Understanding the Important Differences Between Types of Publishers

Have you written a book and now you’re unsure who to publish with? We’ve gathered info on trade publishing, self-publishing-and hybrid publishers for you.

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When you sat down to write your novel or short story, you weren’t thinking about the publishing aspect of it. You had an idea that sparked your imagination, and you decided to create a world for someone else to enjoy. Well, now that your story is complete, you need to get it into the hands of your audience. But who will help you, and how will you decide which to choose? A big question when there are several different types of publishers.

We’re here to help with that by giving you all the necessary information on what kind of publishers are available and what to look for that best suits your needs. We’re going to tell you about the following:

  • What kind of publishers are there?
  • What does each publisher offer?
  • What should I expect from these publishers?
  • How to choose a publisher.

What kind of publishers are there?

Many types of publishers are available to writers, but the most common are trade, academic, professional, self-publishers, vanity, and hybrid. Unless you’re writing a textbook for academic purposes or professional-specific books for doctors and lawyers, you won’t need academic or professional publishing information. We do not recommend vanity publishers as they do nothing to help with the manuscript other than print it and sell it directly to the writer.

Graphic of someone holding a notepad with "kind of publishers" listed on a cream colored desktop surface with pens, paper, and coffee.

Trade publishers are the most well-known; they include firms like Penguin/Random House, Harper Collins, and MacMillan. These firms publish books in every medium and genre. They have headquarters in several countries. Each publishing house is a parent company to smaller publishers specializing in different genres.

Self-publishing is exactly what it sounds like. You choose the platform you want to use to publish your book and do all of the publishing work yourself. Amazon KDP, Barnes and Noble Press, and Kobo Writing Life are the most common self-pub sites.

Hybrid publishers are a mix of both trade and self-publishing. You get supportive professional care with more control over your manuscript. The most reputable hybrid publishers include Amplify, Forbes Books, and Greenleaf Book Group.

What does the publisher do?

Graphic explaining what to expect from-the three publishers: trade publishing, hybrid publishing, self publishing.

Trade Publishers

This type of publisher acquires manuscripts from authors through three avenues. Unsolicited manuscripts that authors send directly to the publishing house. They attend literary conventions and events where authors pitch their manuscripts. They also work with literary agents who represent the writer; this is the most common type of manuscript acquisition.

Once they acquire the manuscript, they assign an editor to oversee the project management of editing, formatting, and designing the interior and cover of the book. From there, the publisher works with a marketing team to promote and distribute the finalized copies into the hands of booksellers. Final approvals of edits and designs are limited for the writer unless expressed in the contract signed at acquisition. This is important, and we’ll explain more later.


Each of the tasks a trade publisher would complete is solely the responsibility of the author. The writer will decide the best self-publishing platform for their needs and follow the guidelines of that publisher. The writer can either handle each task themselves or hire freelancers specializing in editing, formatting, and designing to do it for them.

As you are the source of all the work being put into the book, this is the more expensive option. However, you have complete control over what happens with your book.

Hybrid Publishing

Hybrid publishing offers support for tasks that aren’t typically within the writer’s wheelhouse. The editing, designing, and marketing steps are done by professionals who know the industry but consider what the writer wants. These services are sold a la carte and in packages to serve the writer’s budget best.

What should I expect from these publishers?

Trade Publishing

While you will have limited decision-making when it comes to the publishing process with trade publishers, it’s important to note that this route means you can focus on your writing. We highly recommend that you obtain a literary agent to represent you. Learn how to query for an agent here.

Each publishing house has a set of standards they uphold in all of their acquisitions. The writer’s assigned editor will review the manuscript and suggest edits. The writer will be able to insist that some things not be cut/changed, but other edits will be compulsory. The design of the cover and interior might be run past the writer, or it might not. If you, the writer, have an issue with the requested changes and choose not to make them, this could cause your manuscript never to be published. Depending on the language of your contract, the manuscript becomes the publisher’s intellectual property, and they can decide whether to move forward or not. Again, read the contract before you sign and have an agent negotiate for you.

Money. That’s one of the more important factors when selecting a publisher. How much will the writer have to pay, and how much will the writer be paid for their book?

If your manuscript is being published through trade publishing, you should not be paying for anything to get it published. If they’re asking for the writer to pay, they’re either a vanity publisher or a hybrid publisher.

Each contract and trade publisher is different. Compensation options vary based on genre, author’s experience, the quality of the manuscript, and how competitive the marketplace is for that book. Most first-time authors can expect an advance of $5,000-$10,000, though some genres can earn more. Once the advance funds have been met by the book sales, the author will then receive royalties on each book sold. Royalties also vary, but this typically comes in around 10-15%.

Other compensation can include book tours, speaking engagements, and other events your agent and publisher set up.


Self-publishing is a fantastic avenue to keep complete control over your book. Whether you choose to do every step of the publishing process yourself or hire freelancers, you have the last word. Some of these platforms offer services to help publish your book, but it may be cheaper to DIY it or hire someone else.

This option can also be the most costly, depending on several factors.

  • Editing – what level of editing do you need? Does your manuscript need help developmentally for things like plot and continuity, or does it just need someone to proofread, crossing the Ts and dotting the Is? Freelance editors usually charge per word, and each level of editing—developmental, copyediting, and proofreading—charges at different rates.
  • Design – Your book needs a cover design and an interior design; you can design this yourself with programs like Canva or the self-publisher tools. A Freelance cover designer will cost anywhere from $250-$1,500. Interior designers charge between $75-$500.
  • Formatting – For your manuscript to be accepted by the self-publishing platform, it must be correctly formatted for print and digital publication. If you decide to do this yourself, watch a few YouTube videos—freelance formatters range in price from $200-$500.
  • Marketing – Regardless of the publisher you choose, you will be responsible for a portion of the marketing of your book; however, with self-publishing, you are responsible 100%. Establishing an audience on social media platforms to promote your book is important. Create a website, attend book signing events and conventions, reach out to book reviewers/bloggers, and run advertising campaigns. Some of these promotions might not cost you anything other than an ARC of your book or a Starbucks gift card; others will range from $5-$500.
  • Printing – Self-publishing platforms like KDP will print and ship books for you through Amazon. You can order copies and sell them yourself from your website or social media platforms. They take a percentage of each sale to cover the cost of printing and shipping. You can also look into print-on-demand services, which take a percentage of each book to cover costs.
  • Distributing – If you’re choosing a self-publisher that doesn’t sell your physical copy books on their site like KDP will, you’ll then need to distribute them yourself (sales through your website, for instance, where you’ll get the sale invoice and then need to ship) or find a distributor service.

The decisions you make in this process will affect the success or failure of your book sales. Editing and designing are the most costly services, but for quality work that appeals to your audience, they’re the ones that can make or break a manuscript.

Compensation-wise, each self-publishing platform is different as to what you will receive on book sales. Platforms like Amazon KDP do not have any upfront costs to publish; they charge royalties, 30% for ebooks, and 15% on print books. KDP has a subscription option, Kindle Unlimited, for which your book can participate. As with most things, there are pros and cons. It’s fantastic for reaching new readers on a budget, but compensation is per page read, so if someone DNFs your book after only a few chapters, you only get paid for those pages. Also, if you participate in KU, you can’t publish your ebook with any other platform.

Hybrid Publishing

As stated earlier, hybrid publishing companies offer a combination of trade and self-publishing services. The writer can choose what services they wish for the publisher to handle for them, and the writer has control over most of the decision-making. Pros here include professional editing and marketing, which are invaluable for the success of a book. The author still has to market their book, as with any other platform, but there’s more help here than with self-publishing.

Typically, hybrid publishers offer the following services; however, not every company offers all of them. It’s important to do your research and find the best fit for your needs.

  • Editing – They offer one or all three professional editing services: developmental, line editing, and proofreading.
  • Design – Professional designers who can create beautiful covers and interiors.
  • Marketing – From promoting a book to helping establish an author’s website or social media promotion, there are many options that hybrid publishers offer.
  • Distribution – Hybrid publishers may have avenues to distribute authors’ books to booksellers and retailers.
  • Out-of-Pocket Costs – Prices vary per hybrid publisher; some may charge a one-time fee, and others may incur a monthly charge. Royalties are assessed on every book sold, but the majority of sales go to the author.

How To Choose a Publisher

Before you can decide what publishing route to take, you need to assess: what it is you want from the sales of your books, when you want to see your book published, and what your budget is. These are important in establishing a timeline for yourself and setting attainable goals.

Each publishing option has its pros and cons. It’s up to you to decide what you’re willing to give up and what you’re willing to put into the publishing process to become successful.

Research, research, research. You’re already used to that. I’m convinced you’re on an FBI watchlist somewhere that says, “Writer, though potential psychopath, keep watch,” just from your Google search history.

Factors to Consider:

Trade publishing has the least amount of work you will need to do except writing and polishing your book. There will be no cost to you. If a trade publisher charges you a fee, they are a vanity publisher. The timeline from handing over your manuscript to publication can take 9 to 24 months, based on various factors. Many decisions regarding your book will be out of your hands, but you will have professionals with in-depth knowledge of the industry polishing, perfecting, and promoting your book.


Self-publishing has the most work involved in producing, publishing, and distributing your book. It can also be the most costly. Many authors have become successful as self-publishers and even garnered trade publishing deals based on their sales and audience. Research which self-publishing platform works best for your needs and what services you can do yourself or hire out for. Budgeting is going to be the biggest concern here. As far as a timeline is concerned, that is based entirely on you and/or any freelancers you hire. This can be as little as a few weeks to several months.

Finally, hybrid publishing is the best of both worlds, with professionals able to assist you and see your publishing dreams come true. The timeline from manuscript to perfected book is 6 to 18 months. This method of publishing can cost you a pretty penny, so research what company offers the best services for your needs. You are still able to handle some things yourself to stay within budget, but it’s nice to have professionals available to assist.

No matter which direction you choose to publish your book, just remember that a lot of work is involved outside of writing the manuscript to make it successful. Do your research and trust your gut to guide you in the direction that best suits you.

Happy writing!

To learn more about self-publishing, click here.

Be sure to browse our Author’s Services page for more information on what Bookstr can do to help promote you and your book.