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Here's What Industry Insiders Say About Hybrid Publishers


Navigating the publishing world can be intimidating and difficult for new authors. Getting connected with a literary agent, finding a publisher, and even knowing what kind of publisher to partner with are all seemingly difficult tasks. Hybrid publishers were developed as a compromise between traditional publishers and self-publishing. Many hybrid publishers describe their services as innovative, easy, and profitable. But are hybrid publishers worth the effort and risk? What kinds of hybrid publishers are there to choose from, and which kind is best?

Within the publishing industry, there are varying views and opinions about hybrid publishing. Some insiders support hybrid publishing and encourage the partnership between the author's investment and traditional publishing. Other industry specialists are wary of some hybrid operations, saying that the opportunity for scamming is too great.

Types of hybrid publishers

The term hybrid publisher applies to many slight variations in the structure of a publishing business. In general, there are four types of hybrid publishers in the industry: editorially curated, crowdfunded, assisted self-publishing, and traditional with a self-publishing division.

  • Editorially curated: These are hybrid publishers that have standards they adhere to and don't accept just any author. They are selective in their list of titles. The author still subsidizes the cost of publishing their book, including editing and printing costs, but these hybrid publishers offer better marketing and therefore better distribution than other types of hybrid publishers and self-publishing.
  • Crowdfunded publishing: This method is pretty much what it sounds like. The publisher requires that the author already has money coming in from a readership before they are given a contract. Once the author meets the required amounts, the publisher takes over and a process close to a traditional publishing process takes place.
  • Assisted self-publishing: While similar to editorially curated hybrid publishing, with access to marketing connections and distribution channels, assisted self-publishing means the author pays all fees, and there are no restrictions on which authors get published.
  • Traditional with a self-publishing division: Small publishers or small presses often have separate divisions dedicated to helping authors self-publish. This can be good or bad, depending on the business model and ethics of the company.

To go hybrid or not to go hybrid

Not all of these hybrid publisher types are considered good ways for a new author to go, however. The term "hybrid publisher" is often used by companies to make their services seem more appealing to authors. It's important to look beyond the name and actually evaluate a company's practices before choosing them as the right fit. Pay close attention to whether or not the company is offering a bait-and-switch. Did they first accept your submission as a traditional publisher, then stick you with fees and purchase options to get your book published? If so, most experts suggest you stay away from those companies.

When it comes to really examining what kind of publishing method will work for you, ask yourself a few questions, as recommended by industry insider Ingrid Beck.

  1. Do you have a story or topic that will appeal to a broad audience? Ask if you are sharing a niche idea or even a personal story that will appeal to a small group of people, or do you have a story that will give the reader something in return. If you believe your story has broad appeal, then you should aim for the more traditional options in publishing. The editorially curated hybrid publisher might be the option for you.
  2. Are you willing to invest to get published, and if so, how much? Hybrid publishing requires the author to sponsor their own publication upfront.
  3. What kind of quality do you want for your book? How much work do you want to go into the editing, design, quality of the print? The quality of each of those varies widely among publishers, traditional and hybrid publishers. Take the time to identify what your goals are and go from there.

Tips from top industry pros

One of the best tests for whether to go with a specific hybrid publisher is talking to authors who have published with that company before. Jane Friedman, in her article Not All Hybrid Publishers Are Created Equal, says, This can be the best litmus test of all. Are other authors pleased with the publisher's communication and level of involvement?

Online stores and service outlets almost always use customer reviews to build brand trust in their product or service. Why should hybrid publishers be any different? Check their references, take a look at some of the other titles they have published recently, and see if it's the right fit for your work. Working with a publisher isn't a one-size-fits-all situation. Your work is unique, so take the time to find the right fit.

Many established authors are even trying to decide if they want to continue on with traditional publishing or going with self-publishing. Rachelle Gardner, who has a reputation as an adviser to new writers, says, I'm having almost daily conversations with my clients, most of whom are already traditionally published, about various ways they can extend their brands, increase their income and/or grow their readership by self-publishing e-books. For those authors, maybe a hybrid publisher, potentially an editorially curated publisher, would be a good way to break into the self-publishing industry.

The Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA) published a list of criteria for reputable hybrid publishers in 2018. Some of the key factors to look for include:

  • Define a mission and vision for its publishing program. This basically means that the publisher needs to have specific reasons why they will or will not accept an author. A hybrid publisher that simply accepts authors because they were willing to pay a fee isn't enough to be considered reputable.
  • Vet submissions. This goes in-hand with the first criterion. They need to accept submissions based on identified criteria that fit a standard established at the company.
  • Publish under its own imprint(s) and ISBNs. Part of being able to vet a hybrid publisher, as discussed above, is being able to review their previous publications. The publisher's previous works need to be available, which means they publish under their own imprint and ISBN.
  • Publish to industry standards. A reputable hybrid publisher will have books that are in standard formats with a copyright page, etc.
  • Ensure editorial, design, and production quality. If a hybrid publisher's previous books are full of typos, have horrible covers, or if they are generally not professional in appearance and style, then they probably aren't a hybrid publisher you want to work with.
  • Pursue and manage a range of publishing rights. Publishing rights mean they have a vested interest in your book's success in the market and helps you avoid a publisher that will "set it and forget it" when it comes to promotion.
  • Provide distribution services. This is a significant part of the success of your book. A good hybrid publisher will actively work with retailers to place your book in places where it will sell. Making your book available to bookstores (online and in print) is not enough. The relationships need to be actively managed and maintained.
  • Demonstrate respectable sales. Has the hybrid publisher ever sold another author's books before? Have they had any success? If not, then there's not much chance that your book will sell with them either.
  • Pay authors a higher-than-standard royalty. Traditional publishers offer lower royalties because they are generally taking all the risk. With a hybrid publisher, however, the author is investing in the publication of their book, and therefore the author should be able to retain a larger part of the proceeds as well.

There are many benefits to hybrid publishing, but also some drawbacks that should be carefully considered. You are assuming more of the risk with hybrid publishing, the publisher might not have the level of marketing required to get a big return on your investment, and it might end up that a different publisher or different type of publisher was the right way to go.

When it comes down to it, you need to decide which avenue is the best for you and your book. Taking the time to research traditional publishing, literary agents, self-publishing, e-publishing, and hybrid publishing will ensure that you start your publishing journey with the right information. Publishing industry insiders agree that hybrid publishing done right can help new authors get started and can help established authors broaden their reach through new publishing avenues. What's right for your book?

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