Is a pay-to-play model right for you?
Today, I’m continuing with my series on book publishing and am covering hybrid press. If you missed the first two articles, you can catch up by reading about traditional publishing and small press publishing.
There's controversy around the hybrid model. There isn't even an agreed-upon definition of what it is, and there are scammers who can take advantage of writers.
What is hybrid publishing?
Hybrid publishing is a combination of self and traditional publishing with a huge difference - money. The author rarely receives an advance, and if they do, it’s usually very small. The writer is also responsible for paying the publisher for most or all aspects of the book's production, marketing, and sales.
Authors who use this model get higher royalty rates if they sell books while also carrying the risk. And the publisher is still getting a decent-sized royalty, even after the writer pays for all their services.
The hybrid model is like traditional publishing because the hybrid publisher offers in-house services like book production, marketing, and sales. You pay for other people to produce and get the book out. The company does not carry risks like a traditional publisher because you pay them for the services you get.
No matter who you publish with, marketing efforts from almost any kind of publisher will end shortly after the initial book launch - unless you’re a major bestselling author. Publishers must move to the next book on their roster, so you'll have to do your own marketing and promotion if you want sales - no matter how you get your book out or what type of publisher you use. I can’t stress this enough.
No matter who you publish with, marketing efforts from almost any company will end shortly after the initial book launch.
With a proper hybrid publisher, pros and cons for the author include:
It's easier to find a company willing to publish the book.
Time and potential angst are minimized because the writer doesn’t have to learn, plan, and implement the various strategies to get a book out.
Higher royalties (if the book sells - a BIG if).
Higher-quality service, though this is not guaranteed.
Keeping control over his or her work. If you sign a contract with a hybrid publisher, make sure you read ALL the fine print. Keep 100% ownership of your work. Have a say in cover design and other aspects of production and marketing. You're paying for it!
Even though you’re paying the company to produce your book and release it, the hybrid publisher still gets a royalty! It doesn’t make sense.
Many scam companies call themselves hybrid publishers, so you need to be careful. If any approach you, take that as a red flag. The company could be legitimate, but odds are they're trying to get your money from you.
The writer puts up all the money for the book. And if you aren't 100% sure about the company, you could end up with a substandard book, poor editing, and little-to-no promotion.
Some make you purchase a certain number of books which could number in the thousands. The sad fact about publishing is that new authors are lucky to sell a few hundred books, so you could be left with a lot of books in your garage.
Is hybrid publishing the same as vanity publishing?
No. This has become quite confusing over the last ten years or so. Vanity publishing used to be any type outside a traditional publishing house where an author takes on the financial burden for their book. But when companies like Amazon KDP and IngramSpark came on the scene, they changed how publishing is done.
You need to invest your money to work with even a reputable hybrid press. Still, you'll work with a team of people who care about your publication. A vanity publisher doesn't care about your book; it only cares about making money.
That seems to be the new definition for vanity presses. They're companies that only care about making money for themselves; a reputable hybrid publisher naturally wants to make a profit but also cares about the books it puts out.
Spotting the difference can be challenging. One way to know for sure is that a vanity publisher will aggressively try to sell you overpriced services like marketing, press, editing, etc. Should you choose to go hybrid, take any hard sell of services as a red flag.
Hybrid versus Independent Publishing
There's a vast difference between hybrid and independent publishing. With hybrid, you're paying a company to undertake all aspects of your book and its release. You also might be required to buy a certain amount of your books on release.
With indie publishing, it's generally free to format and prepare the book for print through a print-on-demand (POD) company. (A couple of companies do charge to upload your manuscript or use its distribution services.)
A POD company like Amazon/KDP Print, IngramSpark, and Blurb don't charge for you to create your book. They only take a royalty when you sell it. And you’re free to hire editors, cover designers, book promoters, etc., as you see fit.
You don't have to hire services through the POD company - some don't offer anything beyond book printing. And you can save money and do it all yourself - not recommended, but definitely doable if you’re on a tight budget.
I'll go over all this in more detail when I write about indie publishing.
A note of caution
As I was researching hybrid publishing, I found that these types of publishers post glowing articles about how great hybrid press is.
Please be warned - they obviously want your money, even the reputable ones, so you need to dig in and do research before signing with any of them. Don't let anyone play on your ego or insecurities around publishing.
And if you are asked to sign a contract, read the fine print!!
My Opinion? No.
I won't ever use hybrid publishing. There's a lot of misleading information on the Internet. Or maybe that's too harsh. But there's a lot of "creative writing" around how wonderful hybrid press is. A friend was speaking with one recently, and it would have cost her at least $10,000 to publish her book. And it was a hybrid imprint through a reputable small publishing house. No, thank you.
I also think there's too much confusion around the types of hybrid publishing, and it would take a lot of research to find one that works. You could spend that time learning how to market and promote your book yourself.
Many still balk at an author doing their own marketing and promotion, yet very few authors get attention from a big publisher after the initial release. So even if you're at a Big 5, odds are you'll need to market and promote your work if you want any chance of decent sales.
So go indie and create your own success!
What do you think about hybrid publishing? Let me know below.
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