How to Find The Ideal Nonfiction Book Publishing Company for You

by Bennett R. Coles

Book Publishing Companies

As a first-time author looking for book publishing companies, your mind may be swimming in a sea of questions:

  • How do I get my book published?
  • Can I publish a book for free?
  • Do publishers charge to publish your book?
  • Do self-published books sell?
  • How do you submit a book to a publisher?
  • How can I get a book-publishing deal?
  • What are publishers looking for?

Book publishing is an intricate business with many moving parts, so I thought I would clear up some of the confusion by writing an article about the five different publishing options available to you, along with their pros and cons.

I’ll then recommend what, in my view, is the best publishing option for nonfiction book authors like you and explain the reasons why.

Option 1: Traditional Publishing

Traditional publishing is the model where you get paid to publish your book. It typically involves a literary agent submitting your book proposal for consideration to a publishing company. This proposal may also include a table of contents (if applicable) and one or two sample chapters.

The publisher’s editorial board, which meets on a regular basis, then goes through all the submissions to choose what proposals will be offered a publishing deal.

The scope and number of deals offered is dependent on their available budget for title acquisitions and the projected sales for the book.

If your book proposal is accepted, the publisher will then extend a cash advance on royalties to you, which will be shared with your literary agent after the signing of a formal publishing agreement.

The amount of this cash advance is contingent on sales projections – i.e. a proven author with an existing following will command a much higher advance than a new author.

The publishing agreement will stipulate that even though you’ll retain 100% copyright of your book, you’re granting the publisher all rights to your title in exclusivity for an extended period of time in order to give them the opportunity to recoup their investment.

This includes the rights to market and distribute your book through any and all available channels plus all foreign rights of your book.

The publisher then sub-licenses rights to foreign publishers and distributors to translate and distribute your title in their respective markets for an upfront fee plus a percentage of their sales.

In exchange for you granting these rights, the publisher assumes all costs for marketing and distribution, all production costs to bring the book from manuscript to print-ready book in all required formats, and the cost to print and inventory copies of your book.

When books are sold, all payments go to your publisher, who then forwards on a regular basis a small percentage of the profits back you as a royalty.

Well established authors typically aren’t requested to fund any of the activities listed above, but lesser known authors or first-time authors will be requested to take on a share of the marketing and promotion burden, both financially and earned, through their own efforts.


  • Lowest personal cost of all 5 options.
  • Publisher pays for print run and all production costs.
  • Largest number of distribution channels (both online and bricks and mortar).
  • Access to earned media through publisher’s own network (online, print, radio and TV).
  • Access to the publisher’s sales force.
  • Access to foreign markets through publisher business relationships.
  • Ability to leverage large publisher resources for marketing and promotion.


  • Highest barriers to entry of all 5 options.
  • High rejection rate of new author proposals due to limited budgets and unproven sales forecasts.
  • Literary agencies hard to penetrate without prior publishing success (chicken and the egg).
  • Automatic rejection of unsolicited submissions due to potential copyright infringement liability.
  • rights granted to publisher.
  • Publisher has control over all design aspects, including book title, book cover, editorial changes and book layout.

Ideally Suited For

  • Fiction authors with an established sales track record
  • Nonfiction authors who are widely known in their field (e.g. recognized doctors, lawyers, psychologists, consultants, coaches, etc.)
  • Celebrities
  • Famous authors of any genre
  • Business and political leaders

Option 2: Hybrid Publishing

The hybrid-publishing model typically involves the establishment of a co-publishing partnership between publisher and author.

In a hybrid agreement, both the publisher and the author share on the project costs, including production, printing and sales & marketing, in exchange for a much higher share of the royalties to the author.

The submission and vetting process is still equivalent to traditional publishing because the publisher needs to ensure that any book published with their imprint on it meets their high quality standards.

The main difference between the traditional and hybrid models is that in the former the publisher takes on all of the risk and most of the reward – traditional royalty rates tend to be low – whereas in the latter both publisher and author share the risk and the reward.

Many traditional publishers offer hybrid-publishing deals, but they’re tightly kept under wraps with strict non-disclosure contractual clauses because in some circles it can be disqualifying for an author to take a large financial risk in the publishing process (for example, reviewing and financial grant organizations are notorious for rejecting books from hybrid-published authors).

There’s also an increasing number of non-traditional publishing outfits that only handle hybrid-publishing contracts.


  • Higher share of the profits than traditional publishing.
  • Large number of distribution channels (both online and bricks and mortar).
  • Access to earned media through publisher’s own network (online, print, radio and TV).
  • Access to the publisher’s sales force.
  • Access to foreign markets through publisher business relationships.


  • Higher financial risk.
  • High barrier to entry (proposals are still curated by publisher’s editorial board).
  • Author doesn’t have full control over book’s editorial and design process.

Ideally Suited For

Authors who have a level of recognition in the market but that are having trouble getting a traditional publishing deal due to the risk profile of their project (the author believes in the book’s sales potential but the publisher doesn’t).

Option 3: Free Online Self-Publishing

Book Publishing Companies

Free online self-publishing services are comprised of platforms where you upload a completed publication-ready manuscript into book-layout and book-cover templates, and then take care of all formatting and design tasks using their online editing features.

The most popular platforms have grown to be quite sophisticated over the years, creating a great deal of automation to simplify the book-production process.

Since the design process is free of cost, those companies make money from the sale of your books. They will print, produce eBook formats and distribute your book in exchange for a percentage of your book sales after all costs are deducted.

To eliminate upfront printing costs, they print books on demand one at a time and only when a book is sold and the payment received – for this reason they strictly operate through online bookstores.


  • No upfront production costs and no printing costs.
  • You keep 100% of your rights.
  • You have full control over all book editorial and design choices.


  • Non-professional-looking book layout and cover design (well below nonfiction industry standards).
  • Limited bricks and mortar distribution (online bookstores only).
  • Longer cycle for shipping orders to customers due to lack of inventory.
  • High book printing costs due to a lack of economies of scale (all books are printed one at a time).

Ideally Suited For

  • New fiction authors who want to test out their book in the market at the lowest possible cost.

Option 4: Do-It-Yourself Publishing

Do-It-Yourself Publishing entails you becoming the project manager of your book, hiring all required trades and then managing the critical path necessary to go from manuscript to finished product.

You retain full control over all aspects of your book project and have the ability to hire established professionals that can produce a quality product that meets the high standards on the nonfiction book trade.

This is the most complex model to execute on because it requires a very good knowledge of the book publishing process. This option demands a high time commitment in both the hiring and the project-management phases.

This model can also be the most frustrating because when you work with a large number of independent contractors, things often go wrong (unexpected delays, sickness, scheduling conflicts, etc.) and you may be required to step in to troubleshoot in areas where you have little experience.

This is also the most expensive publishing option because there are no economies of scale working in your favor: you’re hiring a number of independent contractors to do a single book project, the vetting process is time consuming and costs may escalate quickly if the work begins to deviate from the original estimates due to unforeseen changes.


  • Full control over all book editorial and design aspects.
  • High quality of the end product (provided you did your due diligence in the hiring stage).
  • You retain all rights at all times.


  • Very high production costs.
  • Can quickly become time consuming and frustrating due to inexperience with the book publishing process.
  • Having to engage in a complex hiring process.
  • High costs of hiring the wrong professional (might have looked good “on paper” but will need to be replaced due to sub-standard work).
  • Lack of experience in the intricacies of book distribution may hinder your sales.

Ideally Suited For

  • First time nonfiction authors.

Option 5: Author Services Companies

Author Services Companies

This is a model where you pay to publish your book like the DIY model above, but instead of hiring professionals piecemeal you hire a firm that has the same in-house professional resources of traditional publishers to produce and market your book.

The main difference with the DIY model is that these costs are much lower because of the economies of scale achieved by the author services firm in handling a large number of authors.

Instead of having to hire professionals yourself one at a time, author service companies employ the necessary professional editors, book designers and marketing specialists required to produce and market your book.

They also employ experienced project managers who oversee the entire book project on your behalf.

Author services companies allow you to focus 100% of the time on your writing while taking care of all other production and marketing aspects. This is an ideal solution if you run your own business or are a busy professional, but need to publish your book in order to take your business or career to the next level.


  • Lower production and marketing costs than the DIY model.
  • You retain 100% control over all aspects of your book project.
  • You retain 100 % of your book rights at all times.
  • High quality of the end product.


  • This is an unregulated industry and you need to vet companies well to filter out the bad operators.

Ideally Suited For

  • New nonfiction authors who want to publish a book in support of their business or career.

What’s Next?

If you’re a nonfiction author publishing your first book, I highly recommend the 5th option: using an author services company. This option will allow you to create a high-quality product at the most reasonable price.

Just make sure that you do your homework and hire a reputable firm since this is an unregulated industry. I suggest that you read my companion article to learn what to look for in a top author services company.

Good luck!

If you enjoyed this article and are in the process of self-publishing a nonfiction book, be sure to check out my free nonfiction success guide, drawn from years of experience editing books for bestselling authors (including a New York Times bestseller) and ghostwriting for CEOs and politicians. Simply click here to get instant access.


Leave me a comment below if you have any questions or a specific need that I can help you address – I operate an author services firm that specializes in helping entrepreneurs, professionals and business owners who want to publish books as a calling card for prospects, to establish their status as an expert or to just to generate additional leads for their businesses.

Here are some related articles I highly recommend:

How to Write a Compelling Book in 12 Steps: A Must-Read Guide for Nonfiction Authors

The 10 Must-Have Writing Skills for Nonfiction Authors

How to Find the Perfect Writing Coach for Your Nonfiction Book

How to Become a Great Book Writer in Business Nonfiction
Learn the Best Book Structure to Maximize Nonfiction Sales

Bennett R. Coles is an award-winning author of six books published through Harper Collins (New York) and Titan Publishing Group (London). He is also the publisher at Promontory Press, editor for multiple bestselling authors (including a NY Times bestseller), ghostwriter for CEOs and politicians and the founder of Cascadia Author Services, a boutique full-service firm that specializes in premium author services specifically designed for busy professionals. Our end-to-end services include writer coaching, ghostwriting, editing, proofing, cover design, book layout, eBook production, marketing, printing and distribution.

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    Tyler Johnson

    That’s good to know that you could get a traditional publisher to have the lowest cost for you. I would think that would require a lot less work for you as well. I’ll have to consider getting a publisher to take a look at my book after I get it edited.

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