Saturday, January 12, 2008
One thing I have trouble with, in discussing self-publishing, is what to call the other main approaches--the other options potentially on a writer's plate. I don't want to get sucked into a pointless definition war, something this whole area is already rife with. But there does need to be some reasonable short-hand term for the mainstream publishing model.
A common choice is "traditional publishing" which iUniverse defines as the "traditional way of publishing a book in which an author must find a literary agent or a publisher willing to review the manuscript." However this term is used very loosely to contrast not only with self publishing, but also non-self-published e-publishing and use if print-on-demand technology.
The term also has unsavory connotations in some quarters for example the SFWA who write ""Traditional publisher" is a term of very recent origin. It was invented by the first of the author mills in order to distinguish itself from the POD services (whose business model, except for the fee, it otherwise followed very closely). The term has no meaning in the publishing industry, which by definition doesn't include vanity and self-publishing operations. ("Commercial publisher" or "trade publisher" is more appropriate.)"
However, it must be noted that the SFWA are not exactly all over self-publishing and this page lists links to several long-extinct websites. Even so, it is safe to say that referring to "traditional publishing" brands one as a n00b in many quarters, no matter how you mean it--and its use by a publisher is widely considered a red flag. The term appears to have been invented, and is frequently used, by some of the less reputable self-publishing service providers.
However use of "commercial" seems to imply self-published are not engaged in "the exchange or buying and selling of commodities on a large scale involving transportation from place to place" (Merriam Webster online). Is that fair, even if it is in a great many cases (clearly not all) reasonably accurate in terms of the 'large scale'? As a term "trade" just seems to hopelessly vague the general sense of the word and too specific in the sense of referring to specific types of publication.
So the question is, how do you refer to other sectors of publishing, if indeed you feel the need to do so?