Traditional, Indie, Vanity, and Self Publishing

Today the publishing industry is not just limited to the traditional press. Writers are given more options to get their work published. What seemed to be impossible before has been easily achieved by many writers.

However, the many options available to writers nowadays have raised confusion as to which is “best”. The thing is, it is extremely important to know the differences between the many types of publishing – the advantages as well as the disadvantages – because what is ideal for one person may be the complete opposite for someone else. This especially reigns true for indie, vanity, and traditional publishing.


Traditional publishing is perhaps one of the most known ways of getting work distributed. The process for this type of publishing usually starts with a writer completing a good portion of their manuscript, producing a query letter and book proposal, then pitching it to a literary agent who best has been successful in pitching other authors in their genre(s). The agent then sends it to their connections in the Big Five traditional publishers (Penguin Random House, Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins, Hachette, and Macmillan). The publishing house that receives the manuscript reviews the submission to ensure that it is both profitable and marketable. If it is something that they would want to work with, they move forward with the process by reaching out to the literary agent.

In most cases, the author will be paid in advance for future royalties of the manuscript they submitted. This advance can range from $10,000 to $100,000, however, the rights of the book will be bought from the writer before the manuscript is published. Once the smoke clears, traditional publishers take care of everything: editing, marketing, copyrights, ISBN, cover designs, so forth and so on.

This entire process may take as long as several years when compared to the immediacy of indie publishers and self-publishing.


From the word “independent,” indie publishing simply means that you are working with an independent publisher, one who is not affiliated or part of major publishing houses. Indie publishing is often referred to as small press, because they are not (yet) reaching a certain level of annual sales. Aside from this, they also publish fewer titles per year, generally ten or less. Because of the smaller nature of these publishers, it is much easier to get your work in their hands without hiring a literary agent.

An indie publisher often specializes in specific genres. This means that there is room for every writer, they would just need to find an indie publisher who specializes on the subject that they are writing about. Indie publishers will also help you market your book to make it profitable; however, it is commonly known that the author is expected to pull their weight with marketing and promotion as well. While they don’t offer as much money as traditional publishers, they do tend to provide between $500 and $10,000 as author advances.

Indie publishing can take as few as two weeks or as long as six months to get a response.


Vanity publishing is also often referred to as self-publishing because the author is paying to publish their work. Although the two are similar, they are NOT the same.

With vanity publishing, the author pays a third party to complete the tasks needed to publish the book. This third party is called a vanity publisher and is sometimes referred to as a vanity press or subsidy publisher. Some examples are Xlibris and BookBaby. These types of vanity publishers provide all the services needed to publish your works, but also charge a pretty penny for it in addition to taking more than half of your royalties.

Unlike vanity publishing, where all the resources you need are in one area, when an author self-publishes, they have two options: “self-publishing” companies such as CreateSpace, Kindle Direct Publishing, and Lulu that are “free” to publish, but have contractual agreements, or actual self-publishing.

“Self-publishing” companies such as KDP automatically remove royalties from each unit sold, and make it nearly impossible to sell your books independently through another “self-publishing” company. For instance, with Amazon’s KDP company, an author has to exclusively sell their eBook with them for 90 days. If they find out that the author is selling it elsewhere, the author’s work will be pulled from distribution. Even after the 90 days, the author isn’t even allowed to price their book lower than what is listed on Amazon. Otherwise – you guessed it – it could be pulled off of Amazon’s bookshelves.

With true self-publishing, an author is in charge of the entire process from manuscript to marketing. They will deal with hiring a graphic designer for exterior and interior book design, an editor to revise and format the book… the author has to purchase an ISBN from Bowker, handle the copyrights, and purchase advance reader copies (also known as ARCs) and other materials for marketing. It costs significantly more money upfront than all of the other options, yes. Yet, one of the better qualities of this option is that the author have more flexibility on where you can distribute your work, and can potentially keep up to 100% of the royalties.

In all three instances, the author is responsible for the marketing campaign on all fronts. The author has to work with the press to promote themselves and garner attention to boost sales.


Because of the presence of indie publishers and ability of self-publishing, authors are no longer limited to knocking on the doors of big publishing houses. It is important though to way the options available and see which type will best fit your work. Luckily for you, the Hodge Agency can assist you in your decision making. Contact us today for a consultation!


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