The purpose of this post is to define the three different forms of self-publishing that are available to you as you consider where and how to publish.
Subsidy publishing means that the companies themselves (like Lulu or CreateSpace or Author Solutions companies) publish and distribute books under their own imprint. With subsidy publishing, you are generally paying for a package. You can use your ISBN, but you don’t have to. Subsidy publishing is sometimes called vanity publishing, or fee-based publishing. You own your content when you publish with subsidy publishers, but the company owns the right to distribute your book, and they then pay you a royalty on books sold.
With what many people call “true” self-publishing, you are the publisher. This form of self-publishing requires you to manage and oversee all aspects of your own book’s creation—from editing to proofreading to design, layout, and distribution. This is a good model for some authors, but for plenty others it's very overwhelming. There are a lot of moving parts to pay attention to when you're working through the production of a book, and hiring good people is key. For those of you who thrive on this stuff and know what you're doing, it can work really well; for those of you who don't, it can be fairly overwhelming. Because you distribute your own book, you have complete control over your product and you don’t get a royalty. Instead, you get a net profit on your books. Lightning Source is the number one choice for this brand of publishing, followed by working directly with a printer to do a short print-run.
Finally, there’s hybrid publishing in all of this. Hybrid publishing is where She Writes Press is situating itself. We are a hybrid because we are, in fact, a publishing company. What we’re offering is fee-based publishing, but we are also offering a partnership. With SWP, you own your content, but you publish under our imprint and our ISBN. You can have your rights reverted at any time, but we are bringing you under our umbrella when we offer you a contract.
The two most common complaints I hear about subsidy publishing are that there’s no gatekeeper (and therefore the quality of the projects is hit or miss), and there’s no true partnership between the company and the authors. Also, the royalties offered by subsidy publishing models are abysmally low; the author rarely earns much money from the sales. In the case of SWP, we function more like the true press model in this sense because we do not pay royalties. Instead, we charge a fee to manage your accounts. Also, importantly, we are interested in partnering with our authors. We are not offering tailored sales and marketing services, but we are offering marketing education by way of DIY classes (more to come on what’s in the works here!---very exciting stuff) and by way of promoting and marketing our entire list of books. When CreateSpace or Author Solutions goes to a trade show, they’re selling their services. When we go to trade shows, we’ll be there to showcase what we do, but also to promote our list. In this sense, again, we are functioning as a traditional press.
We will have a biannual catalogue that we send out to bookbuyers and retailers, and we will be constantly promoting our authors. We are excited, too, about partnering with our authors around their marketing and publicity ideas. We encourage creative dialogue, and, as I’ve said many times before, we’re book people with strong roots in traditional publishing. This matters because we’re approaching this endeavor from the author’s standpoint, and we care about the quality of your book and its reach.
Finally, with regard to vetting/gatekeeping, we feel that our submissions process is an important aspect of what we do, but it doesn’t exist to intimidate you! Don’t feel that you are being evaluated, or that receiving news that you’re on Track 3, meaning the manuscript still needs some work, is a rejection. It’s information that will help you help your manuscript to get it to its very best state. Too often in traditional publishing you simply don’t know why you’ve been rejected. Agents and editors speak in vague terms: “I don’t see this being commercial”; “Your platform needs to be stronger.” The worst is when they tell you they love it, but the voice just isn’t strong enough or relatable enough. What are you supposed to do with that feedback? Well, we’ll tell you what we think in honest terms, with a recommendation of what to do next.
All of these services and our genuine desire to help you succeed sets SWP apart from other fee-based publishing, and we look forward to seeing your submission, and continuing to answer any questions you might have.