If you have decided that you want your book to be published by a publisher, rather than self-publish, it is important to understand the different types of publishing company that exist and the services they offer.
The so-called ‘traditional’ model for publishing is the idea of an author receiving an advance and the publisher bearing editorial, production and distribution costs and only making a return on this investment when books are sold. There are some variance to this nowadays (advances, for example, are rarer and smaller than in the past), but this is the basic premise. Many traditional publishers only accept submissions from agents, and direct submissions are rejected without review.
The Big Five
The Big Five: Penguin Random House, Simon and Schuster, HarperCollins, Macmillan and Hachette. These are the largest trade publishers and each has several imprints operating semi-independently with different focuses and processes. The imprints have very distinct identities – Tor is an imprint of Macmillan that focuses on science fiction and fantasy, while Picador is part of the same company but focuses on literary fiction. The sub-imprints of a major publishing houses are often the result of the purchase of another publisher and their existing titles. Specialist imprints can concentrate their marketing effort on developing a specific audience and nurturing relationships with reviewers.
Independent literary fiction
The independent literary fiction scene in the UK is enjoying success period, and publishers such as Galley Beggars Press and Influx Press have had books nominated for prestigious national awards in recent years. These publishers specialise in literary and experimental fiction and tend to publish a handful of titles every year.
There are several successful academic publishers in the United Kingdom. Academic publishers focus on nonfiction titles which will be of interest to the academic community and are closely allied to the university that bears their name.
There are an increasing number of small publishers that primarily focus on ebook. Bookouture (owned by Hachette) is a digital publisher and focuses on selling ebooks and audiobooks, but does sell paperback editions.
Companies exist to assist self-published authors. They may market themselves as book packagers or assisted publishers. They take an author’s work and turn it into a book, offering the author the services they ask for and charging for these services.
Hybrid publishers offer a combination of traditional and packaged services.