Week 1: Where My Prose At??

Taylor P -

Hello, everyone, and welcome to my first LITerary week!

Sorry, I had to. I promise I will not use more literature-inspired puns (however, like sending a manuscript to a publisher, nothing is ever guaranteed!).

Jokes aside, I am excited to present my research this week with all of you. My main goal this week was to get a baseline understanding of all different types of book publication with my focus remaining on general fiction.

First, I accidentally dove into a rabbit hole this week researching the psychology of why humans love to read and write. When we read books, we connect a part of ourselves to the story. Stories are the purest form of human connection, whether oral or written, and they always have been. When we write books, we generate something immortal, and reading is how we bask in that immortality. Learning the value of books motivated me to find the same value in my research.

So, how does one publish a book? Well, first, one must write a book. One must conjure up plot, characters, and dialogue, all while finding enough mental fortitude to expose their innermost strengths, weaknesses, vulnerabilities, beliefs, and traumas. Writing a book is not for the faint of heart! General fiction novels usually lie between 50,000-150,000 words, but many go far beyond that. People want to read heart-wrenching stories, and publishers want to make money from them. Writers have a lot on their plate of word-vomit—yet it all comes from the heart. We share what we love, and thus the world of publication exists. 

There are three main types of publication: traditional, hybrid, and self. Within those categories, there are countless variations, depending on genre, length, cost, and more. What makes generalizing book publication difficult is that every company has different policies. Every company prefers to publish in personalized ways, and I will be researching specific companies in the coming weeks. However, for this week, I did my best to generalize my research and summarize it all in simplistic terms. Take a look at my flow-chart to see how I did that. 

My resulting question was what makes each type of publication different? The answer is profit. As much as I would like to think every publishing company cares about authors’ hearts, the reality is that profit supersedes passion. Unless you self publish, companies will choose to contract with books that they believe will make the most money. Traditional publication relies entirely on that model: the company takes a risk, and chosen authors are safely guaranteed money. However, when one self or hybrid publishes, they—as the author—takes the risk. A traditional publishing company might contract with an author to give them 5% of mass-market revenue during which the author receives a lump-sum of money; for hybrid, the company might give 60% of sales revenue but ask the author to pay for services; and, for self, the author typically receives 100% of sales and does all the work to publish.

To sum up, publishing is complicated! I look forward to diving in and researching all the niches every company has. My final thought lies with the authors: without writers, without people willing to spill their vulnerability-ridden words on a page, none of this would exist. So, value every book; there is a heart behind it. 

Until next week, as Angela the Herbalist says, avoid roasted cabbage, do not eat earwax, and look on the bright side of life!

My handy-dandy publishing flow-chart!
My handy-dandy publishing flow-chart! Disclaimer: every company is different. This is extremely generalized. 


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    Hi Taylor! I did not realize that publishing a book takes so much work! Do you think this is why some "authors" end up not publishing their books officially? Or are there other reasons as to why an author would not publish?
    Taylor Phelan
    Hi, Zoey! That is absolutely a reason. For traditional publishing, just getting your manuscript read usually forces an author away from that method of publication because of how difficult it is. For self or hybrid, putting in potentially heavy costs deters many authors.
    Woah, publishing is so nuanced! I love that your flow-chart breaks it all down into a step-by-step process. Along with differences in profit, is it any faster to self publish versus following a more traditional method?
    Taylor Phelan
    Hi Maddie! Yes, it is way faster. Traditional publication can take months to even years. Usually it takes around a year. Self publishing can happen in a matter of days—hopefully, my method of publishing will take about a month :)
    Hi Taylor! This is super interesting. I guess, I have never truly thought about all the different barriers aspiring authors have to overcome. I wonder how many great novels the world is missing out on because of all these monetary complexities. Once an author has/negotiates a contract, does the company have a major impact on the story line of the book? Do different publishing styles end up removing the author's voice?
    Hey, Gianna, that’s a great question! Yes, absolutely, the company has a major impact. Most novels go through many rounds of editing where the author loses their voice a little to a lot. Traditional publishing wants books to make profit, so they will edit books in the way they think best.

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