The variety within publishing
Anyone familiar with publishing will be aware of the range of publishing categories and genres that abound. But what are these categories? What do they all mean and how are they defined?
Most of us are familiar with the terms fiction and non-fiction as two broad classes of writing, but below those are a range of genres that describe, in general terms, the subject matter of the book such as ‘romance,’ or ‘crime.’ However publishers themselves may specialise in one area or another and for them the categories are different, though often concurrent.
The biggest category of publishing is Trade. These are books for the general reading market, and wider public consumption and, as such, trade books constitute more than half of the English language book market. Trade publishers generally acquire rights to publish and sell books. Traditionally they sell through physical bookshops, but ever more frequently sales occur online. Among the trade press are the big five publishers, and often small publishers will partner with one of these to increase their distribution and promotion.
Trade publishers may also specialise in specific genres, such as:
Children and young adult
Often seen just as books intended for children, the children’s publishing category frequently includes books originally intended for adults that are also suitable for children. Children’s publishing often includes stories that are part of the wider oral tradition of storytelling such as fairy tales and traditional rhymes. They are often characterised by very clear morals and a host of colourful illustrations.
Young Adult is a more modern invention that came about in the 1920s, as an appreciation of the middle ground between child and adult. Often abbreviated to YA, Young Adult is fiction aimed at those readers in their late teens, which can include anything from ages as low as 12 and as high as 25, but usually it’s the core range between 14 and 19. YA can cover the whole range of fiction genres and it frequently focuses on the challenges of youth and coming of age.
Scholarly and educational
Another major category of publisher is the academic press. These focus on publishing texts incorporating research or educational materials. Many Universities have their own presses for publishing research texts and study work. Academic publishing generally requires texts to conform to certain standards, which usually involve numbered references, bibliographies and footnotes.
As well as publishing highly specialised papers, scholarly and educational publishers also dominate the textbook market. These tend to be more commercial products aimed at school and university classrooms. Such products may be bought by an educational establishment or an interested individual, but are often tailored round a particular syllabus, though more general works are available to the same broad standards.
Also read: Where are the geographical superpowers of publishing?
Independent & regional publishers
The Independent and Regional category includes a range of small presses printing books of local and regional interest. They have fewer resources than the bigger players but work in geographically smaller and more dedicated markets selling local authors, local history books and information pamphlets.
Boutique publishers are small publishing houses that choose to specialise in a very narrow subject area. They are common in genres which demand a greater level of expertise or which are only saleable to a very limited market share.
Vanity, self and contract publishers
These types of publishers allow an author to commission the publication of their own work in print or online. Sometimes this will be an author who simply wants to avoid the middleman and get as many copies as they feel they can sell, but it may also be a company wishing to publish its history or the biography of its founder as a gift for customers.
Whatever it is, the customer will pay the cost of publishing, and fees will be charged based on the physical quantity of books. The term ‘vanity’ in this case refers to the self-interest involved in the publication.
The solely electronic publisher is becoming more common in the industry. Whilst the big trade publishers continue to produce both print and electronic copy, other publishers are now offering an inexpensive alternative to traditional publishing for those not interested in being in print or authors wishing to break into the market for the first time.
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