Choosing the Right Publishing Path

Mellanie~ By Mellanie Szereto

Choosing the right publishing path can be a daunting decision for both new and experienced authors, but having good information about each option can make the decision easier. As with many aspects of writing, no single path works for everyone. Time, resources, abilities, and personal experiences will affect choices.

Let’s start with the basics.

Publishing Options:


  • Print publishers, often referred to as New York and Big 5 publishers
  • Publisher pays for all publishing costs, including (but not limited to) editing, cover art, and distribution
  • Usually e-books and mass market or trade paperbacks

Small Press Digital only

  • Digital publishers
  • Publisher pays for all publishing costs, including (but not limited to) editing, cover art, and distribution
  • E-books only

Small Press Digital First

  • Digital publishers with POD available for some or all books
  • Publisher pays for all publishing costs, including (but not limited to) editing, cover art, and distribution
  • E-books with conditional option for print


  • Publishing in which the author is the publisher
  • Author is responsible for all aspects of book production, distribution, and marketing, including (but not limited to) editing, cover art, and formatting expenses.
  • The author receives all royalties directly from the chosen distributors.
  • Books in any form chosen by the author (digital, print, audio)

Vanity Publishing

  • Production of books in which the author participates in the costs of production or distribution in any manner, including assessment of fees or other costs for editing and/or distribution, and publishing programs that withhold or seek full or partial payment or reimbursement of publication or distribution costs before paying royalties, including payment of paper, printing, binding, production, sales or marketing costs
  • Publishing programs whose authors exclusively promote and/or sell their own books and whose business model and methods of publishing are primarily directed toward sales to the author, his/her relatives and associates.
  • Books in forms paid for by the author (digital, print, audio)


  • Any combination of traditional, digital, digital first, self-publishing, or vanity publishing


ACX  – Audiobook Creation Exchange; Amazon’s retail audiobook platform

Advance money paid to the author in anticipation of royalty earnings. The amount is subtracted from any royalties earned. Generally, the author does not have to return the advance, even if it exceeds total royalties earned.

ARC – advance readers copy

ARe – All Romance E-books; retail digital platform; offers some third-party retail distribution

Beta Reader – a person who reads the manuscript and gives the author feedback before the publication process to catch plot and character inconsistencies, pacing issues, areas that need clarification, and grammar/punctuation problems, depending on knowledge

Blurb – short description of the book designed to hook the reader; usually 25-150 words; used for promo and back cover

Copy Edits – checks for grammar, spelling, and punctuation; also verifies legal and usage questions and checks or questions facts

Developmental Edits – edits for plot and character development

DMCA Takedown Notice – Digital Millennium Copyright Act takedown notice; notices sent by authors and publishers to pirate sites for the removal of pirated files

Draft2Digital – digital platform for third-party distribution to some online retail outlets

DRM – digital rights management: technology that limits the use of digital media for users

iBooks – Apple’s retail digital platform; requires a Mac for direct upload

ISBN – international standard book number

Google Play – Google’s retail digital platform

KDP – Amazon’s retail digital platform Kindle Direct Publishing

KDP Select – Amazon’s retail digital platform Kindle Direct Publishing exclusive

Kobo – Retail digital platform

Line Edits – checks the pacing, story continuity, and content

Nook Press – Barnes & Noble self-publishing venue

Pitch – very brief blurb designed to draw immediate interest from an editor or agent; a face-to-face or online opportunity to “sell” your book to an editor or agent, using a brief blurb

POD – print on demand

Query – submission letter to an editor or agent

Royalties – percentage of the sale price earned by the author on sold copies

Smashwords – retail digital platform; offers third-party distribution to some online retail outlets

Synopsis – tells the chronological order of your story, using your characters’ goals, motivations, and conflicts to describe what each character wants, why he reacts the way he reacts, and how those decisions and behaviors affect him and his growth (character arc) through the events that happen; also tells the progression of the plot and its resolution from a narrator’s perspective

Tagline – brief phrase meant to spark interest in the book

Not only do authors need to know about options and terminology, they have to understand the steps involved in creating and publishing a book. Some tasks must be done by the author, no matter the chosen publishing avenue. Each publishing option has advantages and disadvantages, and what one author considers an advantage may be a disadvantage to another author. They can vary for each book and/or series as well.

Tasks for Publishing a Book

  • Write the book.
  • Polish/self-edit the book.
  • Write a synopsis.
  • Query/submit to agents and/or editors.
  • Write blurbs and tagline.
  • Create cover art.
  • Assign an ISBN to the book.
  • Create front and back matter.
  • Have the book professionally edited.
  • Format the book for print, digital, and/or audio release.
  • Convert files to epub, mobi, pdf, etc.
  • Create a metadata list.
  • Plan and implement marketing and promotion strategy.
  • File copyright paperwork.
  • Publish and distribute the book.
  • Update website, blog, and social media.
  • Track income and expenses for tax purposes.

Which are advantages and which are disadvantages? Is control over the entire process important? Or is handing off the publishing aspects more palatable? How important is brick-and-mortar bookstore distribution? Are higher royalty rates worth the time/money spent on self-publishing?

Each author has her own answers, so choose the right publishing path for YOU!

When her fingers aren’t attached to her keyboard, Mellanie Szereto enjoys hiking, Pilates, cooking, gardening, and researching for her stories. Many times, the research partners with her other hobbies, taking her from the Hocking Hills region in Ohio to the Colorado Rockies or the Adirondacks of New York. Sometimes, the trip is no farther than her garden for ingredients and her kitchen to test recipes for her latest steamy tale. She is multi-published with Siren-Bookstrand and is self-publishing her foodie contemporary series, Love on the Menu, in addition to her nonfiction Writing Tip Wednesday handbooks based on her informational blog series. Mellanie makes her home in rural Indiana with her husband of twenty-eight years and their son. She is a member of Romance Writers of America, Indiana Romance Writers of America, Contemporary Romance Writers, and FF&P Romance Writers. Visit her website at for information on book signings and her upcoming release, Iced Latté. Sugar and spice and everything…naughty!

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7 thoughts on “Choosing the Right Publishing Path”

  1. Fantastic blog post overview of self-pub & other pub venues! Much needed info both for the aspiring author and others! Super thanks!!! Mellanie for compiling this so valuable information!

  2. I really enjoyed the discussion and having everyone add to the conversation, Aly! I’d love to have more of this type of program in the future.

    Thanks for the link, Kathleen! This is a very useful chart with great info!

  3. Thank you Mellanie. This was the topic of our last Indiana RWA meeting which Mellanie led. It was lively and educational hearing from more experienced writers about all sides of the publishing path. More food for thought!

    Thank you,

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