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Book Publishing Online

Learn about the types and process of book publishing online.

The e-book has allowed electronic tablets like this to gain prominence. [©Shutterstock, 2010]
©Shutterstock, 2010
The e-book has allowed electronic tablets like this to gain prominence.

Authors may choose to skip the traditional publishing process in favor of book publishing online. However, with so many potential venues and suppliers, choosing the best option for publishing a book online may be complicated.

Types of Book Publishing Online

Book publishing online is more generally known as subsidy or vanity publishing. Although there are subtle differences between the two, the methods are quite similar and are often used interchangeably.

Vanity or subsidy publishing through a service like iUniverse.com, AuthorHouse.com, BookSurge.com or numerous other options typically consists of the author engaging in a contractual financial arrangement with the publisher to produce a book. The author will generally shoulder much of the cost and may also give up some of the publishing rights to the book.

A third type of publishing, self-publishing, is often lumped in with these two designations, although it is not generally completed or managed online, as are subsidy and vanity publishing. In fact, many subsidy or vanity publishers actually term their process "self-publishing," which is not entirely accurate. The difference is that self-published authors purchase the International Standard Book Number (ISBN) themselves, establishing the author as the publisher and the sole owner of the book. Vanity or subsidy publishers retain some of the ownership or publisher's rights to the books that they publish.

Another term that is often seen in the field of vanity or subsidy publishing is print on demand (POD). Print on demand is a printing technology in which digital printing is used to produce only the number of manuscripts that can be sold. Large, traditional publishers, self-publishers or vanity publishers typically use POD technology. Even though POD is a type of print technology, some vanity or subsidy publishing houses consider themselves "POD publishers." Although they may use POD printing technology, they are still operating under the business model of a subsidy or vanity press. For example, Lulu.com considers itself a POD company, as it produces print products at the author's direction but does not ask for fees or package purchases up front. It also allows customers to purchase one book, such as a photo gift book, whereas a subsidy or vanity press may require a larger initial purchase.

The last player in the field of book publishing online is the e-book. Any book that can be viewed with an electronic device is considered an e-book, regardless of whether the book was originally published in print or if it was intentionally released for electronic download. E-books can be read on e-book readers, such as Sony's PRS-505 Reader, or authors may choose to make their works available on their own Web sites.

Authors should conduct careful research before deciding to self publish or publish an e-book. It's important to fully understand the terminology, associated costs, true profit projections and rights given before conducting business with any publishing organization. A perk of online book publishing is that it may help place some of the power back into the author's hands by foregoing potential rejections and creative control issues inherent in traditional publishing.

How Book Publishing Online Works

The process of book publishing online varies depending on the method of publishing the author chooses.

For authors who choose POD service such as Lulu.com, the process begins with the site's interactive preparation software. The author lays out the book's text, photos, captions, margins and other considerations using this software. Since there is no editing or proofreading involved in the production process, users must ascertain that their work is truly ready to be published. Authors may choose to hire or use editors or graphic design professionals before the process takes place. Once the author is ready, the POD software walks them through the text layout process, which is often contained in a template-driven, user-friendly interface. Upon final inspection of the product, the author can then choose to order a specified number of books.

Subsidy publishing begins with the sale of a book publishing package, which may cost anywhere from hundreds to thousands of dollars. The package selected dictates the range of support that the book receives, including services like copyediting, distribution, cover design and ISBN assignment. Subsidy manuscripts are generally submitted in a Microsoft Word or WordPerfect format, with photos sent separately.

E-book producers who hope to offer their work through their own Web site or on a virtual storefront have full creative control. In general, the accepted format for e-books is a PDF file. Authors can choose software-embedded options to discourage copyright infringement and keep their book secure. Online distribution of e-books is quite common and is a route available for authors trying to get their product out to the public.

For individuals, bloggers and Web writers looking to publish an e-book online, the sky is the limit. E-books are a new and developing market, and they are often used as a freebie giveaway in conjunction with a blog or Web site, which makes for a great marketing tool. In addition, some Web authors charge small amounts for e-books sold through online storefronts.

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