Skip to content

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.


Leave a Comment