Going Hybrid

May 31, 2018 § 13 Comments

35 miles per bale

On Tuesday, we talked about publishers soliciting authors in the guise of a publication offer.

That’s not a book deal. That’s a (slick) commercial for their services.

But for some authors, “hybrid” publishing works. Could it be right for you?

Old-school vanity publishers know their terrible reputations, and many have rebranded as “hybrid.” They charge authors a “contribution” that pays their costs and a healthy profit margin. They don’t care if your book sells—they already made their money. You may end up with cartons of unsold books, text badly or not-at-all edited, dreadful covers, crappy page design.

True hybrid presses offer a legitimate package of publishing services. It costs more than self-publishing—they still profit before selling your book—but you’re not doing it all yourself. Hybrids can provide a smoother publication process, bookstore placement, reviews, and some of the legitimacy of an imprint.

Is hybrid right for you? Well…

1) Do you want a long-term writing career?

“At least I’ll be published” is the worst possible reason to go hybrid. Low first-book numbers make it harder to sell a second book. It’s better to be a debut author than one who’s sold under 10,000 copies—publishers want a positive track record or no track record at all.

Going hybrid, at least one of you thinks you won’t sell many copies. If the publisher thinks you’ve written a bestseller, they don’t need your money. If you think you can do better, pursue traditional publication or explore self-publishing.

But if you’re up for tenure, a reputable hybrid press gives you a resume credit. If you’re launching a public-speaking career and selling books after every motivational speech, you’re busy marketing yourself—let them handle cover design and proofreading.

2) How much energy do you have for marketing?

Even Big-Five published authors end up marketing their own book. But hybrid (and small independent/university) presses often lack media contacts. Does your potential publisher display at industry events like the Frankfurt Book Fair or BookExpo America? Do they have readings or signings at regional book festivals? Do they have a list of radio station managers to contact? Check their social media for links to author interviews and reviews in national media. If they can’t market your book in places that cost money or connections to enter, they aren’t doing anything you can’t do yourself.

If you’re newsworthy in a way related to your book—you just summited Mount Everest without supplementary oxygen or Sherpas; you gave six organs as a living donor; you’re a former child actor just out of rehab—then marketing isn’t your obstacle. Hybrid away!

3) Are you in a hurry?

Traditional publishing takes time. Your book comes out much faster with hybrid or self-publishing—sometimes at the cost of lower-quality editing, design and printing. But good hybrids have an established editing and design pipeline to scoot your book right through. If you’re dying of cancer or facing a major book-selling event next month, you may want to pay for publishing.

4) Do you want your book in bookstores?

Traditional presses can get your physical book on a shelf. Bookstores have near-zero desire to carry self-published books, so that’s where an imprint helps.

Go to your favorite bookstores and check for books by your potential hybrid press. Give titles and ISBNs and ask a clerk they’d stock those books or only special-order them.

Ask the hybrid press about returns and the retail discount. If it’s not “we take returns” and the industry-standard 55%—red flag!

5) What’s the royalty split?

Self-publishing, you control the price and get all the profit. Traditional publishing trades a chunk of the net for marketing and reputation. Hybrids take what you agree to give them…on top of the money you paid to publish. Before buying their package, make sure you’re OK with your percentage.

6) Do they want subsidiary rights like audiobooks, TV/movies, or foreign sales?

Red flag. These should stay with the author who pays to publish. It’s unlikely the press will market these rights anyway, and they don’t have enough skin in the game to demand a percentage.

7) Will they edit? What are the editors’ qualifications?

Is your book really done? Like really, really done? Is there still a nagging feeling in your heart that it could be better? Ask what kind of editing will be done, and by whom. “Our in-house editor proofreads” is not the same as helping your prose sing and your story hang together.

8) What are their actual, printed books like?

Order a couple titles. Is the paper thinner than you expected? Do you see typos, blurry print, bad layout? Is the cover art just plain ugly? Pull out books in the same genre from your shelves and make a table display. Do the hybrid books belong?

9) Due diligence!

Going hybrid might be the right choice for you. But go in with your eyes open. Hybrid publishing is not a “book deal,” it’s a package of services you purchase. Make sure you’re getting your money’s worth.


Allison K Williams is Brevity’s Social Media Editor and the author of Seven Drafts: Self-Edit Like a Pro from Blank Page to Book. Want writing news, events, and upcoming webinars? Join the A-List!

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§ 13 Responses to Going Hybrid

  • Thank you for all this work and objective presentation, and without judgement. I am not seeking tenure, but have friends who are, and that aspect of hybrid publishing immediately commanded my attention.

  • Solid, useful guidance, Allison. I think we’re fortunate to write in a time when there are multiple publishing options. The questions you offer are the ones to ask ourselves to find the route that’s best to meet our goals. Thanks for the clear, concise outline.

  • Very nice article. Can you please indicate what are some of the “reputable hybrid presses” in your opinion.

    • Allison K Williams says:

      I’m really hesitant to recommend a specific press, because presses can swing from good to bad and vice versa. As of June 2018, I’ve heard good things from authors who have published with She Writes Press. I’d say for any press you are considering, ask to speak to a few authors who have published with them, and ask specific questions, including what the author’s original goal was. Because “I’m thrilled I have a book in my hand to give Grandma” is a different goal than “I sold 300 books” even though both authors may describe themselves as “happy” with the process.

  • Jill Clark says:

    Thank you Allison for clarifying some of these tricky issues. I would also like to know more about Indie publishing. Does that fall within a category of hybrid as well?

    • Allison K Williams says:

      Hi Jill – do you mean indie like “small press not asking the author for money” or indie like “I am coordinating and paying for all aspects of my book publishing”? Neither are hybrid – hybrid is when the writer pays someone else to coordinate the process and the someone else has a publishing imprint.

      • Jill Clark says:

        Thank you for explaining. I meant an Indie publisher. I was not clear on what they do? I see they are not hybrid then, but just wondered how they work in general, and how they make their money.

  • Reblogged this on Writer's Resource Blog and commented:
    A great look at the realities of hybrid publishing.

  • A couple of my authors sent this link to me and I feel compelling to leave a comment. Thanks for writing this, Allison, and thanks for referencing the IBPA checklist. I’m the publisher of She Writes Press and just want to say that where royalties are concerned, the IBPA standards indicate that authors really should get at least 50% of net proceeds, not really whatever you agree to give the publisher. If you’re going to invest in your project in this way, you should get the lion’s share of the profit. That might vary a little if, for instance, the publisher is contributing to the print run or to the marketing campaign. In our case the monies we retain on the royalty end mostly goes back to our distributor for the privilege of said distribution. Lots of variety out there, so thanks for choosing to write on this topic!

  • Jill Clark says:

    Allison, I meant Indie small press.

  • […] you’re working with a hybrid press, that’s not a publishing deal. You are purchasing a package of services. No matter what they […]

  • […] has blogged before about the pros and cons of self-publishing, traditional publishing, and hybrids. But apart from those are vanity presses. Mohan approached Partridge Publishing in India, believing […]

  • […] seen self-publishers make bank in book sales and generate enormous subsidiary businesses. And eyes-open hybrid packages can be a strong option for people with more money than time who need a guiding hand. […]

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