There are many different business models out there in the publishing industry. As many as there probably are in any manufacturing or creative industry business. SaskBooks supports all publishing activity; below is a list of terms and what they mean in the publishing industry. “Editorial discretion” is a term that shows up frequently when we talk about different business models in publishing.
Ultimately, the decision to produce a book is a commercial one. No publisher (with the possible exception of promotional publishers) produces a book without the intent to sell it. Editorial discretion means the publisher has extensive knowledge of the market and/or has done market research to know *how well* the book they intend to produce can be expected to sell in their known/tested markets. Businesses without editorial discretion do not focus on the marketability of a title; they earn their income “up front”, and do not rely on book sales to continue production.
Printer or Pay-to-Print
Printers are not publishers. Printing is only one portion of the production that a manuscript undergoes in its journey to become a book (and it’s not even the last step). Printers or pay-to-print services do not edit manuscripts (or may offer a cursory proofread) nor do interior/cover design (although some printers may have a design department available for hire). Printers and pay-to-print services do not market, promote, or distribute your books. Some printers also bind books. That still doesn’t make them a publisher. Printers and pay-to-print services do not exercise editorial discretion; they will print whatever their client requests them to print.
Print-on-Demand services are no different from printers. They usually do not offer much in the way of editing or design or other production services. They may have a cursory or specialised distribution network. Print-on-demand and pay-to-print services are wonderful for manuscripts which have already undergone the production process. In other words, for market-ready books. Print-on-Demand (POD) services are great for small publishers or for self-publishers to reduce print costs for their books or for publishers to use to produce Advance Reading Copies (ARCs) or bound galleys. POD services do not exercise editorial discretion. They will produce whatever their clients request them to produce.
A vanity press generates revenue primarily through selling print and design services directly to authors; profits don’t come from book sales. What makes a company a “vanity press” is how they appeal to a writer’s vanity – many vanity presses are critical of the literary publishing schedule of manuscript submission/rejection. They may talk about how certain titles were rejected multiple times by “mainstream publishing” before becoming an “overnight success” with the publisher that eventually accepted the manuscript for production. Vanity Presses often have a variety of ‘menu items’ to choose from for writers who “just want to get [their] book(s) on the shelves”. Vanity presses do not exercise editorial discretion. That is to say, anyone through the door willing to pay for their services gets what they pay for. Many vanity presses do not provide specialised marketing plans, promotions, or distribution services. Some vanity presses retain copyright for the books they produce! Some register the International Standard Book Number (ISBN) to their own company rather than to the writer who’s paying for the service (this effects marketing and distribution). This is very much a “production line” form of publishing which doesn’t usually focus on the unique aspects of each title.