While researching how to publish your book, you might’ve stumbled upon a relatively new term: hybrid publishing.
In summary, hybrid publishing is when an author pays a publishing service to edit, produce, and distribute a book. A company dedicated to hybrid publishing is often called a hybrid press.
But how does hybrid publishing differ from other models? Any confusion is understandable. After all similar terms are used for similar services.
I’ll run through the similarities and differences between each one, so you’re better equipped to understand which pathway is right for you.
So how does hybrid publishing differ from traditional publishing?
In traditional publishing, a publisher acquires a small number of books, pays an advance to the author, and handles the editing, production, and selling of the book in collaboration with the author while still retaining control of the publication process.
Hybrid presses are similar in that they vet projects to ensure they can work in good faith with the author; yet, it’s much easier to get published with a hybrid press than in traditional publishing.
In this respect, hybrid publishing is good for authors who have looked into traditional publishing and either haven’t had luck or are uninterested.
And yes, an author does have to pay a hybrid press for its service, and hybrid presses do not pay out advances. But at the same time, an author retains book rights and can pick and choose individual services.
On top of that, authors receive royalties right away, while traditionally published authors must earn the full amount of their advance before receiving royalties. That makes an advance a double-edged sword—especially since traditional publishers often drop authors who don’t make back their advance.
In short, an author with a hybrid press assumes a share of a book’s financial risk (via paying upfront fees) in exchange for more freedom and flexibility over publication.
How hybrid publishing differs from self-publishing
With these differences in mind, you may wonder why one would pay a hybrid press when self-publishing is free.
Technically, a writer can self-publish a book for zero money. However, in practice, self-publishers must invest their own money into their books if they are going to make a profit.
Bestselling books require a range of services that practically most authors can’t manage by themselves: editing, proofreading, book design, page layout, production, distribution, marketing, publicity, sales . . .
An author can’t do it all, which is why traditionally, they work with a publisher. Successful self-publishers instead hire out these services, such as getting a freelance editor or working with specialty companies.
But what if you don’t want to coordinate these services yourself? That’s where hybrid publishing comes in. With a hybrid publisher, you can work with a single point-of-contact who collaborates with you to decide on which services you want to pay to delegate and compile it into a single publishing package.
Isn’t a hybrid press just a vanity press?
Many horror stories are floating out there about vanity presses. The term vanity press describes companies that lure in writers with big promises, charge exorbitant upfront fees for basic services, and seize unreasonable control over authors’ book rights.
But don’t be confused: hybrid presses are not vanity presses. Several factors distinguish the hybrid model from vanity publishing.
First, most hybrid presses are more selective, as many will turn down prospective authors that wouldn’t work for their model. Meanwhile, vanity presses will accept almost everyone. Yet, vanities do not assume their share of the risk that other publishers typically assume.
Vanity presses also attempt to profit off authors by gradually ramping up add-ons for services, charging severely more than the industry standard and for less quality.
However, hybrid presses are flexible and reasonable with their service prices and are happy to negotiate with writers to agree-upon packages that fit within the writer’s budget and needs.
The largest red flag for vanity presses is that they seize control of an author’s rights and will refuse to release them even if the author finds the press’s work unsatisfactory—at least not without a severe kill fee. Even traditional publishers are more willing to revert rights to the author if they agree they can’t work things out with an author.
A great advantage of hybrid publishers is that authors retain full rights over their work. An author can choose to walk away at any time and publish a book through another route.
How hybrid publishing is like indie publishing
Because hybrid publishing is such a new concept, some sources consider the hybrid approach to be synonymous with indie publishing. Some hybrid presses do consider themselves indie or independent.
Yet, not all indie presses are hybrid. Instead, many indie presses operate identically to traditional publishers. The main difference is that indies are either self-owned—not belonging to a conglomerate—or are much smaller than the Big Five publishers.
In other cases, an indie press may be the self-fashioned company of a single self-publisher or a small group of authors, perhaps the owners having incorporated.
Finally, not all hybrid publishing is independent. Some teams provide hybrid publishing as a service while being a subsidiary or department of a larger organization.
With this in mind, some hybrid presses consider themselves indie publishing to the extent they embody the independent spirit of creating and releasing books outside the domain of the largest corporations.
Is hybrid publishing right for you?
Now that you know what hybrid publishing is, you may be wondering if you’ll want to put out your next book using one.
I’ll explain more about the prospective benefits of hybrid publishing in the next post in this series. For now, do take the time to consider your options, as the book industry is always bustling with new ways to publish.
Over to you: What’s your experience with hybrid publishing? What other questions do you have about releasing books through a hybrid publisher?
ABOUT ELIZABETH JAVOR: With over 20 years of experience in sales and management, Elizabeth Javor works as the Director of Sales and Marketing for Outskirts Press. The Sales and Marketing departments are composed of knowledgeable publishing consultants, customer service reps and book marketing specialists; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Elizabeth Javor can put you on the right path.