Publishing Options


By now many of you have seen Romance Writers of America’s—and Mystery Writers, Fantasy Writers, etc., etc.—responses to Harlequin Enterprises starting a self-publishing division. If you’re new to writing, you may be wondering what all the hoopla is about or have questions regarding publishing options and which might be best for you. Here are some of the advantages and disadvantages to each.

TRADITIONAL PUBLISHERS (Avon, St. Martins Press, Simon & Schuster, Bantam, etc)


1.)  National placement of your book in brick and mortar bookstores (i.e. Barnes and Nobles, Borders), in superstores (i.e. Wal-Mart, Sam’s), in supermarkets, drugstores, and on-line (i.e.

2.) Advances you get to keep even if your book doesn’t sell as expected.

3.)  Potential foreign language, publisher book club, and Kindle sales.

4.)  Royalties.

5.)  In-house publisher promotion will vary, dependent on their enthusiasm for the work but can include promotion on publisher web sites, Advanced Reader Copies (ARCs) sent to their “A list” reviewers, publisher paid “Co-op” (front of store or end-cap placement for your book) in bookstores, special in-store displays, print ads, and for those fortunate enough to be living in the most rarified of air—the publisher-sponsored book tour.

5.)  RWA’s Published Authors Network (PAN) eligibility and access to “PAN only” sessions at RWA National and other conferences.

7.)  RITA eligibility (our industry’s Oscars).

8.)  Bookseller-supported book signing availability. (The bookseller orders your books, sets up the table, posts signage, handles the money, reports sales, and deals with sales taxes, etc.)

9.)  You hitting bestseller lists is within the realm of possibility.


1.)  A limited number of titles are accepted and produced each year.

2.)  Slowest production time from point of sale to the book being available to the public.

3.)  Authors may have little or no input into cover art, title, etc.

4.)  Royalty payments: You must earn your advance before receiving royalties, which will be sent only twice a year and issued 18 months or more after the initial release date.

5.)  Monies are often held “in reserve” against returns (unsold copies).

6.)  If your sales numbers fail to meet publisher expectations, you may be dropped from their list of authors.

7.)  The majority of authors have to augment in-house promotion with promo of their own.

E-PUBLISHERS (Wings Press, Wild Rose Press, Ellora’s Cave, etc.)


1.)  Fastest production time from point of sale to the book being available to the public

2.)  Higher number of releases per year than traditional publishers.

3.)  The work may go to print or Print on Demand (POD) depending on your publisher.

4.)  Authors often have input into cover art.

5.)  Royalty payments are paid monthly-quarterly and at a higher rate than traditional publishers.

6.)  No monies “in reserve” against returns.

7.)  Books are available through the publisher’s sites, on-line bookstores, and Kindle.

8.)  E-books tend to be slightly lower in price than hard copy books.

9.)  E-book sales are climbing, thanks to portable E-book readers (i.e., Kindle, Sony, I-Pods).


1.)  No advance, so you’re taking the bigger risk when signing over rights.

2.)  The possibility for brick-and-mortar store placement depends on your publisher and your sales numbers. Many titles never go to print or are only available as POD.

3.)  Rare or no foreign language sales.

4.)  In-house promotion is limited to publisher web sites and some print ads. (Making ARCs and sending them to book reviewers, etc, is your responsibility.)

5.)  RWA PAN eligibility is dependent upon your book’s earnings reaching RWA’s set minimum of $1,000.

6.)  E-publishers tend to go out of business more often than traditional houses and you could find yourself fighting to get your rights back.

7.)  You’ll have difficulty arranging bookseller-supported book signings if your book is only available in e-book format or if unsold print copies cannot be returned to the booksellers’ contracted wholesaler (i.e. Ingram’s) for refund.

VANITY & SUBSIDIARY PUBLISHERS (Aventine, Authorhouse, Harlequin Enterprises’ self-publish division, etc.)


1.)  No rejection to deal with.

2.)  Editorial support is available, but you retain control over the final look and content of the work.

3.)  Only your pocketbook limits the number of titles/releases and the print run sizes you have each year.

4.)  You get to keep 50-100% of the money generated by each sale.

5.)  You keep all rights.

6.)  Customers can order books from your web site and through on-line stores (i.e.,


1.)  Expensive. By the end of the production process, the cost to the author (dependent on the house) can be as high as $31.00/per copy for those 25-50 “free” author copies you’ll be given. (Detailed editing will drive the cost even higher.) Now you have to order books for Xmas, speaking engagements, libraries, etc.

2.)  The more expensive the book, the more difficult it is to sell in this economy, and then the reader has to think about shipping & handling.

3.)  No in-house promotion other than written suggestions on what to do.

4.)  No national in-store placement, so the book has limited exposure and “impulse buyer” sales.

5.)  Rare or no foreign language or publisher book club sales.

6.)  Being self-pub’d you do not qualify for RWA PAN Recognition, nor is the work eligible for entrance into the RITAs or RWA chapter contests.

7.)  Arranging book signings is difficult. When you do arrange one, you have to order the books, transport books, and handle the money.

8.)  In Texas you have to keep track of varying city/county sales tax rates, keep track of tax monies owed, and pay various municipalities quarterly.

9.)  Some self-publishing houses do set “minimums” for print runs, so you may need to find storage.

10.)  The chances of you being hit by lightening are greater than those for you making a bestseller list.

So which publishing route is best for you? Only you can decide.

If you have questions, please don’t hesitate to email me and ask.