5 Publishing Pathways… How to Decide Which One is Best for You

Today there are more options for publishing than ever before.  There is no single way to publish a book, which is a clear advantage for new authors. Whether you are in the very first stages of writing your manuscript, have it completely done, or are somewhere in the middle of writing it, your publishing pathways requires careful consideration.

In this article, you’ll read about the pros and cons of each of the major publishing options, along with an example.  By the time you finish this article, you’ll have more clarity about which options are available and which one will be suit the goals you have for your book.

Option 1- Traditional Publishing

Example Book: Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

In the traditional publishing model, you write a book proposal, hire an agent, and sell your manuscript to a publishing company.  The publishing company pays you a cash advance, which you can use while you write the book. Once the manuscript is completed, the publishing company pays to have the manuscript edited, designed and printed, as well as setting up distribution to stores and online book retailers.  When books are sold, the profits go to the publishing house with a percentage paid to the author.  The publishing company and the author collaborate on book marketing and promotion.

Pros of this model:

  • Authors are paid for to write manuscript
  • Publishers pay for the production costs
  • There is some status from publishing with a recognized publisher

Cons of this model:

  • The publishing company owns the manuscript and can make any changes with or without the author’s consent
  • The lion’s share of the profits go to the publisher
  • The process is lengthy, averaging 18-24 months for book production after the manuscript is completed

Option 2- Self Publishing

Example Book: Do You Mean Business? By Babette N Ten Haken

In this model, the author writes the book and then manages its production.  The author serves as a project manager, hiring graphic designers, printers, and layout artists to create the finished book.  The author decides how many books to print, either using print on demand (POD) technology to create a few books at a time, or prints several thousand copies with an off-set printer.  The Author is in charge of all marketing activities and distribution.  The author reaps all profits from book sales.


  • Authors have complete control over all aspects of the book
  • This model has the potential to create large income if the book is successful
  • Production time averages 6-12 months, depending on how much time the author can devote to the project


  • Requires a substantial financial and time investment
  • Authors have a steep learning curve
  • It can be challenging to find trustworthy vendors

Option 3- Boutique Publishing

Example Book: Trust God and Buy Broccoli by Gerri Helms

If an author wants to self-publish her book but does not want to actually do the work or learn the process, she can hire a boutique publishing company to outsource the project.  The author pays the boutique company a fee for the production of the book.  Depending on the agreement with the boutique company, the author will garner a portion of the book profits. These percentages vary widely from 10- 100% of book profits.  In this model, the author is responsible for most of the book marketing but the publisher may provide a book website and other marketing materials.


  • Quick and convenient.  The production process will take 4-6 months, depending on the contract
  • The boutique publisher has trained staff who can produce a high quality book
  • Authors receive coaching and mentoring from seasoned professionals who understand the book world


  • Can be costly
  • There are some disreputable vendors so careful evaluation of potential boutique publishers is required
  • May or may not have book store distribution

Option 4- Ebook only Publishing

Example Book:  Linchpin by Seth Godin

This new publishing model is paperless.  Books are designed and sold electronically.  This method is very fast and very affordable.  The author can format and design her book for electronic sales or hire an outsourcing company to complete these tasks.  Books are distributed electronically and read on electronic devices such as Kindle, Nook, or iPads.  The author is responsible for marketing the book.


  • Very low cost
  • Can be ready for sale in 30 days or less after the edited manuscript goes into formatting
  • Hottest selling market for books today


  • Books are only available to readers with electronic devices
  • The media does not consider ebooks as newsworthy as printed books
  • Meeting planners are primarily interested in key note speakers with printed books which can be sold at live events

Option 5- The Blended Approach

Example Book: Step Up Now by Susan S. Freeman

This approach blends self-publishing or boutique publishing along with ebook publishing.     In this model, the publisher is responsible for creating two books from one manuscript.  The book is sold in both paper back and electronic format.  The author has the best of both worlds, with physical books to sign, sell, and give away as a marketing tool as well as electronic books for readers who are passionate about their ereaders.


  • More buyers will learn of the book due to multiple listings
  • The author has books in hand to impress the media and use to build her business
  • The author enjoys two potential profit streams from electronic and printed book sales


  • Authors shoulder the cost of book production
  • Requires additional cost to produce two versions of the same book which adds an additional $300-$500 to the project
  • Can be a complicated process for an Author who is self-publishing

Now that you know about the five publishing pathways, consider your goals for you book.  Then, select a pathway that will enable you to reach your goals.  All pathways are worthy and can create great results.  In the end, the decision comes down to what you really want.  If you align your publishing pathway with your goals, you will have a winning combination for a successful book.


Comments 5

  • Hi Lynne,

    With all the changes in publishing, even those of us in the industry are scrambling to keep up with the options and changes.

    Your article has made the distinctions among publishing options and explained the pros and cons.

    To your list I’d like to add the publishing pathway that begins as a blog and grows into a book. In my case I began a blog without even considering it could become a book until later. Then there are a number of authors who begin their blogs with the intent of writing their books post by post and getting feedback from their readers along the way.

    At the end of the blog-to-book pathway the author must choose one of the publishing options you mentioned. Your article is a big help in making that decision.

  • Informative

  • Hi, thanks for the tips. Have to disagree with some of the points on trad publishing though-
    For the pros you neglected to mention that the publishers distribute your book to all bookstores and e-books sites (hitting two marketing areas) A huge Pro considering most authors are battling to get their book seen and traditional publishing can do that.
    With the Cons- generally NO publisher makes any changes to the manuscript without consulting the author- that is where having a good contract comes into play. They do however have a little more leeway on the cover choices.
    – The lion’s share of the profits go to the publisher- but that’s where having a literary agent can help in balancing that out- there is always room to negotiate what money you receive.
    The process has been shortened drastically in keeping with the changing times. Now you can sell a book in May and have it out by the fall depending on the genre. I think all forms of publishing are important to learn and understand so I would encourage everyone to have due diligence when deciding on how to publish.

    • Hi Rachel-

      You add some good points about traditional publishing have better distribution options. However, you may not know that self published and boutique publisher can also get distribution in book stores as well. That’s a big change in recent years.

      I’m not suggesting that it is easy to get a bookstore chain to carry your self published book, but I have several friends who have done it quite successfully.

      Thanks for your thoughtful comments!

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