Hybrid publishing is a new model of publishing in which an author works with a publishing company but pays to publish in exchange for higher royalties. Some in the publishing industry disregard this new category because the idea of paying to publish suggests (to them) poor quality, like the books that vanity presses produced years ago. However, hybrid publishing is not vanity publishing. The hybrid press vets books before agreeing to publish them and offers active distribution.
The new model is a win-win: presses can afford to put out more books, contributing their knowledge and clout, and authors have additional venues to approach and the opportunity to make larger royalties—over 50 percent, compared with about 10 percent with traditional publishers.
Unfortunately, the publishing world is cluttered with scam artists, and the various publishing models that now exist create confusion and enable these scammers to take advantage of authors. Many companies have started using the word “hybrid” since hybrid publishing has gained some acceptance.
Standards for Hybrid Publishers
To help legitimate hybrid presses and authors continue to connect, this month the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA) announced a set of criteria for hybrid publishers. If you’re an author interested in working with a hybrid publisher, the criteria can help you filter your options.
Here’s a summary of the criteria:
- A hybrid publisher has a mission and a vision, and doesn’t just publish a mishmash of books.
- A hybrid publisher vets submissions, rather than publishing anything it can.
- A hybrid publisher has a knowledgeable person or team producing books under the publisher’s imprint, with the publisher’s ISBNs.
- A hybrid publisher’s books meet industry quality standards; readers should not be able to tell them apart from traditionally published books.
- A hybrid publisher uses approved editors and designers to produce professional books.
- A hybrid publisher manages a variety of rights for the book (print, digital, and possibly others like audio and foreign-language) or negotiates with authors who want to keep some rights.
- A hybrid publisher provides distribution beyond simply making the book available online. This can involve sales reps who actively market the book or targeted outreach, and also involves listing the book with wholesalers. The publisher should have a marketing strategy for each book and assist the author in carrying it out.
- A hybrid publisher should have several books that show respectable sales.
- A hybrid publisher pays higher royalties than is standard in the industry, usually greater than 50 percent of net on both print and digital books.
You can view the IBPA’s full criteria here: http://www.ibpa-online.org/page/hybridpublisher (click on the “expanded details here” link to see the detailed version).
Tips for Authors
In a webinar last month, the IBPA’s Brooke Warner shared these tips for authors investigating hybrid publishers:
- Ask about the criteria listed above: does the publisher vet submissions, partner with authors on marketing, and have some form of active distribution?
- Get physical copies of books from the publisher, to make sure they look and feel like “normal” books
- Demand transparency: ask about any additional costs beyond what’s covered in the publishing package and about royalty rates
- Talk to the publisher’s authors; asking for referrals is normal, so it’s a warning sign if the publisher won’t share author names
- Ask if the publisher qualifies for traditional reviews; some companies still suffer from the stigma of being an author-subsidized press
- Check the publisher’s website to see if it looks professional
- See what kind of response you get after contacting the publisher, and trust your instincts if the response seems lacking
She also shared these best practices for authors considering hybrid publishing in general:
- Educate yourself about publishing and the hybrid experience
- Read about different hybrid models and see if one press’s model feels better than others
- Only approach a hybrid publisher if you are ready to go the hybrid route—don’t do it while your agent is still trying to sell your book to traditional publishers
- Before approaching, consider your publicity ideas; most hybrid contracts do not include publicity
Hybrid publishing is an exciting new option for today’s authors, and will contribute more good books to the world!
(Note: a hybrid author is someone who publishes traditionally and non-traditionally and is not related to a hybrid publisher.)