Writers who find themselves caught in the publishing dilemma — "Should you wait eons for a standard publisher to pick up your manuscript or go out on a limb and self—publish?" — will be glad to learn there's a middle - of - the - road publishing option: partnership publishing.

Before partnership publishing can be understood and appreciated, however, it's important to quickly review the commonly known methods.

Standard Publishing

With standard publishing, the publishing company selects the manuscripts it wishes to publish. The publisher absorbs all costs and risks of printing and distribution, and for that reason maintains strict editorial and creative control over the book's production. The author is usually paid a nominal royalty on net proceeds from book sales.

While standard publishing companies maintain marketing departments, many first—time authors don't realize publishers' budgets are restricted, and the author must assume part — sometimes a large portion — of the responsibility for marketing the book, which commonly takes 18 to 24 months from the date an author signs the agreement to actually be seen in print.


With self—publishing, the author maintains complete editorial and creative control over the book's production and absorbs all of the associated costs and risk. The author is fully responsible for everything, including design, printing, marketing, distribution and sales. Although the books can appear on bookshelves in as early as three months, it's not likely to show up on a bookstore's shelf that soon.

First—time self—published authors often run into roadblocks when it comes to securing distribution by the big houses, such as Baker & Taylor or Ingram from whom bookstores like Barnes & Noble and Borders purchase. Costly mistakes can be made along the way, too, like poor cover design, inferior printing quality, omitting a barcode, not realizing the time commitment necessary for effective public relations, not knowing where or how to optimally market, or simply paying too much for printing or marketing materials.

Enter Partnership Publishing

With partnership publishing, the author and the publisher agree to a percentage share in the costs and risks of publication and distribution, and they proportionally share in the revenues generated by sales. As the writer is being guided step—by—step through the publishing maze, the author has an equal voice in the myriad of editorial and creative decisions. The publisher and author share in the marketing of the book, as each has a stake in the book's success.

Unlike standard and self—published manuscripts, a partnership published book usually gets into the hands of more readers faster.

Since partnership publishers are smaller publishing houses, they seldom have manuscripts stacked to the ceiling waiting to be reviewed like the big guys, so they get to yours faster; and since the partnership publisher isn't assuming the entire financial risk, they can afford to take a chance on edgier material or unknown authors. However, because they share the financial burden, the partnership publisher still chooses books with marketability,
which means rejection is still a possibility. But why would an author want to self—publish a book that isn't marketable anyway?

Although a self—published book can be delivered shortly after paying the printer's bill, a partnership published book usually connects with readers quicker than self—published ones because the new author can draw on the publisher's experience in marketing, distributing and sales strategies — and, two can sell faster than one.

"When I was the community relations coordinator for Borders Books and Music, I saw firsthand how it was nearly impossible for a self—published author to get a book accepted into the store. There were so many obstacles," says Lynda Exley, who partnered with Five Star Publications to publish her 11—year—old son's book, The Student From Zombie Island: Conquering the Rumor Monster. "I also saw many poorly designed, error—ridden self—published books that authors poured their life savings into. These were mistakes a good editor or publisher could have prevented."

However, being a member of several writers' clubs, Exley says she was also privy to the horror stories of books taking several years to get accepted by a traditional publisher, a couple more years to actually get printed and then once in print, only receive a minimal amount of marketing and attention from the publisher's publicist.

"And unless you're Stephen King, a traditional publisher is not going to cover expenses, like traveling to book signings or additional marketing beyond the initial few press releases," adds Exley, "That money comes out of the miniscule royalty given to the author."

After meeting with Linda Radke of Five Star Publications and learning about partnership publishing, Exley says she realized it was the best of both worlds.

"We share the expenses, the workload and the profits. Five Star gives me all the benefits of a big publisher — editing services, distribution with Baker & Taylor and Ingram, promotional materials, a dedicated website, publicity, etc. — along with the advantages of self—publishing like a higher profit margin, creative control and a shorter time period from inception to print," explains Exley.

"There are a few things partnership publishing has given me that I didn't expect, she continues. "Linda has become a mentor to me. Through her direction, I have learned more about publishing, marketing and selling than I ever dreamed of, and she's right there in the trenches with me, selling The Student From Zombie Island.

"I also enjoy a discount on promotional materials. Linda's been in the industry for close to 30 years, and has established suppliers that give her the best prices on everything, which she passes down to me. I save money on trade shows, too, since her other authors share space under the Five Star roof, which reduces the cost for all of us. And the website, www.ZombieIslandBooks.com, that she had developed and maintains for us is way beyond what we could have done on our own, and I'm pretty sure a traditional publisher would not do that for a low profile client like me."

In addition, Exley points out that partnership publishing earns her more respect from bookstores, the media and others.

"I can proudly say that Zombie Island was accepted and published by a legitimate, bona fide publisher instead of choking out "self—published," which no bookstore or media personality wants to hear," she explains. "It's not that self—publishing is a bad thing or that it automatically means the book is an inferior product — there are some wonderful self—published books out there. However, because inferior self—published books are plentiful, self—published authors simply don't get the same respect a traditionally or partnership published book gets. It just doesn't open as many doors either."