Choosing your publishing model part 2

The other day, we looked at three of the factors that go into choosing your publishing model: Money, Skill, and Control. Today we’ll finish up.


calendar schedule
Photo by Maxime Perron Caissy

Royalty publishing takes a looooooong time. It can take up to 18 months to get a book through the production process. At major houses, once you have a contract, you’ll usually get through the process within that time frame, sometimes faster. At small presses, timeframes vary widely. Because they are nimble, small presses can often get a book produced faster than a behemoth publisher where every decision has to go through three committees. But small presses are more subject to sudden workflow interruptions like funding shortfalls or a key player falling ill with no one to pick up their role.

But the biggest obstacle, timewise, is the length of time it takes to get the contract. This can often involve years of searching for an agent, followed by more years of the agent searching for a publisher. Even if you skip the agent and go straight to small press editors, the time spent finding and pitching them can be lengthy.

Subsidy, however, is fast. You pick the operation you want to use, and they produce the book for you. The time you spend will be in deciding which service to use. Then the service will provide editing, cover design, etc. From the time you make that decision, you can have a book done within a few months, if you’re using a full-service book producer like Xulon Press or iUniverse. If you’re using a facilitator like BookTango or Lulu, you will do more work on the front end, almost as if self-publishing, before turning things over to them. Once you do, you can have your book within weeks.

How long self-publishing takes is entirely up to you, as the publisher. If you’re using freelancers, it will depend on how much time you take interviewing candidates to find a good fit, and then how much time you give each of them to do their part. This can take longer than subsidy publishing, because instead of shopping for one firm that handles everything, you have to shop for each service separately.

If you’re going all-DIY, depending on your skill level, you can theoretically go from finished manuscript to finished e-book in days.


If you’ve got lots of time, no money, and few skills beyond the ability to write, royalty publishing may be the best option for you. This is especially true for novelists. As successful as many have been at self-publishing, there’s still a stigma that you’re only self-publishing because you couldn’t get a real book deal. This is less true for nonfiction, where it’s almost assumed you’ll self-publish.

If you’ve got plenty of money but you’re pressed for time and are unfamiliar with the publishing business, subsidy could be the way to go. Get a cost breakdown so you know what you’re paying for, and evaluate whether your platform is sufficient to ensure that sales recoup costs. This is a viable option for businesspeople whose time is better spent doing their jobs than shepherding book production. It’s also good for those who need a high-quality print book quickly, either to use in conjunction with teaching and speaking appearances, or as part of a business promotional campaign.

If you have skills and industry knowledge, some money, but not a lot of time, go DIY or, as Kawasaki would say, artisanal. You’ll spend less money than in the subsidy model, but you’ll probably need more time to find the qualified freelancers you need. But by using this model you will be in complete control of your project. This is a viable option for anyone willing to invest the time and money, and who doesn’t feel a need for the cachet of royalty publishing.

Let’s review

Okay, let’s put all this into a decision-making matrix:





No cash investment from the writer

Large cash investment from the writer

Moderate cash investment from the writer


No additional skills needed

No additional skills needed

Some additional skills needed


Little creative control

Much creative control

Total creative control


Takes a long time

Takes a moderate amount of time

Takes a moderate to brief amount of time

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1 Comment

  1. […] Next time, we’ll look at the time factor, and come to some conclusions about which models are … […]

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