Different Publishing Routes and Options

The different publishing options including the Big Five and traditional publishers, indie presses, and self-publishing.

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With all the new developments in the publishing industry of recent years, it’s very easy to get confused and lost amongst it all. There are a few different avenues that you can take if you want to get your book published—all with their own advantages and disadvantages—and the route that you take is a very personal choice.

The Big Five

Traditional publishers are the hardest to break into. In theory, however, it’s quite a straight forward process. You approach agents with your manuscript, one of them takes you on and they work to sell your book to the publisher on your behalf. In reality, though, it’s a challenge every step of the way. Getting your book published by one of the Big Five—Simon & Schuster, Penguin Random House, HarperCollins, Macmillan Publishers, and Hachette—is, arguably, one of the greatest accolades an author can achieve. It is not easy to do and success is not guaranteed, as with all other routes.

Traditional Publishers

There are a whole host of other publishers outside of the Big Five, but the process is mostly the same, in general. From time to time, depending on the publisher, they may accept unsolicited manuscripts, but this is rare. Nine times out of ten you’ll have to get an agent and they sell your book for you. Many of these publishers still carry a lot of weight and their authors win prestigious awards regularly, hence why getting in is still very difficult, and they range from large corporate companies to more free, independent publishing houses.

Indie Presses

Indie presses are kind of halfway between traditional publishing and self-publishing. Many of them will use self-publishing routes but do it on your behalf, but a large portion also print books and will attempt to get them into bookshops. The main benefit to independent presses is that most of them accept unsolicited manuscripts. They may be limited when they are open for submissions but you can forgo the agent and work directly with the publishers to get your book on the shelves. The drawback is their limited reach and budget in comparison to traditional publishers.


Self-publishing has opened the doors for authors across the globe to make a career out of writing. There are countless organisations and services that offer an avenue to publish your work as an eBook, in print, as an audiobook, and any other format you can think of. If a book can be in that format, you can publish your work. However, all of the work has to be done by you. All of the editing, design, formatting, marketing and proofing that would normally be handled by the publisher all rests on your shoulders. Self-published authors/books aren’t looked down on as much as they once were, but it’s definitely harder for your book to become a success than any other route, and will cost you a lot more up front if you want to do it well.

Vanity Publishing

Vanity publishing is the most questionable avenue for publishing. While there is nothing inherently wrong with it, it is so easy for the author to be scammed and taken advantage of with this option. When you vanity publish, you pay a company to publish your book for you. If you want any other services, such as editing and design, you can generally pay for those too. In reality, with all the other services out there, you can pay an editor to tidy up your work and you can use print on demand services to get copies of your book made up for you. All of these are going to be cheaper than a vanity publisher, as the difference between self-publishing and vanity publishing is that vanity companies are, generally speaking, a scam.


Whatever option you go with you need to make sure that it’s the right one for you. There are more options than ever and more organisations within that that can provide what you need. Spend a bit of time to find something that works for you, that provides what you want and that you’re happy with.

Davina Chime is a Thanet-born hopeless romantic.

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