Traditional Publishing

"...the wise author will take time to

get a clear understanding of the rights

and benefits of the contract."

Traditional publishing is less of a partnership between the writer and publisher and more of a business contract. In that circumstance, the wise author will take time to get a clear understanding of the rights and benefits of the contract.

In traditional publishing, you complete your manuscript and write a proposal, and then submit them to a publishing house (or, if possible, have a literary agent do it for you). An editor reads it to determine whether it's right for that house and whether to reject or to publish it. In some cases, an editor who is interested may send a manuscript back for revisions. If the publishing house decides to publish your book, the house normally buys rights from the writer and pays an advance on future royalties. The house puts up the money to design and package the book, printing as many copies as it thinks will sell; markets and finally distributes the finished book.

Since 'traditional' publishing means that publisher offers an advance against future royalties, it's expected that they actively market and promote their titles and assume all production and distribution costs. Read contracts carefully for any costs or charge-backs that can be deducted from royalties. They also have standard royalty rates and established distribution to the marketplace. Traditional publishing houses either have in-house sales and marketing teams or work with an outside sales team to pitch their titles.

Other notes on traditional publishing:

  • Traditional publishers offer between 10% to 15% royalty, on average. Some offer a percentage of publisher’s net revenue and others of cover price - be sure to clarify what you're being offered.
  • Traditional publishers normally retain full control over title and cover art. If you have strong feelings about your title or cover appearance, get them written into your contract before you sign it.
  • Traditional publishers can demand editing changes or refuse to publish.
  • Traditional publishers promise marketing or advertising. The exact nature and extend of the publisher's promotional commitment needs to be spelled out. Some publishers may do a great job promoting their titles, others still expect the author to do to work. Sometimes author and publisher may have differing definitions of 'marketing.'
  • Traditional publishers may not be committed to growing an author’s fan base for future sales. When books don’t show increased sales with each new title, an author may have future titles rejected even when reasons for declining sales can be traced to publishing decisions.
  • Traditional publishers retain rights to the content and possible future uses regardless of whether the book is still on the market. Getting rights re-assigned back to the author is difficult or next to impossible with some publishers.
  • Traditional publishers may take a surprisingly long time to publish a book; in some cases, more than 18 months.