After the publisher I was so sure would take Delilah, didn’t, I did what I was taught in my M.F.A. classes and turned around and sent out another query to another publisher. I didn’t want to leave it sitting idle, so I turned around and sent it out again the same day to the first publisher I found that looked like they might be interested in a Western with a female protagonist. In a little over three weeks, I received a request for the full manuscript and was, of course, elated. The thing is, this publishing house isn’t one of the big 5, or even a small independent publisher, but a hybrid publisher.
We had discussed briefly hybrid publishers in one of my classes on the business of writing, but as I am now faced with the possibility of being offered a contract by one such entity, I felt it might be a good idea to delve a little deeper in order to understand what publishing through a hybrid publisher might entail.
I had a hard time finding anything recent on the subject, with most articles dating back between 2012 and 2014. It seems the term “hybrid publisher” can mean either an author who has works published both traditionally and self-published, or a publishing house that “splices” together elements of self-publishing and small press traditional publishing in any number of ways, according to published indie author and blogger, A.K. Taylor, in her August 6th, 2012 article on The Newbie Author’s Guide, “Rise of the Hybrid Publisher”. For our purposes here, we are talking about hybrid publishing houses rather than hybrid authors, although if they accept Delilah, and I accept their terms, I may someday be one of the later, as well.
According to Brooke Warner, publisher of She Writes Press, in her April 9, 2015 article on The Blog at HuffPost Books, “Hybrid Publishing: Getting a Handle on the New Middle Ground”, hybrid contracts are nothing new, they just aren’t widespread knowledge. Many traditional and independent publishers have been cutting hybrid deals where the author pays all or part of the publishing costs up front for years. What Warner calls partnership publishing allows authors to pay up front for publishing costs and receive a high percentage of the royalties, while the publishing house offers traditional distribution and qualify to submit books to traditional review channels to aide in marketing and drive sales.
Hybrid publishing work in much the same way. I found that there are several hybrid publishing houses out there. All offer some combination of traditional publishing services and benefits of self-publishing. According to Taylor’s article, there are certain things all hybrid publishers have in common:
- Author is involved in the whole publishing & marketing processes.
- Publisher offers traditional publishing and traditional marketing channels
- Royalties from 50 -100% (considerably higher than royalties offered by most traditional publishers)
- Quality craftsmanship
- Shorter contract duration (1-5 years) than traditional publishers, and then rights revert back to author
All hybrid publishers have some type of submission process, but some offer a traditional-type publishing contract, with only a small advance, if any, while others require authors to pay all or part of the publishing expenses up front. I suspected this would be dependent on whether they are a P.O.D. publisher, (publish on demand), or do a traditional print run, although according to the former publisher of Writer’s Digest, Jane Friedman, there are hybrid publishing houses who do not require the author to pay up-front expenses, although the do provide a traditional print run, and even traditional marketing services. In her Publishers Weekly article, May 15, 2015, “Not All Hybrid Publishers are Created Equal: How Authors Should Evaluate Their Choices”, she states that the services offered, as well as royalties and costs vary. It’s important to be sure that the publishing route you choose is going to produce a high quality product.
The publishing house that is considering Delilah may go either way once they have assessed my manuscript, assuming of course that they love it and can’t wait to offer me a contract. They may opt to offer me a contract similar to a traditional contract with no up-front cost to me, or they might chose to offer me a contract more like a self-publishing contract, requiring I pay all or part of the publishing expenses out of pocket.
As far as I could determine, when considering a contract with a hybrid publisher the following five areas should be kept in mind when determining whether the publishing house is right for you. These are the areas I will look at if I am offered a contract for Delilah.
- Speed of Publishing Process – I’m not a patient person, so quick results are appealing to me. I backed out of a contract with a P.O.D. publisher for one of my children’s books, after five years with no results. I like to make things happen and be able to see my hard work come to fruition, preferably before I’m dead.
- Type of Income/Out of Pocket Expense – I’m a starving artist, so of course, an advance would be preferable to covering the publishing expenses out of pocket. The cost was one reason I have shied away from self-publishing models. The idea of larger percentages in royalties is also appealing.
- Traditional print run or P.O.D. – I like the idea of the traditional print run, because it allows the author access to copies for review or to have on hand at signings and other writing events. With P.O.D. publishing, that stuff can get expensive. Plus the above mentioned experience with P.O.D. publishing has made me leery of it.
- Editing services – I believe one thing that gives self-published authors a bad rep are the authors who don’t think they need to have their manuscripts professionally edited before publishing, therefore putting out a poor quality book. Every book should be well edited before publishing, so I feel having editing services available could be invaluable.
- Marketing and promotional services – This is an area where I’m not great at. I’m a writer, not a sales person, although if I believe in something, I usually have good results when selling it, and I do believe in my writing. None-the-less, this is not one of my strong points, so I would take all the help I can get.
It appears that today’s author has three publishing choices, which is two more than author of the past had. More choices means more opportunity for success. In a January 8, 2014 Forbes article, “How Hybrid Publishers Innovate to Succeed”, David Vinjamuri gave this breakdown of the differences between traditional publishing, independent or self-publishing, and hybrid publishing.
- Traditional publishers pay big advances, but move like sea turtles on land. Extremely long process. You have to move at their pace, (a year or more from acceptance).
- Self-publishers/Independent publishers – Large royalties, P.O.D. Author pays all publishing costs up front.
- Hybrid Publishers – Better royalties than traditional publishing, but not as good as self-publishing. Much faster publishing process than traditional publishers, (4 to 6 weeks). Although generally do not pay large advances, many don’t require any money up front from the author. Hybrid publishers pay few if any salaries.
Every author dreams of being traditionally published, but traditional publishing is tough. You have to have thick skin and be able to handle repeated rejections. The only thing I have against self-publishing is the expense. I write to make money, and I have to sell something before I have money to spend. Hybrid publishing seems to me like it might be the best of both worlds and definitely something to consider.
During my M.F.A. courses, I wrote with the belief that I would find a traditional publisher for my work. Although we briefly discussed hybrid publishing and self-publishing, both were glossed over, leaving the impression that they weren’t really options for professional writers. But now that I’m faced with trying to get my work out there, I’m learning that they might be options I should consider. (I’ve already experimented with self-publishing with my short story, Last Call, in e-Book format on Amazon, but haven’t seen a lot of results from it.)
Many of the students in my classes were young, in their twenties and thirties. They may have time to build a career and wait to be discovered, but I am fifty-two years old. I don’t have all that time. I want to make my writing work for me while I’m still alive to enjoy it. So, if this publisher does come back with an offer for Delilah, I’ll consider it. You bet I will. Now I have enough knowledge about hybrid publishers to make an informed decision. Wish me luck.
Like this post? Subscribe to Writing to be Read for e-mail notifications whenever new content is posted.