Defining The Hybrid Publishing Experience

If you’ve spent much time on this blog or researching your publishing options, you probably have a fairly substantial definition in mind for the terms “self-publishing” and “traditional publishing,” but can you say the same for “hybrid publishing“?  We use the term rather often here on Self Publishing Advisor as a catch-all for every company and business model that doesn’t fit neatly into the aforementioned binary––but what does it mean, really?  It’s not enough to define a thing by what it is not … we need some basis for a positive, holistic understanding of what hybrid publishing has to offer the indie author.

What qualifies as “hybrid”?

Biologically speaking, a hybrid is “the offspring of two plants or animals of different species or varieties, such as a mule (a hybrid of a donkey and a horse).” Most of us are familiar with a different kind of hybrid, which is to say the mythological kind, where different species find themselves mashed up into one single creature on a physical but not cellular level.  A centaur is a mythological hybrid between man and horse, the Sphinx between a woman, lion, and raptor.  Is a hybrid publishing company, then, the offspring of two warring traditions (self- and traditional publishing)––or is it some oddball thing that adopts the best or most distinctive features of other publishing traditions to serve an entirely different narrative?

Says Jane Friedman of Publisher’s Weekly, it has become “nearly impossible to categorize certain publishers and services; some wish to avoid being labeled altogether. They consider themselves innovators, providing an important alternative for authors.”  These companies self-advertise as providing a third way altogether, not just cutting the difference between the two established publishing modes.  This reality would seem to indicate that hybrid publishing shares more with a centaur than it does with a mule, but perhaps we’re splitting hairs.

Perhaps, when it all shakes out, we can safely define hybrid publishing on its own terms.  Brook Warner of Huff Post Books suggests  four categories that fit the catchall term:

Traditional publishers who’ve been brokering hybrid deals for years. […]

Partnership publishing models. […]

Agent-assisted publishing models. [… and]

Other assisted publishing models.

All four of these categories acknowledge “assistance” as a defining feature, but here’s the problem: assuming that self-publishing and traditional publishing don’t  offer assistance as a part of their mechanism creates a false dichotomy that does nobody justice, and many companies that Warner might call “hybrid” do in fact distance themselves intentionally from the term because it implies too heavy a reliance on paid assistance––or authors “taking the easy way out,” so to speak.  This just in: elitism may be the bread and butter of gatekeeping traditional publishing, but it doesn’t have to be the same for self-publishing!

This still leaves us with a problem, however: How to define hybrid publishing?  Let me suggest a new definition:

Hybrid publishing is any publishing model that allows authors to enter into direct, flexible, contractual collaborations with industry professionals that in traditional publishing would be indirect (they would be paid by the publishing house, not the author) and are not traditionally available to self-publishing authors.  This includes companies like Outskirts Press, which offers a range of collaborative services, and excludes the so-called “hybrid author,” or someone who has moved from traditional publishing into self-publishing or vice versa.

Playing the field:

As Friedman goes on to point out, each of the companies that might fit into the hybrid category operates on a different business model, making it difficult to compare them against each other.  She advocates asking a series of questions, such as “How will your books be distributed?” and “What marketing and promotion support do their titles receive?” before committing to a certain choice.  But this doesn’t exactly help new authors decide whether hybrid publishing and a “third way” is for them––and with so many options now available, narrowing the field is an important part of the decision-making process. Ultimately, the choice of whom to choose may rest on individual features such as those Friedman suggests evaluating … or it may rest instead on the complicated matrix of human need.  Hybrid publishing companies, despite their extreme differences, do seem to collectively meet authors’ desires for a human-driven, relational publishing experience.

In conclusion … for now:

The world of hybrid publishing is perhaps a bit too complicated to break down in its entirety within the constraints of an initial foray such as this one, but it is a world we will be returning to again and again here on Self-Publishing Advisor.  As the world of publishing evolves and diversifies, so too must the companies who serve to send our stories out into that world.


Thank you for reading!  If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, or contributions, please use the comment field below or drop us a line at selfpublishingadvice@gmail.com.  And remember to check back each Wednesday for your weekly dose of marketing musings from one indie, hybrid, and self-published author to another. ♠

KellyABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog, kellyschuknecht.com.

Marketing BASICS : Investing in a Little Advice

Your book isn’t just a product, as neat and simple as that might seem to make things when it comes to marketing; it’s much, much more.  It is, in every way and shape and form, an investment.

  • you have already invested valuable time, energy, and other resources in writing it; and
  • you will continue to invest valuable time, energy, and other resources in marketing it.

More importantly, however, you should constantly monitor how you are spending these resources in respect to spreading the word and promoting it to fans and followers and readers alike.  In a impossibly cool and detached financial sense, you need to know when you’re spending more on your book than you should be––and then be prepared to take action.  (Though, let’s face it, who of us is ever cool and detached about our precious offspring of the imagination?  Not I.)  The Return on Investment (ROI) of your book should always reflect a balanced approach and a sustainable increase of returns.


 

Welcome back to my series on marketing B.A.S.I.C.S.!  This is the fifth in a series of blog posts where I tackle the fundamentals of marketing in hopes of making things a little more manageable for you, the self-publishing author.  Four weeks ago I launched the series with this introductory post, followed by:

This week, as you might have guessed, we’re taking a look at:

  • I. “Investing in a Little Advice.”

So, what happens when your investment isn’t paying off?

First off, I’d like to remind you that no matter what profit you make off of your book in financial terms, it’s an absolutely fantastic thing that you’ve done!  You’ve written a book!  You’ve published it!  You’ve sent it out into the world for others to be changed by!

Secondly, I’d like to clear up a myth about self-publishing: you don’t have to go through it alone.  Let me phrase it a little differently:

There’s nothing wrong with asking for help.

I wish I had known this sooner––I wish I’d felt convicted of the truth of this sooner.  I’ll be the first to admit that one of the greatest appeals to me of self-publishing is that it provides a platform to and a haven for the fierce individualist, exactly the sort of person to incur the wrath of Traditional Publishing for wanting too much artistic control, among other things.  But the truth of the matter is that self-publishing is for everyone, including the insecure first-time author, including the burnt-out and disillusioned veteran author, including the technologically-challenged author, including the risk-averse author, including authors who find themselves at the end of the rope and in desperate need of assistance.

The indie community isn’t just a community of self-assured and confident entrepreneurs; we’re far more diverse than that.  And the indie community is a remarkably non-judgmental, unsnobby collection of people, in possession of vast and varied resources and an overwhelmingly supportive, generous spirit.  I promise you, if you hop on to a forum or listserv or social media group dedicated to indie authors and pose a question, you will be inundated with advice and shared resources.

Of course, sometimes what you really need is targeted advice.  If you have been posting promotional material to a blog or social media platform for a long time with very little engagement, or if you’ve been spending hours upon hours obsessing over marketing only to sell very few books, it’s time you sought professional advice.  But where to begin?  Even just a quick Google search for “Consultant for self-publishing a book” turns up “About 7,330,000 results,” which says a lot about the growth in this sector of the publishing industry––even once Google’s many duplicates, oblique references, outdated listings, and other “wrong” search results are set aside.  Seven million results!

There are a lot of marketing consultation websites out there geared toward you, the self-publishing author, ranging from freelance consultants (including many who’ve transitioned from being publishing consultants within Traditional Publishing) to personal marketing assistants with hybrid/self-publishing companies.  Freelance consultants can be excellent, but it’s difficult to know which ones have the know-how you need.  The benefit of going through a hybrid/self-publishing company is that every consultant has been vetted for expertise, experience, and the quality of their insight.  That’s a pedigree worth exploring.

marketing consultant

No illusions here: when it comes to seeking professional advices on marketing your book, you’ll have to spend some money.  Remember how I spoke about your book as an investment?  So too any money you spend on marketing is the same.  The only difference is, exchanging money to save yourself the time and energy and frustration of sorting out all the details on your own is what we might call a “fair market value.”  It’s worth it, in other words, to see your book’s future set on a solid foundation and to use your time far more effectively in writing the next book.


Thank you for reading!  If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, or contributions, please use the comment field below or drop us a line at selfpublishingadvice@gmail.com.  And remember to check back each Wednesday for your weekly dose of marketing musings from one indie, hybrid, and self-published author to another. ♠

KellyABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog, kellyschuknecht.com.

2 Things that Can REALLY Crush Your Book

If your sales figures are low many times it can be due to faulty or inconsistent marketing. Sometimes you just can’t get the word out to your audience. People are ready to read your book, but they have to know it exists. Ideally, you hire a book marketing consultant or try to “go it alone” and hope that book sales are the result of your efforts.

What happens when you’ve come up with the perfect book promotion strategy but no one is buying the book? Many times you just need to change gears. Maybe the activities you have invested your time into aren’t really reaching your target market. You have to figure out where your target market is “hanging out”, go there, and mingle with them. But, that’s not the purpose of today’s post. Today, we are aiming to reveal the two biggest book crushers. If you feel like you’ve tried everything to get people to purchase your book to no avail, you may need to re-evaluate your book and make sure that you’re not committing either of the following critical errors:

  • A boring cover. Books really are judged by their cover. It’s a cliché we use very often here. However, we can’t stress the importance of that statement enough. A professionally-designed book cover can make you stand heads and shoulders above other books on the market (all other things being equal). A boring (read: template) book cover could mean that your book won’t be seen. In a sea filled with many fishes, you have to stand out. If you don’t, no worm for you!
  • Lack of editing. Have you ever read a book that is filled with errors? Doesn’t it make it much harder to not only read the book but also take the author seriously? That book = your book if you choose not to hire an editor.

Either or both of these can kill your book very early in the game.

What other “book crushers” can you think of?

ABOUT WENDY STETINA:
Wendy Stetina is a sales and marketing professional with over 30 years experience in the printing and publishing industry. Wendy works as the Director of Author Services for Outskirts Press. The Author Services Department is composed of knowledgeable customer service reps and publishing consultants; and together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process in order 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, Wendy Stetina can put you on the right path.