Welcome to the Hybrid Publishing Maze
Hybrid publishing, a type of publishing that combines professional support and self-publishing options, has evolved as a new way for authors to get help outside a traditional publishing contract. Instead of waiting for traditional gatekeepers (like an agent or publishing company to send you a contract, hybrid authors can choose from a few different options including:
- Whether they want to work with an agent or not
- Which publishing path their next book might take: self-published, traditionally, or a mixture of the two
- Which services or fundraising model would work for their book: crowdfunding, partner publishing, or something else
On the surface, this sounds like an incredible deal for authors. Despite appearances, hybrid publishing isn’t a guaranteed home run. The hybrid publishing model is still in infancy and undergoing a lot of change. While new hybrid publishers are popping up (and traditional publishers experimenting as well), authors are left trying to figure out how to proceed through the maze. This makes answering even basic questions like “Is hybrid publishing right for my books?” a bit difficult to answer.
In this article, we’ll attempt to enter the hybrid publishing maze and get some answers. These answers won’t be definite because hybrid publishing is still evolving, but they should help you figure out if hybrid publishing is a maze that you want to enter.
4 Tips for Navigating the Hybrid Publishing Maze
1. First step: Understand what “hybrid publishing” means.
Before we even begin talking about hybrid publishing, we have to define it. The truth is, there is no established definition of the term yet. What we do know (and most industry experts agree on) is that it involves some aspects of self-publishing and some aspects of traditional publishing (publishing support, marketing support, distribution, etc.). To most authors and industry experts, this is different from vanity publishing which prints any manuscript as long as you pay. Generally, in a hybrid publishing model, an author must be selected or pay for a specific service (like editing or agent support) to finish a self-published book.
Hybrid publishing may still be a little confusing (even after reading the above paragraph, so here’s the least you need to remember:
- Traditional publishing involves using a publisher’s resources so that agency can publish a book for you.
- Hybrid publishing involves offering publishing support to finish a self-published book.
- Self-publishing involves using an author’s resources so the author can publish their own book
2. Second step: Reflect on the pros and cons of hybrid publishing
As mentioned above, hybrid publishing is still evolving. That means the benefits and risks are still changing. Authors who have taken a dive into hybrid publishing were able to keep more of their money (little to no fees paid to a third-party vs traditional publishing fees), have more control over the publishing process, and had more time to devote to writing.
On the other hand, hybrid publishing is still a small business compared to traditional publishers. This means very small advances (if any) from a hybrid publisher that agrees to invest in your book. It also means little to no recognition from large literary awards or big-name bookstores (unless you work on a hybrid publishing deal with a traditional publisher). Lastly, hybrid publishing still costs money. As an author, you will either pay for services or pay someone for providing their services.
The bottom line here is this:
If you want more publishing control and the potential for more money on a good book, consider hybrid publishing
If you want to get in the big-name bookstores and literary contests, you might want to consider an agent.
3. Third Step: Know the four basic routes to hybrid publishing
There are four basic paths in hybrid publishing;
- Agent-assisted: Author connects with an agent who provides more help than the ordinary agent (marketing support, publishing support, project management, etc.)
- Author-funded: Author picks and chooses what services they need (editing, formatting, publishing, etc.) from independent professionals or a publisher and pays for it.
- Partnership: Author invests in the book (time and/or money) with a publisher who also invests in the book for certain services and a number of agreed-upon copies of books. Once sales come in, everyone gets paid based on their share of the work.
- Reader-powered: Readers choose which book gets a traditional book deal (See Amazon’s Kindle Scout) or engage in crowd-funding to pay for their book. (See PubLaunch or WattPad Futures.)
4. Know what you want to publish and who you want to work with.
In most cases, hybrid publishing is best suited for a book (or books) in a series and not a single book. The reason? You have more experience with publishing and (hopefully) a larger audience to market your book. As an author, you have the right to use the hybrid model on any book that you like. The key, though, is to choose the book that will put your best words in front of potential readers, publishers, or agents.
If you are ready to go down to the hybrid publishing maze, do your homework. Look up reviews. Ask questions until you are satisfied. Research everything you can about a company or professional.
Final Thought: Hybrid Publishing is Still Evolving, So Should Authors
No matter how you publish, (traditional, self-published, or hybrid), authors need to take charge of their future. We no longer live in an age where an author can write a manuscript and walk off. We live in a complicated world with social media marketing, distracted readers, and a publishing industry that is scrambling to keep up. This complexity is both an opportunity and a risk. The authors who keep learning and adapting what they learn will survive. A few of those authors will thrive. If you want to make sure that you’re one of the authors that thrive, keep evolving.