Definitions of Terms
Assessment: General assessment of the manuscript's strengths and weaknesses including expectation of editing services needed to prepare the manuscript for publication.
Substantive/Structural Editing: Clarifying or reorganizing a manuscript for content and structure, checking for plot and character development, continuity, flow, point of view and voice.
Stylistic Editing: Clarifying meaning, eliminating jargon, polishing language, checking narrative fact only (i.e.: is something true within the narrative or fiction created), and other non-mechanical line-by-line editing.
Copy Editing: Editing for grammar, usage, spelling, punctuation, and other mechanics of style; checking for consistency of mechanics and for internal consistency of facts; reviewing approximate placement of art; editing tables, figures, and lists.
Final Proofreading: Checking manuscript, prior to release and submission to a publisher, for minor, mechanical errors in copy (such as spelling mistakes or small deviations from style sheet).
Publishing Houses and Presses
The terminology around publishing is still evolving.
At the moment (Summer 2017) these are the most frequently used terms and their meanings.
The term 'tradional publisher' refers to any size publisher who agrees to publish an author's work and to pay all the costs of publication. However, the term is more frequently used to refer to the largest international publishers.
These are large conglomerates or multinational corporations. As of 2016, 5 major houses own well over 200 publishers of all sizes and types. Traditional publishers are generally driven by sales and look for works (or authors with a brand) they project will generate a minimum of 10,000 sales per year. Traditional publishing requires the author to "sell" their book to the publishing company (sign over the rights to the book) for a percentage of the sales (royalties against any advance). Generally, traditional publishers provide at their expense editorial guidance, marketing, promotion, and contacts. However, the publisher's commitment to each author and each of these services varies depending upon the projected and actual sales.
Indie Press: (not to be confused with an indie publisher or indie author)
An indie press is a publishing concern that is independent of any other publisher, large conglomerate or multinational corporation. Generally, indie presses are small, publish only a few books per year, and usually cater to a niche market. Like traditional publishers, they make their profits on sales; authors usually relinquish the rights to their works; and authors are paid a percentage of overall royalties. See Maddy Foley's article "13 Indie Presses You Should Know in 2017" to give you an idea of their variety.
As the term implies, subsidy publishing is a publisher that agrees to publish a book if the author agrees to pay (subsidize) all publishing costs. Just as with traditional publishers and indie presses, there is great variety in the services and quality of services available among subsidy publishers. The term "self-publishing company" is the more common expression but is far less accurate (see below). Subsidy publishers may or may not have a selection process, exercise editorial oversight, or provide marketing and distribution assistance. Some subsidy publishers, not the author, retains ownership of the work imposing a hefty fee on the author to reclaim ownership. Yet other subsidy publishers do not retain any rights. Regardless, subsidy publishers generate income by selling books and services to the author rather than to the reading public. The financial benefits to the author vary from company to company and need to be thoroughly explored prior to signing a contract. Authors should receive all the royalties, but this must be verified. Subsidy publishers have very low printing cost because of new print-on-demand technology.
The most reliable publishers provide on-line access to their contracts for any visitor to their sites. Any company that does not fully disclose its publishing contract and a detailed list of services and prices well in-advance of contract signing should be avoided. Compare the sites of some of the most advertised subsidy publishers: AuthorHouse, BookBaby, Dog Ear Publishing. Note: Many subsidy publishers are owned by one of the 5 major publishing houses.
This term is used interchangeably with subsidy publisher. It is also used as a synonym for indie author (see below). If you've chosen to be an indie author and are looking for a publishing company to assist you in the production, marketing and distribution process, use the term "self-publishing company" for your search of possible companies. Then use the information provided under subsidy publishers to help you choose an appropriate company for you. The best self-publishing (subsidy) companies allow the author to choose services, to maximize author revenue, and are fully transparent about cost, services, rights, contracts, etc. Dog Ear Publishing is only one example of a transparent subsidy publisher.
These are a subset of the subsidy market catering to individuals who wish to have only a handful of books (usually under 100) printed. The name is pejorative although they do have value in the publishing industry. A vanity press is a good route for an author who has written a book intended for a very specific and narrow audience such as family members or a community organization.
Print-on-demand is actually a reference to modern printing technology rather than types of publishers. With this technology, publishers do not have to stock books waiting for sales. Print-on-demand has opened the way to true self-publishing or more accurately to the world of the indie author.
Types of Authors
Are you a traditional author or an indie author?
Independent authors use a hybrid approach to publication. As authors, they select the most appropriate service vendors for their publication and retain all rights and control of their works. Indie authors will use some of the services offered by subsidy publishers such as the actual printing, bookkeeping, and distribution services available but may choose an independent editor, interior designer and cover artist for those tasks absorbing the cost for every service. The goal of indie authors is to produce a books that they are completely proud to present to their readers. Royalties generally average about 50% of the book price - but the indie author absorbed all of the costs of the project at the outset. See Joanna Penn's article "Pros and Cons of Traditional Publishing vs Self-Publishing."
Traditional authors sell their manuscripts to publishers who agree to edit, produce, market and distribute their book at no cost to the author. In most cases, the author has some say in the editing process and might be consulted about interior and cover designs. However, once the rights are sold to the publisher, the author does not have the final say over any aspect of the project. Royalties generally average about 8% of the book price - after any advance has been recouped. See Joanna Penn's article "Pros and Cons of Traditional Publishing vs Self-Publishing."
Author/Indie publisher/self publisher:
Indie publisher is sometimes used synonymously with the term self-publisher (not be be confused with indie press or self-publishing). In the context of types of authors, the term refers to authors who have taken complete control of every aspect of the writing project from writing through the sales process through figuring out the taxes owed to book delivery. Very few authors are able or interested in overseeing each step in the process. Much more common today is the indie author.