Traditional Publishing – Types of Traditional Publishers
By: P. J. Mayhair

This will be the first installment on a series of posts about Traditional Publishing. I also hope that at the end I will be able to compile them all together into one super document for the files section that you can refer to as needed.

Before submitting your novel to a publisher, it’s useful to understand the five primary types:

  • Commercial (AKA Traditional) Publishers
  • Independent Publisher
  • Subsidy Publisher
  • Vanity Publisher
  • Self-Publisher

Traditional Publishing House / Commercial Publishers

These two terms are often used interchangeably. This is usually what the average person thinks of when they think of being published. These can be the bigger houses that influence the industry, their subsidiaries, and some smaller, but influential publishers. The larger houses often require agent-represented submissions, whereas the smaller versions do not. The larger houses are also the ones with the capital to provide larger advances, though the current state of the industry makes this less likely for emerging (unknown) authors. These publishers often (but not always) take care of things like the cover design, final editing, printing, distribution, and some marketing. Often heralded as the Holy Grail of publishing contracts, the large traditional publishers are usually the hardest to break into without an established presence in the market and/or connections in the industry. The “Big publishers” (Hatchette, HarberCollins, Macmillan, Penguin Random House, and Simon & Schuster) are partnered with or owned by mega corporations.

Independent / Small Press Publisher

Small Press publishers can fit into any of the other categories. Despite the name, size isn’t really important, in fact, some work under the umbrella of larger houses. They take care of the costs of editing, cover design, and distribution, however, the author often gets little to no advance for their work. They are paid solely on royalties. The difference is that they often work directly with the author instead of via an agent.

Independent publishers are similar to small press publishers, however, they are not associated with a larger publishing house. Melius Scripto Press International is an example of a small/independent publisher.

Subsidy Publishing / Hybrid Publishing

These two types of publishers vary slightly from one another depending on the specific company you are going with; however, their similarities are such that they can be safely grouped together for the sake of this article. Just make sure you check the agreement with the publisher before you sign anything. For ease of writing, I will refer to both as simply “Hybrid Publishers.”

Hybrid publishers work with authors to get the book published. They provide covers, editing, and distribution under their own investments. The big difference is that they require the author to invest in the cost of printing the books. This is a business partnership and they share royalties.

Because their reduced risks of printing costs, these publishers are generally easier to get into because they are more apt to take risks with new authors. Their submission process varies from company to company, so be sure to check their sites before submitting.

Those are the major types of publishers out there. For the sake of future articles, we will refer to them all in the general term “traditional publisher” unless the distinction needs to be made for the sake of clarity.

Vanity Publishers

Vanity Publishers offer authors a chance to retain most or all rights to their works; however, they also may have to provide most of the cost in publishing the book. Sometimes, the author is not responsible for production of the book; however, services such as editing, distribution, and cover designs may need to be purchased by the author from the publisher. With a few exceptions, they are generally more open to what they publish.

These publishers make most of their income from selling to the author, not from royalty shares.  In most cases, authors keep 100% royalties on the sales of their work. Author’s profit when their royalties are greater than what they paid the publisher.

Vanity Publishers often have extensive websites to sell the books they publish. If the publisher funds the cost of production, they sell books at a higher cost than comparable books in order to get a return on their investment.

With all publishing outlets, when in doubt: do your research. Read through their site, talk to authors who have worked with them. Never sign a contract until you understand all of the terms.



House – Short for “Publishing House” – a company that publishes books
Publisher – a person or company whose business is the publishing of books (and other materials)


This guest post is by P. J. Mayhair. He writes horror and suspense novels and short stories. He enjoys jelly beans, bourbon, and talking about all things writing. You can see his blog at and follow him on Facebook.


P. J. Mayhair

Author P. J. Mayhair

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