What the Heck is Partnership Publishing?

For those new to the business, book publishing can be downright confusing. It tends to be shrouded in mystery, has a reputation for elitism, and often gives newcomers the cold shoulder. At The Collective Book Studio we’d like to change that. We hope to provide clarity about exactly what it is we do.

As a partnership publisher, The Collective Book Studio believes that the publishing process needs to be personal, professional, and accessible. A basic understanding of the playing field will help explain where partnership publishing fits into the larger industry. Here is a quick overview of the three main players:

TRADITIONAL PUBLISHING comes to mind when most people talk about the book industry–Think of your big-five publishing houses (Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster). Many of us at The Collective have a background in traditional publishing and understand the value and shortcomings of this model. 

A certain amount of esteem comes along with a traditional publishing deal, and the resulting book is shaped (and backed) by industry professionals with experience and connections. Traditional publishing works wonderfully for many authors. That said, traditional houses generally don’t accept unsolicited manuscripts, and require a formal submission from a literary agent. Since they are assuming all the financial risk, traditional houses are often wary of taking chances on new authors and are looking for big names and established platforms. Most prospective authors face a fair amount of rejection and must develop a thick skin as they tirelessly advocate for themselves. Many end up feeling shut out completely. 

An author lucky enough to be picked up by a publisher will receive a check in exchange for the rights to the content (15-20% of which goes directly to the agent). While this advance payment is valuable, it often isn’t as large as one would imagine, and it means that the publisher owns the content. Publishers may ask for input when it comes to the cover, and other design choices, but they may not. They have the final say. And when it comes to royalty payments for books sold, it’s typically less than 10% of net profits. 

SELF-PUBLISHING falls at the other end of the publishing spectrum, with the author taking on all of the risk, maintaining all of the control, and reaping all of the rewards. This model is ideal for some self-directed and motivated authors, and is growing in popularity with the availability of platforms like Amazon, Lulu, IngramSpark, etc. 

However, the same thing that makes self-publishing attractive–the low barrier to entry–can also be problematic. It can be isolating and overwhelming to venture into the book world alone. And since the book is not vetted, and often not edited, there is a huge range when it comes to the quality of self-published content. This leads to some shoddy packaging, error-riddled content, and, among some, a general disdain for the publishing model. Even if all goes well, and an author ends up with a stellar self-published book, the author is often completely out of luck when it comes to distribution. At The Collective we often get calls from self-published authors who feel great about their book, but are extremely frustrated that they are shut out of most sales channels. These books are all dressed up with nowhere to go. 

PARTNERSHIP PUBLISHING, the model of The Collective Book Studio, was created with the intention of bridging the gap between traditional publishing and self-publishing. Also called hybrid publishers, partnership publishers function much like traditional publishers, with the main difference being that authors cover the cost of publishing and retain all rights to their content. 

Partnership publishers generally attract authors who understand the risk and rewards of buying into the publishing process as a collaborator. This initial investment allows authors to keep creative control of their content, retain ownership of all related assets (illustrations, data, writing, etc.), and gives authors agency throughout the creative and technical process of bringing a book to life. This also means it’s the author who earns the lion’s share of rewards when a book succeeds. 

Unfortunately, there are some companies calling themselves hybrid publishers who really just offer packages of related services. Others solely help authors create books for online sales, or print-on-demand. There is nothing inherently wrong with any of these options––the problem is with companies misrepresenting themselves. Authors need to have clear expectations and ask the right questions to make sure they understand what they are paying for. If they want high quality printed books, that are warehoused, and widely distributed into the marketplace (bookstores, libraries, specialty stores, etc.), then they need to make sure they are working with a true hybrid publisher.

In 2018, the Independent Book Publishers Association published their criteria for defining a reputable hybrid publisher—a set of standards any author can use to vet companies. According to the IBPA’s criteria, a hybrid publisher must:

Like all reputable hybrid publishers, The Collective Book Studio is highly selective about the projects accepted, publishes to industry standards, and offers clients full distribution. The Collective is nationally distributed by Simon & Schuster and our books are available everywhere books are sold. Distributors like S&S work with publishers to get books into stores–both online and brick-and-mortar–and help make books available to anyone who may want to buy them, in whatever format they desire, including ebooks and audiobooks.

The Collective Book Studio brings years of publishing experience, as well as connections with experts in the field, to ensure that each project is unique and meets the highest standards. Our goal is to create books that stand out from the crowd and rival those coming from the top publishing houses. The Collective empowers writers to focus on doing what they love, while the team takes care of rest.

Updated April 2024

Meet Elisabeth Saake

A lifetime lover of books, Elisabeth Saake has devoted most of her working life to the publishing industry. She has managed subsidiary rights (book clubs, foreign rights), special market accounts (Williams Sonoma, Pottery Barn and West Elm) and national trade accounts (Borders, Walden and Books-A-Million). She has also worked as an Editorial Assistant at a top New York Literary...