3 Types of Publishing: Traditional, Indie, and Hybrid

Types of Publishing

There’s more than one way to publish a book. For the last year, All The Kissing blogs have focused mostly on the traditional publishing path, yet our facebook community includes a number of self-published authors as well as authors who publish both traditionally and independently.

You spoke, we listened!

3 Types of Publishing

In the coming months, we will take a closer look at the different types of publishing. But today, let’s focus on the basics of traditional, indie, and hybrid publishing, as well as provide a few pros and cons about each path to publication.

  1. Traditional publishing.
  2. Self-publishing.
  3. Hybrid publishing.

Let’s start with traditional (or trad) publishing.

1. Traditional Publishing

Traditional is the classic route to getting published, where generally, you write a manuscript, live in query hell while looking for an agent. Then you go on submission and pray for the day when/if a traditional publisher offers a contract on your manuscript, the editor doesn’t want to change that one thing you really don’t want to mess with, and so on.

The defining characteristic of traditional publishing is signing a contract with a publisher to deliver a book which they publish on your behalf, and you share the profits.

Referred to as The Big Five, each of these traditional publishers has several smaller divisions or imprints that handle the specific needs of an author/genre. One imprint might focus on romance, while another deals strictly with children’s books.

The Big Five include:

Traditional publishing includes both print and digital publishing, and there are several types of each, and the biggest difference is the distribution, or where you might come across the book.

  • Hardcover – You generally find hardcover books in bookstores, but having a hardcover is the gold medal of traditional publishing. Generally, hardcovers come out in paperback later, at a lower price.
  • Mass-market paperback – The widest distribution for paperback, you find mass market books in the checkout line in your grocery store.
  • Trade paperback – You see these in bookstores and in department stores that have a section dedicated to books (Target, Walmart, etc.).
  • Digital first – These are books that aren’t in print immediately, but should the e-books sell well enough, the publisher may offer them as trade paperbacks.
  • Digital only – Only available in e-book, the publisher doesn’t produce a physical copy. Instead, distribution happens through online retailers like Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Hot Tip: Nearly all print books released in the twenty-first century have a digital option for you to purchase.


Most traditional publishers have a marketing team behind them to help authors sell books and build a brand. They have media and industry contacts already in place for promotion, and these authors can be featured in magazines and blogs with a simple phone call. For some, there is also the prestige of being able to say you are traditionally published in a very tough industry.


After your publisher takes their cut of the profits, and the agent gets theirs, you may find that traditional publishing isn’t the most lucrative way to publish––unless you’re an instant best-seller. Print can be even less lucrative than digital contracts because digital doesn’t have as much overhead. Also, you may find yourself to be a small fish in a big pond. For example, if your debut romantic suspense comes out the same month as J.D. Robb’s next installment of the In Death series, the publisher may place more marketing emphasis on her book.

2. Self- (or Indie) Publishing

Serious indie authors are finally beginning to be recognized for their craft, which is in no way inferior to traditionally-published authors. In fact, indies also have to develop their business acumen. They learn to be both publisher and author, handling things like editing, formatting, book cover design, distribution and algorithms, metadata, and ISBNs. Then there’s also getting on with industry influencers, platform, promotion, and print-runs, and…ARGH!

If you’re considering indie publishing, It’s important you have the time and energy to learn the publishing piece, and take into consideration the amount of hustle you’ll need to see your books succeed.

Indie authors are made of some serious mettle. No guts, no glory.


Indie authors love the complete creative freedom. No one tells them what or how to write. They have control over all the things mentioned above, as well as their book content. Indie authors also reap all their own benefits. Publishers aren’t taking any of the profit. The moolah is one hundred percent theirs.


Obviously it’s a lot of work, and I’ve barely scratched the surface! Plus, it can take longer to establish yourself as an indie author because of the learning curve. Lastly, indie authors do reap all of the profits, but they also absorb all of the expenses.

Hot Tip: Unless you’re an author with a background in graphic design, social media management, an MBA with a minor in computer science, and could teach a master-class on time-management, you’ll probably need to find and hire a few contractors to help get your book out there.

3. Hybrid Publishing

Hybrid publishing is exactly what it sounds like: an author is both actively published by a traditional publisher and self-published. Sounds like the dream, doesn’t it?

You might not be far off. Even a lot of well-known authors are going this route. While it’s easier to build a brand with a traditional publisher, perhaps they aren’t interested in a series you wish to write because it doesn’t fit their lineup. Having learned much of the behind-the-scenes through traditional publishing, hybrid authors put their knowledge to use to publish on their own. Many best-selling authors are going hybrid and most readers aren’t aware they’re reading a series a publisher didn’t provide.

On the flip side, some authors who start out as self-published build a following. Traditional publishers may find an author who’s built or is cultivating an established fan base as more attractive than a total writing newb. After all, it’s less work for them, saves money, and they know they’re getting an author who isn’t afraid to do the work.


This is pretty obvious. It’s a best-of-both-worlds scenario. As long as you stay active putting out books in traditional publishing, you continue to expand your brand and readership for both. It’s not quite that simple, though.


Yes, there is less of a learning curve, but there’s still a curve, and you can’t afford to let quality slip or you could damage your reputation. You’ll probably need to hire contractors. Time management becomes a factor, as well.

You may have to manage a heavier workload to put out more books. Also, traditional publishers can add clauses to contracts that prevent authors from releasing any other work within a certain amount of time around a traditional new release. They also have “right to first look” clauses––where you may want to self-publish your next series and not bother with a publisher at all, you might not have a choice.

All Types of Publishing Have Validity

Types Of Publishing Validity

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

As you can see, choosing a publishing path isn’t as easy as you might think. Personally, when I began writing, I thought I would self-publish my first manuscript. Then, I got a good look at what that entails. Around the same time, an agent said I had a good shot at getting traditionally published, and I got bitten by the trad bug.

Still, as I continue to learn the industry and grow as a writer, hybrid looks pretty damn awesome…

I hope this helps explain the basics and lays the framework for the months to come. If you have any questions or resources you’d like to share, we’d love to hear them! Please drop them into the comments below.

Feature image by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

Tricia Lynne
Tricia Lynne is fluent in both sarcasm and cuss words and has little filter between her brain and mouth––a combination that tends to embarrass her husband at corporate functions. A tomboy at heart, she loves hard rock, Irish whiskey, and her Midwestern roots. She’s drawn to strong, flawed heroines, and believes writing isn’t a decision one makes, but a calling one can’t resist.

A member of the Romance Writers of America, she lives in the North Dallas ‘burbs with her husband, and three goofy dogs. Her debut, Moonlight & Whiskey, is slated for release Spring, 2019 with Random House/Loveswept.
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1 Comment

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    I’ve recently discovered this podcast, and although I’ve never tried to write fiction I’ve always wanted to. I’m a voracious reader (230 books YTD for 2018 according to my Goodreads profile!). I’m fascinated by all the topics you’ve covered so far and I look forward to many more! It makes my commute to work so much more enjoyable. 🙂

    December 10, 2018 at 10:35 pm Reply
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