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Hybrid Publishing: A Publishing Alternative, Not a Scam

Earlier this year, the Society of Authors and the Writers Guild of Great Britain issued a joint report regarding the hybrid publishing model called “Is it a Steal?” In this report, hybrid publishing came under fire as being “the worst option a writer can take” and accusing hybrid publishers of predatory practices.

For those who aren’t familiar with hybrid publishing, it’s a publishing model whereby the author subsidizes most or all of the costs of publishing the book while their publishing partner leverages their knowledge and expertise to create a quality book and send it out into the proper distribution channels to reach the author’s ideal readers.

As in any industry, there are bad actors out there.

You must do your due diligence before signing any contract. Some companies use aggressive marketing tactics trying to sell you on services and add-ons that you don’t really need, while others aren’t transparent about their contracts and will publish anything as long as you can pay them to do so. Still others produce poor quality books with little to no sales potential, intent on generating all their revenue from the fees they charge with little regard for earning income from their share of royalties.

But the bad actors are not the norm in this industry.

As a member of the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA), I have met many hybrid publishers who truly put their authors’ needs foremost in their business practices. You’ll meet a few of them in the video below.

Brooke Warner, publisher of She Write Press, says:

“Hybrid publishers are, in fact, more author-centric than traditional publishers because of the collaborative nature of our business model. I’ve always seen hybrid publishing as the best of both worlds—in which the author retains a lot of creative control while benefitting from the expertise of publishing professionals who know this complicated industry inside and out.”

For many authors, hybrid publishing provides a valuable service.

They are partnering with their publisher for the professional support they need to create the books they want quickly while adhering to industry standards for quality books. For these authors, learning how to self-publish may require an investment of time they simply aren’t interested in taking away from their other priorities. Or publishing may require a level of technical aptitude they recognize they lack. But the passion for writing is still there, and they’d love to get their books into the hands of readers, which the hybrid publishing model enables them to do.

Your path to publishing your book is a personal one.

You should choose the one that fits your goals, skills, temperament and budget the best. So it pains me to see authors being shamed by people who boldly claim, “If you have to pay a publisher, it’s a scam.” I can’t help but think of all the good work hybrid publishers do for authors whose books might not otherwise ever see the light of day.

There are countless amazing books that readers get to experience because the author believed in themselves enough (and understood their abilities and priorities well enough) to work with a hybrid publisher to produce their book.

Canadian author, Mark Leslie Lefebvre, who is also the Director of Business Development for Draft2Digital, says:

“The [publishing] model that works best when you want to have a long-term writer career is making sure that you adjust your goals for each book project. Each book has its own unique path. Each project has its own unique marketing path and publishing path.”

Knowing the market and which readers will be most interested in your book helps determine where your book needs to be available. And sometimes publishers simply have better options to get your book where you want it to go, even though self-publishing would otherwise be a completely viable option.

So the decision as to which publishing model is right for you is an individual choice, not just for you, but for your book as well. If you have ten books, you aren’t limited to following the same publishing model for each one of them. Knowing how you plan to get your book into the hands of readers may dictate that you need more help in some areas than others. So, while it may make sense to self-publish many of them, you may want help with others.

Stereotyping any publishing model is short-sighted.

It’s clear that hybrid publishing is going through some tough growing pains right now, just as self-publishing did years ago when it wasn’t widely accepted as a viable publishing option. It took years for author-publishers who were producing their own works to gain the respect and recognition their books deserved. And hybrid publishers are faced now with stereotyping and disrespect just as self-publishing was before.

The myths surrounding hybrid publishing.

To give you a better understanding of hybrid publishing and some of the misinformation we regularly hear repeated, Emerald Lake Books convened a panel of four hybrid publishers to talk about the myths surrounding hybrid publishing and what you need to know to make an informed decision regarding your publishing options. This discussion took place as part of the annual Publish with Purpose virtual summit in October 2022.

The panelists include Teri Rider from Top Reads Publishing, JuLee Brand from W. Brand Publishing, Alexa Bigwarfe from Kat Biggie Press and Purple Butterfly Press, and Tara R. Alemany from Emerald Lake Books. We invite you to listen in as we discuss (and bust) many of the myths surrounding hybrid publishing.

(Want to skip to a specific topic in the video? Check out the guide at the end of this article.)

Hybrid publishing isn’t “evil.”

We hope after hearing how these publishers address the myths surrounding our industry that you’ll see that hybrid publishing is a viable and proven publishing model.

 “Where bad actors are concerned, I think it’s an inevitability that we’re seeing an explosion right now because hybrid publishing has gained so much legitimacy,” says Brooke Warner. “Whenever that happens, you’ll have critics and copycats and scammers. It’s so important that authors do their homework and not throw the baby out with the bath water. Hybrid publishing is here to stay, and it’s the success and longevity of the hybrid publishers, in the end, that will rise above the noise.”

If you’re considering working with a hybrid publisher…

Angela Bole, the CEO of IBPA, had this advice to share:

“It’s important to research each organization to be sure it’s reputable, but assuming it is, a hybrid publisher is a fine option for the educated author. Authors and potential authors are welcome to use IBPA’s Hybrid Publisher Criteria to help make this research easier.”

We highly recommend using the recently updated Hybrid Publisher Criteria to gauge whether a hybrid publisher you’re interested in is one you’d benefit from working with.

Perhaps after watching this panel discussion and reading this article, the next time you hear “If you have to pay a publisher, it’s a scam,” you’ll understand why that’s simply not the case…

The original version of this article first appeared on the New Shelves blog as a guest post written by Tara Alemany.

Video Guide

Here’s a quick guide to our interview discussion:

00:00 – Introduction

03:11 – Financial Myth: Hybrid publishers don’t have any skin in the game.

04:48 – What is the relationship like between hybrid publishers and their authors?

06:31 – Do hybrid publishers upcharge their services?

08:28 – What distinguishes a good hybrid publisher from a vanity press?

11:22 – Why choose a hybrid publisher over self-publishing?

13:58 – Quality Myth: Hybrid publishers are actually vanity presses and will publish any book.

15:57 – Quality Myth: Hybrid publishers use inexperienced workers and ready-made templates.

21:15 – What percent of books do hybrid publishers accept?

23:30 – Aggressive Sales Tactic Myth: Hybrid publishers find potential authors by cold calling and blind emailing.

29:24 – Marketing Myth: Books published by hybrid publishers aren’t available in bookshops and other retailers.

32:10 – Marketing Myth: Hybrid publishers do not do any marketing of their books.

32:47 – How much of the marketing is on the author versus the publisher?

40:15 – Should you stop marketing your book after it’s published?

42:18 – Are hybrid publishers invested in their authors?

46:01 – Transparency Myth: Hybrid publishers offer unclear contracts.

50:19 – Transparency Myth: Hybrid publishers do not make their processes clear, especially regarding what the author has to pay for.

56:06 – What’s the submission process like at Emerald Lake Books?

1:01:26 – What are some warning signs of a vanity press or scam?

1:06:48 – What should authors do when approaching a hybrid publisher?

1:09:12 – What should authors not do when approaching a hybrid publisher?

1:16:02 – How can you contact our speakers?

1:20:30 – Why did Tara Alemany start Emerald Lake Books?

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