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The Advantages and Disadvantages of Cooperative Publishing



My two previous posts dealt with the advantages and disadvantages of traditional publishing and self-publishing. Now it’s time to put cooperative publishing under the microscope.

Two quick preliminary points.

First, what do I mean by “cooperative publishing”?  I see cooperative publishing as the middle way between traditional publishing and self-publishing. It typically uses print on demand technology, selling on and other bookstore Websites.

  • In traditional publishing, the publisher bears the freight financially. The publisher pays the author an advance against royalties on sales of the book and covers all the costs associated with editing, design, printing, and marketing. The author typically receives a royalty of 10% of the list price on each copy sold in bookstores. 


  • In self-publishing, the author bears the financial freight and (a) acts as the publisher in producing and publishing the book or (b) subs this work off to Trafford, Lulu, or other such Internet publishing sites. The author retains a high percentage of sale revenue.


  • Cooperative publishing roars right up the middle: Authors pay to have their book published, but they go through a second-party publisher and work with that publisher on every aspect of the publishing process. They receive a much higher percentage on their own sales and the publisher’s sales than they would with a traditional publisher.

Second (I’m putting my cards on the table), I am a cooperative publisher. I worked for many years in a large traditional publishing house, managing the editing and publication of up to 75 books a year. Now, however, I am running Bastian Publishing Services Ltd., the main work of which is BPS Books. You can learn more about the BPS Books publishing process here.


1. Cash Flow. Most people are not awash in cash and therefore find it difficult to come up with the funds required by cooperative publishing. 

2. Image. This is particularly important for authors who are building a career as a writer, or who need to be in the public eye for their cause or their work. It is important for such authors to be published by a publicly recognized house that sells to bookstores. Authors of academic books definitely need the imprimatur of a traditional publisher.

3. Reach. Traditional publishers can get books out to a broader public by selling through bookstores and on the Internet. Cooperative publishing sells primarily on the Internet and through the author.


1. Income. Authors published by a cooperative publisher can quickly recoup the money they spent in publishing the book. For example, authors can buy copies of their book from the publisher at, say, 75% off the list price, and sell them at full price. So they might pay $4 for a copy of their book and sell it at $20, making $16. 

2. Timing. A cooperative publisher can move much more quickly than a traditional publisher. Getting to market more briskly is helpful, for example, to an author who has a market to sell to through speaking engagements and can’t wait the year or longer it takes for a traditional publisher to publish.

3. Getting Published. Many authors cannot be accommodated by traditional publishers. Sometimes because the latter don’t have room on their lists. Other times because an author’s book is too specific for the publisher’s marketing system. Or the book’s topic is not marketable enough to a broad spectrum of readers. Cooperative publishing allows such books to see the light of day and reach their market.

4. Quality Control. Unlike self-publishing – for example, through Author House or Lulu – cooperative publishing puts books and their authors through the same hoops as traditional publishers do. Not every manuscript is chosen. The editing process is rigorous. Design of text and cover are done by third-party experts. Cooperative publishing helps authors avoid the mistakes that happen when they try to be chief cook and bottle washer – not only writing but also publishing their book. Cooperative publishing retains the important author-publisher relationship that makes for great books.

I predict that cooperative publishing will be the “Hegelian solution” for many authors: thesis, traditional book publishing; antithesis, self-publishing; synthesis, cooperative publishing.


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Your post helps me to understand the difference between various publishing packages. Thank you!
Posted @ Friday, July 27, 2012 10:08 AM by Anipe SteevenPremajyothi
@Anipe: I'm glad you found it helpful! Thanks for stopping by. DB
Posted @ Friday, July 27, 2012 10:11 AM by Donald Bastian
Other co-operative enterprises are guided by Rochdale Principles. Both Producers and Consumers are members and on an equal footing. The equivalent enterprise in knowledge could be called a "knowledge exchange". The key relationship is analogous to that of farmers and eaters and there is no need for a traditional publisher. Of course this model may not exist, but I am trying to launch one
Posted @ Sunday, November 18, 2012 2:36 PM by David Chadwick
Hello, David. Being rather conservative, I'm shocked at any comparison of BPS Books with principles forged in the Rochdale experience, but I see your point! I have sometimes thought that Marx might be a bit surprised by just how the means of production are now in the hands of the worker. DB
Posted @ Monday, November 19, 2012 7:54 AM by Donald Bastian
I hear your words on rigorous editing and acceptance. I am concerned as to how "the trade," reviewers, stores, academic institutions know the difference between your Cooperative enterprise and self publishing? 
I entered what I was told was co-op, learned, too late, it was subsidy, paid, 2010, received a mediocre product, distribution, no promotion, and I, as with the traditional publisher, and would with vanity and subsidy worked my butt, time, and money the same. The difference, was the built-in advantage of the traditional publisher, for about three months, and refusal to return rights. I've been on my own ever since, 2003... selling a few books here and there, and the traditional pub would not take my third novel, saying the first didn't sell well. The company's own district manager says that is not so. I have not, yet, paid off my advance, because I get 10% of wholesale, not retail. 
What is YOUR advantage to my experience? I have been unpleasantly screwed.
Posted @ Wednesday, January 23, 2013 3:14 PM by Gwendoline Y. Fortune
Hello, Gwendoline. My thanks to you for your note, and felicitations to you for your publishing troubles.  
BPS Books is a cooperative publishing program that straddles the two worlds of publishing today: traditional publishing and self-publishing. We charge for our services but pay the bulk of sales revenues to our authors. This is the opposite of a traditional publisher, which does not charge fees but pays the bulk of sales revenue to itself. 
Within the current landscape of publishing, we are a publisher that produces books, as opposed to being a producer of books that publishes. There is a big difference. Some of the services available on the Internet are essentially producers (printers) who get their customers' books into the book trade system (on Amazon sites, etc.). We take our authors through the rigors of traditional publishing and then produce them for sale in the book trade system. We also publish ebooks. 
Hope that helps! 
Posted @ Thursday, January 24, 2013 10:38 AM by Donald Bastian
Donald, thank you for your response. I interact with published and would-be writers on LinkedIn. A truly decent "crowd," much frustration and confusion. At the moment an agent is willing to talk. The consensus finds that the writer is expected to be a Cleopatra, today, all things to all men--and women.
Posted @ Friday, January 25, 2013 10:16 AM by Gwendoline Y. Fortune
Thanks, Gwendoline. It is indeed a time of flux in general, courtesy largely of the Internet, I think. Good luck in your ongoing discussions. 
Posted @ Saturday, January 26, 2013 8:26 AM by Donald Bastian
Very attractive! Keep writing your blog posts. Pretty very excellent post. Books is a part of our life. So, we have to good knowledge about books.
Posted @ Thursday, September 05, 2013 6:49 AM by Novel Editing Services
Great explanation about advantages and disadvantages of cooperative publishing and embossing for people who are not familiar with this but want to learn something more  
Posted @ Saturday, April 05, 2014 12:14 AM by
This is one great comparison. Now, self-published authors has options and can compare things that needs to be done.
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