new turn to win over as many people as they can to their sides, thus increase returns on investment.What makes mobile advertising effective?Mobile market growth: Push and Pull mobile marketingToday, more and more people are connected to the outside world thanks to the smartphone invention and introduction. Persons as old as 7 years of age own a smartphone or even a tablet, which helps them, connect with other people. With the Untapped market still ripe, marketers use this opportunity to use both push and pull marketing to reach out to target audience or customers.Push marketing involves sending ad messages directly into a user’s phone, while pull mobile marketing involves advertising through user downloaded apps, which are mostly installed in smartphones. These are the latest mobile advertising trends in use today, and have proved to be very effective in terms of sales.Cost of advertisement and click rates:The cost of advertising across the mobile platform is relatively cheaper than any other form of marketing, with its return on investments almost instant. When you compare advertising through the daily media and mobile marketing, you will notice that advertising in the daily media costs 85% more than the amount used to advertise through push and pull marketing.Internet marketers and advertisers earn their revenue through clicks and referrals. Advertising through text messages gives you a 65% assurance that the user will click on the link included in the text message, thus be able to view the advert or main page. This has been made possible thanks to the smartphone market.Mobile Payments:Payments through the mobile platform have been made easier thanks to mobile payment services and apps. Many companies today, including PayPal and Payoneer among others are major players in this market. Users can purchase goods and pay for services rendered through their mobile phones, thus never have to go to their banks to make a transfer. This conventional and convenient way of paying for services rendered has made is very easy for mobile advertisers. Mobile phones are slowly becoming teller machines, and all you need to do is feed it with the right information to make a transaction, and all is well. This way of paying for services has really made news in the newest mobile advertising trends, as it makes payments easy and convenient too.Mobile video marketing: Video marketing is an effective way to advertise new products or services that a company has to offer. With smartphones supporting video streaming, advertisers are easily integrating adverts in the mobile video player, thus the ad is displayed when one starts using the player. Most of these ads run for less than 5 seconds, though the message displayed or conveyed is larger and likely to create an impact. Advertising through mobile videos is the latest of mobile advertising trends, as more and more marketers are actively using the media to advertise their products.The best way for an advertiser to make an impact and sell his or her products, he or she needs to adopt the newest and trending advertising methods. Mobile media marketing offers the latest, yet most rewarding means of advertising any product, and persons already using it are reaping big benefits.