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Horses for Courses: The Different Types of Book Publisher

Book publishers come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, something to bear in mind if you ever find yourself in the market for one. Knowing which type of publisher you need can make the job a whole lot easier so cast your eye over the main types of publisher:

Trade Book

These publishers are responsible for the acquisition of the books you see in retail stores. They take care of editing, production, publishing, and sales and will generally publish in multiple formats – hardback, mass-market paperback, trade paperback, audio, eBook and so on. They also cover a huge range of genres and topics.

Packagers and Developers

These publishing companies specialize in the creation of the books that are going to be published under the trade publisher imprint. In short, the trade publisher outsources book development to one of these. In books where a lot of photography is required, it is often cheaper for the trade publisher to purchase a book that has already been fully developed rather than go through the development process themselves. Book packagers will develop book or series ideas and then sell that concept to the publisher. The packager takes care of the editorial work and the production, with the publisher’s approval, and will then ship the product to the warehouse. Sometimes the packager will provide all the files and the publisher finishes the job. Be aware that the authors involved in packaged books are employed on a “work for hire” contract and get a flat fee; none of the royalties come their way.

Promotional and Bargain Publishers

These are where the low-cost books come from, along with products that contain books, usually found in the Bargain part of the store. Those that fall into the non-fiction area are usually heavily illustrated, like craft or souvenir books, while the fiction books will include reprints of the public domain classics and packages of several books from one well-known author. Again, original books in this market are usually on a “work for hire” basis while reprinted authors have clauses in their contracts and are paid royalties.

Textbook, Educational and Academic

As you would expect, this covers books published for schools and universities. They are usually tailored to a specific part of the syllabus and to a very specific market.


A professional publisher comes up with databases and books that provide access to standards and information for professionals. These might be accountants, doctors, psychologists, lawyers and many more. Because there is so much information in books of this type and because they need to be constantly revised, you don’t often find these books in physical form anymore; mostly, they are online now.


Pretty self-explanatory; self-publishers, whether they come under the name of Subsidy, Vanity Press, DIY or other, allow the author of a book to see it online or in print and fully accessible to their intended audience. Generally, an author will choose to self-publish when their book is not considered appealing enough for a traditional publisher although budget does come into it sometimes. Self-publishers are cheaper than traditional publishing but sometimes that price will be reflected in the service, i.e. you only get what you pay for.


A hybrid publisher is in between a self-publisher and a traditional publisher. Their terms can be wildly varying but an author will often be able to use some in-house support for editing and distribution and the hybrid will share some of the profits from the book sales.


Written by Readers’ Favorite Reviewer Anne-Marie Reynolds