Knowing the Difference Between Types of Publishers


This month, we’re going to talk about small publishers. As a primer, it might be handy to know that there’s a difference between types of small publishers. Here’s some handy terminology guide for you so you can tell the difference:

Hybrid press: (not to be confused with “hybrid author” which is a writer who has self-published and traditional published books.) There is no universal agreement about what it is, except that it’s not traditional publishing and it’s not self-publishing. Author’s invest in their own work, or perhaps raising money through crowdfunding to finance their work, and then keep the lion’s share of their profits rather than give it away. Authors retain creative ownership and are treated more like partners in the process, instead of being at the whim of their publishers. See also, Subsidy Publisher.

Independent Publisher: Indie publishing has taken on two meanings. It can refer to a small press publisher or it can refer to self-publishing. Authors are solely responsible for all publishing costs but also retain full creative control and all ownership and rights to the work. Indie authors are solely responsible for writing, editing, proofreading, cover design, formatting, distribution, and marketing. They are both author and publisher.

Micropress: a small publisher that keeps all of its work in-house. What differentiates this from a small press is that it does all of its physical printing/binding on-site, whereas many small presses outsource the physical production.

Self Publish: Decades ago, before the advent of Print On Demand technology, this only referred to vanity presses. Now, it can refer to either course. It is adviseable to always use the term Independent/Indie published to avoid the Vanity-Press confusion. See Independent Publishing.

Small Press: A small press is technically defined as a publisher with annual sales below $50 million, after returns and discounts, or as those that publish an average of fewer than 10 titles per year. They function just like the Trade Presses and are often genre/niche specific and earn profits from book sales, not from fees or services charged to authors.

Subsidy Publisher: Subsidy publishers enter a partnership with authors. Under this model, authors keep most (or all) rights and ownership of the work. Whereas traditional publishers pay authors an advance, in subsidy publishing, authors must make a financial investment in the cost of publishing. Subsidy publishers (like traditional publishers) earn profits from book sales. Perhaps the only difference between this and a hybrid publisher is that hybrids are in a “partnership” type of relationship than a client/publisher one.

Trade publisher: The term “Traditional Publisher” has found regular use, though the definition is still rather fluid; it was actually invented by a 1990s vanity publisher/author mill that tried to put the industry in a negative light in order to solicit writers. A Trade Press is what we often call a “Traditional publisher.” The “Big Five” publishing houses (who control most of the industry) are Trade Publishers. They include Hachette/Lagardère, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin Random House, Simon & Schuster.

Traditional publisher: See Trade Publisher.

University Press: These presses are nonprofit, usually print academic works, and are run by universities and colleges. They often publish literary magazines and journals as well as textbooks and creative works. They sometimes operate on the micro-press model, depending on the scope of their distribution.

Vanity Press: A vanity press charges a fee to produce a book, or requires the author to buy something as a condition of publication, such as finished books or marketing services. This is also a condition of Subsidy and Hybrid arrangements, but those presses are more selective than Vanity publishers who have no selection criteria as opposed to the others. Authors simply pay to have their books published and are often solicited for “publication”.


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