As we saw in our previous post, the early days of publishing did not possess any niche. In fact, there was no need considering that what was primarily published was religious documents and decrees and royal proclamations. A publisher is just a publisher. We may easily relate this to the super-specialty doctors available now as against just the doctors of the olden days. They gave medicine for the fever and operated on a patient as needed.

During this period, there is no role for creative writing. As creative writing came into the picture, the author started assuming importance. The importance shifted from the sceptre to the pen. The former was the fear derived from the sceptre; the latter was the respect wielded by the pen. Even then, there was no distinction between the type of creation – poems, prose, everything else – all were published by the same publisher. However, the umbrella term “publisher” started assuming many adjectives only later based on the type of work the publisher specialized in.

Also during this period, there were just three players: the author, publisher, and reader. The publisher assumed significance because of his ability to print and distribute. This significance over the other two players formed the basis of traditional publishing.

As with anything that evolved over a few centuries, publishing evolved too. Slowly and slowly, many authors garnered a huge fan following and started assuming significance. The equations changed. Not all publishers were equally important now, as is the case with authors. Some authors were well received or more well-received than the others that they started dictating terms, literally. At one point, the publisher was pushed to the state of just being a service provider to the author. Thus was born self-publishing.

But unlike in the traditional monopoly setup, this setup was/is not seen throughout the industry. This started more as a deviation than as a norm, gaining currency and forming a large portion of publishing over time.

Thus the monopoly called publishing became a coin with two sides to publishing. Even this duality slowly extended into a spectrum, with traditional publishing on the one end and self-publishing on the other end. Naturally, there appeared many other models in between, collectively called hybrid publishing.

And there are authors and there are those who want to see their name on the cover of a book. There are publishers and there are printing facilities. When the latter players of these two categories respectively come together, we have vanity publishing – a type of publishing that is frowned upon by many as substandard or even unethical. Vanity publishing is primarily for people who want to just have their name on the book cover – they simply pay and the “publisher” takes care of everything.

Further Reading

  1. Editor’s Essentials organized a workshop for authors to help them decide between the publishing choices available, in colloboration with Think Write and Notion Publishers. Read more here.
  2. First-time authors always come across this question: Should I go the traditional way or self-publish? The following articles throw some light on this question:
  3. The following three Wikipedia pages offer a great introduction to the three forms of publishing: publishing, self-publishing and vanity press.