By Hannah Mokijewski / September 18, 2016
As the digital age of publishing progresses, the necessity for traditional publishers is continually put under the microscope. Many have claimed that the publishing industry is “broken” in the sense that authors no longer require publishers to produce their content. In the face of rejection from publishers, or in some cases a desire to disassociate from big name houses, authors have turned to the myriad of available platforms that allow anyone and everyone to produce content, package and disseminate. Arguably the biggest enabler of self-published titles, Amazon, has taken the competition between traditional and self-publishing to a controversial extreme with their near-impossible discounting practice that is misleading consumers (who now expect all e-books to come cheap cheap cheap), and creating anguish for traditional houses that can’t beat the infamous Amazon discount.
Indeed, self-publishing has “broken” the industry, but both authors and publishers end up worse for wear. Publishers end up fruitlessly competing with monster competitors like Amazon, while authors miss out on the undeniable value that publishers add to any title. How much better could your manuscript have become with the eye of a skilled editorial team? More successful with a targeted marketing strategy, a network of distributors and retailers? Thousands of manuscripts end up in the toss pile at publishing houses, but at least if selected your book has a “real” shot at ending up in our hands (or on our screens). Of course there are exceptions to every rule.
Just a few weeks ago, author Eva Lesko Natiello’s self-published novel, The Memory Box, made both The New York Times and USA TODAY Bestseller Lists. Natiello tried unsuccessfully to have the book picked up by a trade publisher for 7 years, and eventually decided to self-publish via – you guessed it – Amazon. The Memory Box is available in Kindle, paperback, MP3 CD, and audible formats, with well over 100,000 copies sold to date. For authors without Natiello’s good fortune, how can your content succeed in the marketplace when no publisher will bite? Enter hybrid publishing.
Hybrid publishing is defined in many ways depending on who you ask, but in essence it combines the creative control of self-publishing and the publishing services of a traditional house, with one small catch – the author pays. Authors who choose the hybrid route make an upfront investment in the form of a predetermined fee in exchange for editorial, marketing and distribution services. Authors maintain creative control as far as final editorial, design, and marketing decisions, and receive a far higher royalty percentage than if they had gone with a traditional publisher. Some hybrid publishers, such as Evolve, allow up to 81% in royalties (higher than Amazon!) depending on which services the author opts to use, as opposed to the 10-15% royalty (25% for e-books) offered on average by traditional publishers.
So what does hybrid publishing mean for the industry as a whole? Many would say next to nothing, that hybrid and vanity presses, which have been around for a long time, are the same thing. Nicole Audrey Spector of Publisher’s Weekly would disagree. In her article, “The Indie Author’s Guide to Hybrid Publishing”, she states:
“Though it may be fair to call [vanity publishing houses] hybrids, they skew more toward self-publishing because almost any author can publish with them. The hybrid publishers that stand out more clearly are those that screen submissions and have a strong sense of branding.”
In this sense, true hybrid publishers are those that maintain standards comparable to traditional houses, whereas vanity publishers will produce any content that lands on their desk (as long as a check accompanies it).
Advantages of hybrid publishing for authors are apparent:
- Increased royalties
- Creative and distribution control
- Near-immediate publication
- Personalized/guaranteed attention
Traditional publishers, however, are seemingly unaffected. Traditional houses aren’t running low on submissions, so besides the risk of losing that one bestseller to a hybrid publisher, hybrid companies pose little threat. If anything at all, hybrid companies are aiding in the good fight against Amazon’s market dominance, by combining the best of both worlds for authors – the autonomy of self-publishing with the skill set of an established house – and selling at market value. Hybrid publishing is certainly not the solution to a broken industry, but perhaps more authors will be drawn away from Amazon’s KDP and CreateSpace, in favor of a more competitive option.