Paths to publication

Some authors like publishing. Others just like books. Some just like storytelling. The wide range of publishing paths is mapped in Jane Friedman’s annual report, Key Book Publishing Paths. The 2021 edition contains a new path: hybrid publishing. These are companies that package services authors need in one bundle. Friedman’s report only gets better with each year.

Its wisdom is always close to my keyboard when I consult with an author who’s had an edit. When I do an evaluation edit or a development edit, it includes options for getting the book into the world. The steepest path requires an agent for a traditional deal, including payment in advance and a sales force. The gentlest slope gets a book into the world on the Web, or through social posts, where the primary concern is how professional it looks.

Hybrids sit just about in the middle on Friedman’s chart: Professional work, always with no advances to the author, higher royalties, and marketing that’s almost completely on the author’s shoulders. Many hybrids don’t judge what’s worthy of publishing, while some do vet the books they produce.

I recommend Friedman’s free annual report to every author who brings me a book. It can be hard to judge what you’ve created. Some authors write enough to call the work a manuscript but aren’t even sure if they have a book yet. The path from manuscript pages to publication can succeed if authors know the bends in the road. The steepest path is at the left edge of Friedman’s table. The closer to the left you want to tread, the harder the work.