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What is Hybrid Publishing and Why Should You Use It?

Just when we thought things had settled down after the traditional versus self-publishing debate, the industry threw us a new curve-ball: hybrid publishing.

And most of us don’t know what it is because the publishing industry can’t even figure it out. It’s a maddening loop of uncertainties that breed scams, controversy, and success stories.

So we’So we’re going to look at what it is, why it’s controversial, and how to successfully navigate the world of hybrid publishing.

What is Hybrid Publishing?

“What the heck is hybrid publishing?” is a question you may be asking yourself right now.

In essence, it is a blend of traditional publishing and self-publishing. Hybrid publishers provide traditional publishing services to authors looking to self-publish their novels.

And no two hybrid publishers work the same. They have varied business models, methods of working with writers, and approaches to marketing and distribution.

The 4 Types of Hybrid Publishing

While every publisher has a different model, they typically fall under the following four categories, according to Jane Friedman:

  • Editorially curated. The authors bear the costs of editing or publication, and getting accepted isn’t guaranteed with this model. This selectivity allows for better marketing and distribution. Examples include She Writes Press and Greenleaf Book Group.
  • Crowdfunding driven. Publishers such as Inkshares and Unbound require the author to raise a certain amount of money before they are granted a deal, which then closely adheres to a traditional publishing process.
  • Assisted self-publishing. Authors pay to publish, and most authors, if not all, are accepted.
  • Traditional publishers with a self-publishing arm. Some traditional publishers offer author services or assisted self-publishing. Example: Hay House’s self-publishing arm is Balboa Press.

The last two categories offer “questionable value” to self-published authors, according to Friedman. In short, here’s why:

Assisted self-publishing services, also known as “vanity presses,” adopt the term “hybrid publisher” to look more innovative or attractive to authors. As for self-publishing arms, they may use paid service to prop up their business and appear more progressive.

Hybrid Publishers Aren’t Hybrid Authors

In addition to the confusion that hybrid publishers generate, there are also “hybrid authors” out there. Here’s the definition of a hybrid author:

A hybrid author is an author that has titles published both independently and through a contract with a publishing house.

Written Word Media

They have nothing to do with hybrid publishing. Hybrid authors are just writers that have managed to publish their work through traditional means or independently.

For example, J.K. Rowling has published the print editions of Harry Potter books through Bloomsbury/Scholastic but sells her audio and ebook versions through her Pottermore company.

Another example would be Joanna Penn, the author behind the Creative Penn blog. She has published her books traditionally as well as on her own.

How to Work with a Hybrid Publisher

The first thing that you want to do is evaluate the hybrid publisher to make sure that you get the most bang for your buck. To help you out, the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA) released their guide for finding a reputable hybrid publisher.

Here’s what you should look for:

  • Define a mission and vision for its publishing program. Hybrid publishers should have some sort of selection criteria other than “the author was willing to pay us.”
  • Vet submissions. Pretty much the same as above — they shouldn’t be willing to publish anything that lands on their desk.
  • Publish under its own imprint(s) and ISBNs. They can’t hide their back catalog from future authors.
  • Publish to industry standards. If their books are missing copyright pages and the layouts are “unfamiliar” – you need to find a better publisher.
  • Ensure editorial, design, and production quality. Hybrid publishers can’t cut corners on editorial or design work. If their books have awful covers and typo-ridden copy, run.
  • Pursue and manage a range of publishing rights. They should have a vested interest in the success of your book.
  • Provide distribution services. They can’t just make your book available for bookshops to buy – you can easily do that yourself. They need to work to place your book with retailers actively.
  • Demonstrate respectable sales. What makes you think yours will be any different if they’ve never managed to sell anyone else’s book?
  • Pay authors a higher-than-standard royalty. If you’re publishing your book, you should get a bigger cut of the profits.

Once you’ve found a good hybrid publisher, you’ve got to decide whether this publishing route is best for you.

The Benefits and Drawbacks

As with every form of publishing, hybrid publishing has some good and bad things going for it. Let’s start with the good.

The Benefits

I wanted to touch on the benefits first because self-published and traditionally published authors alike both have a negative outlook on hybrid publishing. If done right, hybrid publishing can be a wonderful avenue for publishing your novel.

  • They may have excellent industry connections. Some hybrid publishers are subsidiaries of bigger presses, which means they could have access to the parent company’s marketing materials.
  • They can handle the things you have no interest in handling. If you just want to write, then this might be a good option for you. Some hybrid publishers will handle the marketing, design, and editorial work for you. Just remember that this costs money to do.
  • You get a bigger share of the royalties. Like self-publishing, hybrid publishing allows authors to take a bigger share of the royalties for every copy of a book they sell. They still take a cut of your sales, though.
  • They guide you throughout the process. Hybrid publishing hits the sweet spot between the freedom of self-publishing and the structure of traditional publishing.

That’s the good. Now, let’s look at the bad.

The Drawbacks

Many authors are skeptical of hybrid publishing and for a good reason. In the past, hybrid publishing was host to a bunch of scams to separate writers from their money.

Scams were a huge problem. So please do your research and follow the guidelines that the IBPA has laid out.

Aside from scams, there are some other things to consider:

  • They may struggle with sales and marketing. A lot of these types of publishers are one the small side. Subsequently, they may not have the connections that a traditional publisher does, leaving you to pick up the slack.
  • You’re responsible for most of the financial risk. Make no mistake, you are footing the bill to publish your book. If things don’t go according to plan, you may not recover any of the money you’ve spent.
  • Other publishing options may be more appropriate. If your book has significant commercial potential, you might want to pursue a traditional publishing contract. Similarly, self-publishing might be a better option if you’re willing to put the work in to publish your novel on your own.
  • Hybrid publishing doesn’t match your goals. If you want the accolades that come with traditional publishing, go for that option. If you want to do everything yourself, do that. How much money you’re willing to spend is also going to factor into your decision.

Hybrid publishing can be an excellent option for writers looking for someone to guide them through the self-publishing landscape. It can also help authors distribute and market their books to a wider audience.

However, we must keep in mind that the best hybrid publishers offer a value that the author would have a hard time securing on her own, and should also pay better royalties than a traditional publishing deal.

And if the hybrid publisher says, “Here’s a package of services you can buy,” then it’s most likely a dressed-up self-publishing firm or a scam. So make sure you do your research before signing a contract.

Have you worked with a hybrid publisher? Or do you have any questions about them? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Stay safe, everyone.

Until next time.



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Danielle Adams

Danielle Adams

Danielle Adams is a writer and editor for a local marketing agency. She has formerly worked as a writer for the Investing News Network and as an editor for Whetstone, a bi-annually published literary magazine. Aside from writing, Danielle has an unabiding love for all marine life and the outdoors. She loves taking long hikes with her husband and cooking delicious meals in the kitchen.


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