Blue Handle Publishing
Traditional publishing makes up for around an estimated 80% of book sales each year, while only an estimated 3% of titles are traditionally published. However, many books are still successful without being traditionally published. The major traditional publishers (also known as the Big 5) are Penguin/Random House, Hachette, Macmillan, Harper Collins and Simon & Schuster.
Another form of publishing in the traditional sense are small presses.They stay true to many of the practices of larger publishers but, to put it bluntly, have not been bought out yet. Blue Handle Publishing is currently a small press. Because it’s a smaller company, it naturally establishes more of a partnership between author and publisher, the interaction between author and publisher holding more of a presence than with a larger publisher. If that’s something you seek, working with a small press may be a good option to consider versus simply selling your manuscript to a Big 5 in hopes of becoming a famous author.
What is Traditional Publishing
An established company organized to help authors print, create and distribute written works across multiple platforms. This includes print format (both hardback and paperback), e-book format and the audio format of the book. Traditional publishers pay for all the costs associated with the production, editing, marketing and distribution of the book and do not recoup their investment until the book begins to sell. Typically an established publishing company is one of the Big 5 publishers, which includes Penguin/Random House, Harper Collins, Simon & Schuster, Hachette & Macmillan. All of these Big 5 publishers also have hundreds of imprints that they own, or rather, smaller publishing companies or small presses. For example, Little Brown & Company is a smaller publishing company owned by Hachette, making Hachette Little Brown’s parent company. The publisher will typically buy the manuscript from you (the writer) and a contract will be signed with an agreed upon royalty advance between the author and publisher, usually with negotiation help by an agent. Amounts in royalty advances range and are dependent on how many copies the publisher thinks the book will sell. The more copies they think the book will sell, the higher the advance will be. Once an advance is decided upon, a contract is signed, and the publisher will then work with the author to edit and polish the manuscript to prepare it for market.
Pros of Traditional Publishing
A main advantage of publishing traditionally is that you as the writer receive an upfront royalty advance for the rights to your work, and this is paid immediately upon signing with the publisher. Instead of spending your own money to market and distribute your book or written work, you make money in advance and then the publisher uses their own money to print, market and sell the book. In short, signing with a publisher allows the author to assume no financial risk if they are content with the royalty advance and terms of the agreement. Additionally, large, traditional publishers have access to printing services, distribution services, digital services, and in-house art and editorial teams, to name a few, all which are helpful to an author in terms of refining and selling their work. Publishers also have sales departments and teams of people that work together to get your book in front of different markets, along with sales reps that operate in different regions (even internationally) to help pitch and get your book out into the world. As mentioned before, traditional publishing makes up for around an estimated 80% of book sales each year, while only an estimated 3% of titles are traditionally published, so it’s appeal is evident. That being said, there are still books that are successful without being traditionally published by the Big 5.
Cons of Traditional Publishing
What could be considered a disadvantage to publishing traditionally is that an author loses majority rights to their work, and will make nothing until the royalty advance is paid off. After it’s paid off, authors typically receive 50% of all sales. Book sales must exceed the initial royalty advance for the author to make additional money during a book’s lifetime. If the book does not sell, the publishing house and sales teams have the right to do with it what they will, spending their marketing and advertising dollars elsewhere and on different titles, if that’s what they feel will sell better in their eyes. In short, the author sells the book to the publisher, and it is now up to the publisher to manage. The author also risks losing some creative control over the work, as oftentimes traditional publishers will take it upon themselves to change titles, covers and other creative aspects or elements of the work that may or may not be satisfactory in the eyes of the author, or be aligned with how the author had originally envisioned their work. The process, historically and on average, with a larger publisher is that they may like your story, but they will also want to make it fit what they know, or feel, will sell. Inevitably, you may lose a fair amount of control of your manuscript to ensure they maximize the return on their investment. If someone is going to spend thousands (if not millions) marketing and preparing your book, they will want a fair share of control.
How to Publish Traditionally
First, before you publish any written work you need to finish and polish your manuscript. If you have the money, you could work with a freelance editor and have them take a look at your work and help you refine it through copyediting, line editing, developmental editing or proofreading. You can also do this yourself if you feel up to it, but it’s always helpful to have another pair of eyes on a manuscript. Blue Handle’s Book Puma Platform offers editing services that can help you workshop your manuscript to get it where you want and need it to be. A benefit of Book Puma’s editing services is that editors work in teams so you are not paying for only one eye to review and edit your manuscript. No matter what editorial route you choose, if any, once you feel your work is ready to be seen you will typically want to shop it around to agents. This is where you will need to write an agent query letter or query submission. Our Book Puma Services Platform can also help you with this process at an affordable cost. Once (or if) you find an agent who is willing to represent you, the agent will then shop your manuscript around to different publishers and work to negotiate a contract between you and a publisher. There may be some occasions where an author will get their book picked up without an agent, but working with one is the industry standard. The agent is there to represent the author through the publishing process and contract negotiations, and is often still involved as the book is produced, marketed and sold across platforms. When working with an agent it is important to find one that you trust and that you work well with, as they will be representing your needs as an author.