Start Your Own [Book] Business
By Amy Groening

A few weeks ago we talked about what to look for in a publisher. Today we’re going to talk a bit more about what type of publisher to look for. Writing and publishing are two very different roles in book creation, and it can be difficult to take off that Author hat and put on the Publishing-a-Book hat instead. Essentially, writing a book is like having an idea for a business; publishing a book is like implementing that idea. Depending on your connections and skill set, there are a few different routes you may want to go with that idea.

Do you want to:
  • Sell that idea to another company to implement?
  • Implement the idea yourself?

Determine your objectives. Ask yourself,

  • What is my book?
  • Who is my audience?
  • What’s my competition?
  • What are my goals?

There are three main publishing streams you can go into:

1) Traditional, royalty-based publishing:

Traditional publishing is like selling your business idea to another company. They incur the costs of putting it into action. They purchase the rights to the project. Because of this, they also, generally, take creative control of the project.


You have a knowledgeable company to make decisions that benefit the sales of your book the most. The company has the reputation, connections to book stores and distributors, media contacts—everything you need to get the book into market. Not only this, but since they are taking ownership of the project, this means you can concentrate on what you do best—writing—and let the professionals do the vast majority of the publishing work.


One of the major draws of traditional publishing can also be a big drawback: when you sign on with a traditional publisher, they take ownership of the project. They may create a cover design you hate, package and market your book in a way you never intended, or decide to omit chapters 4, 8, and 15 of the text, and they are within their rights to do so. They will do everything they can to make your book successful, but keep in mind that it’s not really your book any more; it’s theirs. Quite a few authors are perfectly happy to hand their manuscripts over to a publisher, but it can be a difficult road to travel, since it also means losing control of that manuscript. Of course, it’s also a difficult industry to break into (less than 1% of manuscripts submitted get picked up by traditional publishers), and may mean smaller royalties to you: since the company invested the most of the costs in the book, they also keep most of the profits of selling it.

The drawbacks of traditional publishing bring many authors to try option two:

2) Self-Publishing

In self-publishing, the author oversees every step of the process, from writing to distribution. You have full control of the project; you are investing your own money into it and therefore the returns on the project are also yours.


Self-publishing can be a great option, if you have a head for business and a fair amount of knowledge about publishing standards. You keep the profits of your work, so if your book is successful, earnings could be higher. You can also publish at any time; you won’t be waiting for a traditional publisher to pick up your manuscript.


Self-publishing is like starting a home business; some authors choose it because they genuinely want to run their own business, but others might fall into it more because traditional publishers aren’t picking them up, than because they really want to be running that business. Running a business is hard. Running a business you never really wanted to run is exponentially harder. The quality of your book is dependent on your knowledge of the publishing industry. This means, if you don’t know much about cover design, the chances of having a marketable cover are fairly slim. If you don’t know much about typesetting, you may end up with a book that looks sloppy or unprofessional compared to traditionally published books; this can make it difficult to market effectively. The biggest issue of all, of course, is distribution: very few bookstores will accept a book that doesn’t have supply-chain distribution in place. Without a distributor, the options for selling your self-published books get a lot slimmer.

This brings us to sneaky option three:

3) Partnership Publishing

Partnership publishing (also known as hybrid publishing) grew out of the need of more options for authors: realistically, the chances of getting traditionally published right now are relatively slim, but doing it all yourself takes a lot of work and knowledge that authors don’t necessarily have. In partnership publishing, the author partners (you guessed it!) with another company that assists them in getting their book out into the market.

It can be seen as the best of both worlds: you continue to have a voice throughout the creation process for your book, and remain an active force in taking your book forward, like in self-publishing. However, you’re also collaborate with someone who has the skills, resources, and contacts needed to make your book a success, more like a traditional publisher. This doesn’t mean partnership publishing is a cakewalk, of course; it does still take a lot of work, self-promotion and motivation—the publisher is your business partner, and they expect you to be actively involved in the publishing process. You’re also investing in the book, which means you may need to put your efforts into active fundraising to be able to cover the costs of the process (much like in self-publishing).

Any stream of publishing takes work: whether you’re aiming at the traditional market and are pouring your time into chasing down agents, writing query letters, and self-promoting to show you have a platform worth investing in; or putting your efforts into readying your book for press, you’ve got your work cut out for you. With a partnership publisher, however, you have a co-pilot to help you navigate this process and distribute it for you once the book comes off the press.

Of course, working for a partnership publisher myself, I can’t say I’m not biased—I get to see firsthand what authors can do with a hybrid publishing model. It isn’t for everyone, but it might be the right one for you. Feel free to get in touch with us (or, hey, ask questions in the comments section!). We’d be happy to give you a better sense of how partnership publishing works and whether it’s the right choice for you.

About this Contributor:

Amy Groening is a project manager at Word Alive Press. She is a passionate storyteller with experience in blogging, newspaper reportage, and creative writing. She holds an Honours degree in English Literature and is happy to be working in an industry where she can see other writers’ dreams come to life. She enjoys many creative pursuits, including sewing, sculpture and painting, and spends an embarrassingly large amount of time at home taking photos of her cat committing random acts of feline crime.

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