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Best Publishing Path For Niche Non-Fiction

There’s no doubt that those who aspire to become niche non fiction book authors get intimated and slowed down by the seeming complexity of publishing. As soon as you’re able to understand the nuances of each publishing model you’ll get a clearer picture of which one fits you and your book genre best, and be able to move with more fortitude. You might have already encountered these three terms but are still unsure how one is different from the other. So let us break down the 3 main publishing paths for you.

Traditional Publishing

It’s the most known type and is considered the gold standard of publishing, particularly if a writer lands a book deal with one of the Big 5 publications, namely Penguin/Random House, Hachette, Harper Collins, Simon & Schuster, and Macmillan. In other words: You, my friend, have gone mainstream.

If as a writer you choose to go the traditional route, you will most likely need a literary agent to be able to approach these big publishers, unless you’re a celebrity. On the other hand, some independent or small presses—a traditional publishing subgroup—do not require submissions through agents. Regardless, the common theme here is the multiple layers of screening in terms of marketability and quality that a writer must go through before their book gets published.

Another major trait of traditional publishing is the control of the publisher over the creative side and the time it takes to get your book released. Say, they find your work sellable. What happens next is that they’ll offer you a book deal, which usually includes an advance payment to the writer, with a range depending on whether you’re a first-time or established author, if the contract covers one or multiple books, and the extent of their distribution rights. Once you sign with them, then the timeline starts, stretching from a few months to a year or two until your book sees the light of day. But you don’t need to worry about that because as the writer, your job is to focus on writing. Meanwhile, the publisher is in charge of polishing (editing), printing, distributing, and marketing the book for you. On each book sold, you, the writer, get 8-15% of the royalties, while the publisher, in exchange for all the upfront costs (including the advance) they have incurred to release your book, gets the remaining big chunk.

HYBRID Publishing

This publishing model is a mix of traditional and self publishing; thus, the term ‘hybrid.’ There is no clear-cut format but in essence, hybrid publishing is much like traditional publishing, except that the writer shoulders part of the production costs with the publisher. The writer, too, doesn’t receive advance but gets a much higher part of the royalties.

Hybrid Publishing has been around for a while, especially since the rise of digital or web publications, wherein some traditional publishers felt the need to keep their business afloat and pivot by launching another imprint that follows the hybrid model .

SELF Publishing

Currently booming amidst the rise of online platforms such as Amazon KDP, IngramSpark, Barnes & Noble Press, and Lulu, among others, self-publishing is when you, the author, are also the financial backer or publisher of your book. In short, you have full control of the success of the book from start to finish.

Likewise, self-publishing means that apart from writing the book, it also falls in your hands to hire freelancers: editors to polish your manuscript, graphic artists to create your book cover design and illustrations, and even beta readers to review and provide substantial feedback on how to improve your book. Once done, you must now decide how to go about the printing and distribution. Many author-publishers use online platforms Amazon KDP and IngramSpark for their sheer simplicity, so much that you can start selling in 3 days. In return, the chosen platform gets part of the royalties for taking care of the printing and shipping for you.

Is it possible to become a self-publisher without these platforms? Absolutely. If you can find a way to independently reach out to distributors and book sellers and/or if you opted for online selling and can fulfill the packaging and delivery on your own or through a third party, then this is a reasonable route for you because you get to keep 100% of the royalties. On the other hand, many self-publishers accept sharing a smaller chunk of their royalties with the platforms and even choose to place their books on the most established ones, with the condition that they use their own International Standard Book Number (ISBN) to consolidate the specific book’s identity for you as a publisher, and for bookstores and libraries.

What about Vanity Publishing?

This topic has been a point of contention, particularly the difference between hybrid and vanity publishers. The main difference is the vetting and production process, meaning hybrid publishers at the core still run like a traditional publisher, they go through the long process of screening the authors that they want to work with and consequently, take longer in producing the book, in order to make sure that everything is up to standards.

Meanwhile, vanity publishers are more straightforward—the vetting process is nonexistent. They will print your book, usually with little to no editing or proofreading prior, and you pay them in return, much like with print-on-demand service companies, except that usually they will include the cover design, distribution, and marketing.

While there’s nothing wrong with working with vanity presses, things get problematic when they pose as traditional or hybrid publishers. Worse, some shady vanity publishers charge exorbitant amounts for their service and there are many horror stories online on which companies to steer clear from for budding authors.

To give you a better illustration on where the different types of publishers stand, we at Caret Publishing have come up with a little graph:

publishing niche non-fiction

The Best PUBLISHING TYPE FOR niche non-fiction

If you’re a non-fiction writer and you believe your topic is niche, it’s best to go granular with your publishing approach as well. If you have budget, trying your luck with both indie and hybrid publishers can be the wiser move than approaching big publishers. But if you feel that time is of the essence and your book would be much less relevant in 1-2 years than if you release it now, then opt for self-publishing. You will have more control of the timeline and can speed up the process if you have everything in place and know the freelancers to approach. Whatever you decide, it’s best to do thorough research on the individuals and companies you will be approaching and always review contracts with a lawyer before signing anything.

Caret Publishing is a small press and imprint of niche non-fiction books. Feel free to send us a manuscript or proposal if you have an idea for a book. Go to Submit Your Work for more details.

Caret Publishing also provides select author services for aspiring self-publishers. Go to our Author Services page for more information.

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