Contributions to this page have come from Patricia Fry, Susan Daffron, and Dan Poynter.

We've just added a new category called Hybrid Publishing, as defined by the Independent Book Publishers' Assocation. See their criteria in this PDF from their site:

1.   Large trade publisher: (often called a Traditional Publisher)

These companies only accept authors they feel have the ability to sell enough copies of a book to make money for the publisher. Some will not accept a proposal unless it comes from an agent. Whether or not they give the author an advance (many large ones do; many small ones don't) they do NOT ask the author to contribute anything to the cost of publication or promotion. They have editors who work closely with authors, publicists who handle promotion, and pay royalties of varying amounts.

WARNING: some major publishers are now requiring unknown authors to purchase large quantities of books up front, with only the bookstore discount.

2.   Mid-size trade publisher: (similar to #1, but easier to break into)

Many are becoming Print-on-Demand publishers as well, charging the author for different "packages" offering production, publicity, distribution, etc. Watch these contracts carefully;  there may be problems.

Some of the good ones offer co-publishing as an option. This means author and publisher share both costs and profits, which can be an ideal situation for an author who has the ability to sell books at workshops and readings, to target audiences. The author can obtain books at cost, but doesn't have to carry a large inventory or pay for a large print run up front. If you deal with a publisher who has a good track record, you will have a high-quality book you can be proud of. The author often handles initial editing and publicity to keep costs down even further, but the publisher ensures a quality product. 

NOTE: Trade/traditional publishers (whether large or small or in between) have an editorial board which rejects unsuitable manuscripts, works with authors who present a draft (or book proposal) which they feel has promise but needs substantial editing, and produce a book that bookstores find acceptable.

THERE ARE SOME REPUTABLE MID-SIZE TRADE PUBLISHERS! You have to search for them, read everything on their websites carefully, and e-mail questions to ensure that you don't have to pay anything to have them publish your book. One such publisher is Comfort Publishing in North Carolina. They incur all costs and pay royalties on sales, and although they expect authors to "get their hands dirty" in assisting with the promotion of the book, this is standard in the industry.

It's become more common for small trade publishers to ask authors to share the costs of producing a book.
This is so that they don't take the full risk with a new author, and as long as the costs are truly shared (without inflated costs and extras the author is asked to pay for), it can be a good way to break in. The advantage of doing this is that you get all the professional services of an established publisher, inclusion on their website, and the kind of marketing and distribution you can't possible do on your own. 


The author pays for everything, has to handle distribution and publicity without assistance, although many of these companies attempt to sell the author a "package" with these services. The result can be many cartons of unsold books in the basement. In order to avoid that, many authors order only a small quantity, which means the cost per book is high and either the price point then is above what buyers will accept, or the profit margin is extremely small. These used to be called "vanity" publishers. The new term, Pay to Publish, was suggested by SPAWN's Patricia Fry.

Some of these companies call themselves POD (which means Print on Demand) publishers, but SPAWN points out that Print-on-demand is a way of doing business not a method of printing. POD means receiving an order (and payment), manufacturing the book and then delivering the book. That's what commerical printers do as well.

For a discussion of vanity publishers, see 

To see how careless some of these companies can be about handling layout and selecting covers, see these sites:

Smashwords does not provide paid services of any kind.  Instead, they offer a free download which provides guidance on how to prepare your book for quality ebook conversion to various formats. It's very important to do this in Word. Many publishers (large, mid-size and Pay to Publish) use Smashwords to format their books.

NOTE: Some Pay to Publish companies boast that they pay royalties. But that  doesn't mean much if very few copies are ever sold.

Before you sign a contract with ANY publisher, READ THIS.  To have your contract reviewed, CLICK HERE.

Angela Hoy, who owns Booklocker, says: “The dirty little secret of the Print On Demand (POD) industry is that most of us use the same service to do the printing, and we all distribute our books through Ingram. So the quality of our books and the places to which we sell them are identical. The only real differences are the prices we charge, the quality of our customer service, and our business models.”


When you self-publish, you are setting up your own publishing company, even if it's just for one book. That puts you in control over every aspect of the operation.

Susan Daffron, President of SPAWN, points out that if you purchase your own ISBNs, you're a self-publisher, regardless of how you produce the book. If you don't own the ISBN, you're going to earn only a percentage of the profit.

Patricia Fry adds that  when you pay to publish or go with a traditional publisher and the ISBN is in their name, you may be unable to deal with or negotiate with distributors, booksellers and others without the publisher.

Self-publishing is an increasingly viable option with the arrival of more sophisticated software allowing you to produce a quality book that is indistinguishable from trade-published books. It requires hiring an editor, a designer, and a proofreader (don't skip this step!), researching printers, and handling distribution and publicity on your own. But there *are* independent distributors and you can also hire a publicity agent.

Here's what Dan Poynter says about deciding to self-publish: 
            Our books are our children. There is a gestation period of weeks, months, or even years. We bring them into this world and we have a responsibility to raise them. Do you plan to approach an agent and put your book up for adoption? Do you want to give it away?
            It does not matter if you sell out to a large New York publisher, pay to have it published,  or publish yourself, the author must do the promotion. You have to do that essential work regardless, so why not publish yourself?
           Only two people make money on a book: the printer and the investor.  If  you have faith in your work, invest your own money and publish yourself.

Self-publishers often become independent publishers, as they build on their success and add a few other authors to their stable. In Canada, you can't join the Association of Canadian Publishers until you've published at least one book by someone besides yourself (or a member of your family). The ACP is the  organization for independent publishers, a "sister" to the organization for large trade publishers.

Before you sign a contract with anybody, please read some warnings HERE.

Download a free CHECKLIST to help you decide whether self-publishing is for you.

Publishing Possibilities, 8 Steps to Understanding Your Options, and Choosing the Best Path for Your Book, by Cheryl Pickett. Read Patricia's Fry review at:

Dan Poynter's list of free information sheets:

The Fine Print of Self-Publishing, by Mark Levine, which compares and ranks 45 companies in this growing field. Full review HERE. 

The Step-By-Step Guide to Self-Publishing for Profit!  by C. Pinheiro with Nick Russell, Pineapple Publications.  Read Bobbi's review HERE.

Publishize: How to Quickly and Affordably Self-Publish a Book That Promotes Your Expertise, by Susan Daffron, a hands-on guidebook for entrepreneurs who want to add a new revenue stream to their business. Read the table of contents and some sample pages at:


These companies may have different requirements and different charges. If you're self-publishing, contact several printers with good track records (ask around!) and request competitive bids on your book. Be prepared to show the salesman a mock-up of how you want the book to look, and ask if they have an in-house designer to assist with layout, or if you have to present the book in a format such as Quattro Pro or Quark, on disk. Be prepared to discuss paper quality, trim size, type of binding, and laminating the cover. Discuss illustrations, if you want to include those, and understand that each image will cost a fee. Obtain prices for different “runs” (i.e. how many books will be printed), asked if they charge for over-runs, how many proof copies you'll receive, and how much they charge for corrections you want to make (i.e. those that aren't their fault).

This is a complex process. If you aren't prepared to learn all these details, consider hiring a Production Manager. See my article on how I published Mewsings/Musings to see what I did.

NOTE: You can obtain help with book promotion and preparing a customized marketing plan.  See Mentoring in  Marketing, Media Techniques, and Publicity Strategies Notes from a sold-out Book Promotion Workshop are available, as well as the award-winning Five Fast Steps to Low-Cost Publicity.


Print on Demand simply means that a book is not printed until it is ordered.

Patricia, Susan and Dan all emphasize that Print-on-Demand is both a way of doing business as well as a method of printing. POD means receiving an order (and payment), manufacturing the book and then delivering the book. Most POD books are produced with digital printing but they could be produced with other methods.

These companies will take your raw copy (or PDF or Word files) and turn it into a reasonably acceptable layout. They then print copies as buyers order them. If you've self-published and done your homework, you'll deal with one of the reputable POD companies, obtain a reasonable price for your books, and retain full control.

Remember that if you own the ISBN, you are the publisher. If you decide to use POD as a means of producing your books, check carefully to avoid the scams. Patricia suggests you do a Google search of any company you plan to deal with.  For example, search for:
            (Company name) + Scam 
            (Company name) + Fraud
            (Company name) + Rip-off
            (Company name) + Better Business Bureau

Some POD companies try to act like publishers. The price of your book plus shipping to the buyer may be well above reasonable market price, and this can be hidden from the author who has been quoted only the cover price, forgetting to ask about shipping charges. Make sure you check every POD company with the writers and publishers' organizations who provide warnings about scams, obtain your own ISBNs and ask all the right questions before going ahead.

There are some reputable Print-On-Demand companies (who produce actual hard copies of books).

Check out some which have been recommended by members of SPAWN and other friends:

3.   E-BOOKS:

This is another option offered by POD companies. The author has to examine carefully whether paying for someone else to prepare an e-book is worthwhile, or if they would be better off doing this alone. Often the e-book company's promotional efforts do not justify what they're charging. But if you can produce your own PDFs, you can sell an e-book through your website, promote it on other sites, and do very well. This is an increasingly popular option for self-publishers.

Some members of SPAWN point out that both POD and e-books are a great option for self-publishers who want to be able to update the text and issue new editions every few years, for books that had an initial run and are almost out of print, or for books with a limited target audience. E-books can offer a cheaper or stripped-down version of a book that has sold well but has become too expensive in the print version, or for a workbook to accompany an online course the author is presenting. It can also be a good way to test-market a new title. 

Smashwords is the e-book company Dan Poynter uses. It gives authors 85% of the net proceeds from sales.
If you are considering this, do read the excellent description of the process at:

A reference to check:

Some "mixed" models you might want to explore: (proceed with caution!)

Red Hill Publishing is an author-retained rights publisher. Authors contribute to the initial production costs of their book, and they retain their rights – and the majority of profits – in their book. As their website states:  our authors take a financial risk, keep their rights and retain the spoils. They hang on to 87.5 percent of receipts (100 percent until they have recouped their investment).  But no information is given on their website about how much investment is required.

CAI Publishing has authors soliciting friends as "partners" who provide non-conventional loans to finance the book production. They call it the Partners-As-Publishers revenue system. There are 100 micro-loan increments issued for each book. The partners share all of the book’s revenue until their loans double in value&ldots; then they share half of the revenue. Marketing is primarily via word-of-mouth. When 100 partners tell 100 of their friends there are 10,000 potential buyers eager to read her book.

CONTACT BOBBI if you decide to self-publish, for help throughout the process.  See the Mentoring Page.

Patricia Fry also offers mentoring for self-publishers.  If you plan to self-publish, join SPAWN.

If you live in Australia or New Zealand, you might want to contact Maria Carlton.

For a handy glossary of publishing terms, go to Susan Daffron's definitions HERE.

CHECK OUT Famous Authors Who Self-Published, and a Self-Publishing Checklist.


Before you sign a contract with a publisher, READ THIS.  To have your contract reviewed, CLICK HERE.

And, finally, for a humorous look at self-publishing, read Joel Friedlander's humor piece HERE.