Book Publishing Models, Explained


Founded in 1991, Exisle is a traditional, independent publisher. This means that our business model requires taking all the financial risk in a book and paying our authors royalties on their book sales. Being independent means that we are 100% owner-managed. We are not part of any large conglomeration of publishing businesses, which is today’s norm. Being independent allows us to publish what we believe in, be happy with long term sales and exclude ourselves from constantly chasing the latest ‘big hit’ and ‘shiny new things.’


While we have different philosophies to the big, conglomeration of publishing houses, we have our respect for them and recognise their enormous and often constructive role in the publishing industry. Among other things though, we believe there is room for more colour. Character and independent thinking are the platforms that we like to stand upon.


Fortunately, we have never been confused with a vanity publisher. These entities charge writers for all the costs involved in publishing and the risk remains with the author. Sometimes authors are so happy ‘to be published’ that they don’t realise that vanity publishers often do very little to actually sell the books they produce. Rain in the Sahara is possibly more common than a vanity publisher’s books being well displayed in bookshops. Beware of these organisations.


The other common model is self-publishing. While this is almost always better than working with a vanity publisher, it is dangerous. Here the author produces the book themselves often working with a local printer and their designer. Why people choose to self-publish is often a predictor as to how successful they will be.

If someone self-publishes a family memoir knowing it will have a very limited audience or a specialised book with a narrow, but defined and readily accessible niche market, they are 100% sure to be successful. Likewise, to ‘build up my experience and start building a name’ can work in some fiction genres. However, not being able to find a risk-taking publisher or not wanting to listen to anyone else about the market can lead to disaster. Ego can take over (which is one of the reasons vanity publishers survive) and all too many self-published authors pay too much money for too many books that are not well enough conceived or produced to repay their significant cash investment.


Exisle and our children's imprint, EK Books, publish a limited number of books per annum and we always get offered hundreds more than we can publish ourselves. Each book we publish is a significant investment in time, money, passion and skill. This means that sometimes we cannot publish even great books. We look at all the submissions that are sent into us and see that there are often a few things that can be done to make the author’s proposition much more appealing to risk-taking publishing houses and their audiences. 

One analogy is how a real estate might ‘dress’ a house before showing potential purchasers. It will be the same house that gets sold, but aspects might be expressed differently to fit in with the niche of the publishers’ markets.

Sometimes some substantial work may need to be done on the existing foundation and yes, sometimes substantial redesign may be necessary. Exisle Academy exists to create the best outcome for its author members. This can allow the author to have a more powerful proposition for commercial publishers (we have even published some of our clients' work ourselves). Should an author prefer the self-published route, what we teach will, when followed, likely result in much better outcomes.

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