Traditional, Vanity, Hybrid, Self-Publishing — What are they?

What is the best way to publish? What are your options?

  1. Traditional Publishing: Less and less common but years ago this was the only option. You hand over your manuscript to an established traditional publisher and they handle all for you (editing/cover/layout/printing/distribution/PR). You get paid a royalty per sold copy or maybe even a lump sum upfront. You usually work with a literary agent as most publishing houses do not accept manuscript directly from authors. Only manuscripts with potential to sell at least 50k copies will be considered. Very difficult to get a deal and many spend years trying.
  2. Vanity Publishing: The publisher is not interested in your book or your book sales but makes money with you, the author. Everything is promised – movie deals, film rights, distribution, etc., and you get charged for everything, sometimes thousands and thousands of dollars. They are usually pushy and will often up sell their ‘services’. They change their company names regularly. Stay clear as far as you can. 
  3. Hybrid Publishing: I would classify distributors/aggregators into this list. You upload your files and they will convert your book files to the appropriate format and upload/distribute to each retailer you choose (Amazon/Apple/kobo/Google/BN/etc.) They get paid from the retailers and then pay you, the author. You maybe get charged a set-up fee per book or share profits from sales or a combination of both. Convenient for hobby authors but not the real thing. You are not in control of your book.
  4. Self Publishing: You handle every aspect on your own. You might need to hire a pro to get help with editing, cover design, formatting, layout design and file conversion but have your own accounts with retailers and get paid directly to your bank account without money flowing through a middleman. You have all book files and are your own publisher. You keep all profits – you share with no one. Most viable option for most authors.

Some authors prefer to take alternative routes other than self-publishing. How was your experience?