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Know Your Publisher: Independent? Subsidy? What's the Diff?

Atlin Merrick Publishing Reference

By Atlin Merrick

Know Your Publisher: Subsidy Press or Independent Press?

A quick note today and that's this:

Know your publisher.

I don't mean know the actual people, I don't even mean know all about what they do and when they started, I mean know what sort of publisher they are.

I follow and get followed by other publishers and editors on Twitter and I usually follow back, but lately I've stopped doing that automatically, instead seeing who I'm following. This is how I learned that some subsidy presses are calling themselves independent publishers.

But they're not.

Not in the way that term is traditionally used.

Independent Publisher or Subsidy Publisher?

What's the difference between an independent and a subsidy press?

An independent press publishes a book at their own expense, a subsidy press publishes at the author's expense.

With an independent press the author doesn't pay a dime to get their book published. Once the book is out, and after they receive a few free contributor copies, a writer does pay for additional copies, usually at a large discount, but at no time does a writer pay the publisher to publish their book.

Writers do pay a subsidy press.

With a subsidy publisher you take all or part of the financial burden of putting out your book; you pay the publisher. They may pay some of the cost or none, they may make you buy back books that didn't sell, they may call their business model "profit sharing," but what they aren't is an independent press. And that's great if that's what you want.

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Know though, that a book published through a subsidy press will be looked at differently from one published by an independent press.



A subsidy book may never have had an editor or proofreader, it may be full of poor writing and grammar. This doesn't mean it is, it just means it's much more likely than a book published through an independent press, where books are edited, then proofread by someone unfamiliar with the book so any remaining (and hopefully tiny) errors you and your editor stopped seeing are seen.

Subsidized books can absolutely be worthy books, they can do well, and you should publish your book that way if you wish.

Just know that that's what you're doing. Know that any publisher wanting to "profit share" in producing your book…well they are asking for money from you and that makes them not an independent press.

If you're not sure just ask. "Do I pay you to put out my book?" If the answer is vague, if it isn't an immediate "absolutely not" then that publisher is a subsidy press.

And that's fine. Once you know, you know what to expect.

Good luck!

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