When it comes to publishing your book, there are several options that you may already be aware of. Most people know of traditional publishing, where you get a book deal and a publishing house is the one to publish your book, and self-publishing, where you take matters into your own hands and publish your own book. But there is a third option called hybrid publishing which we will also look at in this chapter.
The most important thing to know about publishing your book when it’s ready is that it takes time. Yes, you could probably upload a file on Amazon and have your book available within a few days, but we are writing this guide to ensure that you know everything that goes into the process so that you can proceed with intention and avoid making hasty or uninformed decisions. So let’s look at the three options for publishing your book: self-publishing, traditional publishing, and hybrid publishing. We’ll review each in that order and also cover where there might be some overlap between them.
Stick with us because we’ve got a lot to cover in this chapter!
Self-publishing is just what it sounds like: you publish your own book. If that sounds like a lot of work, well . . . it is. That’s because as a self-publisher you are taking on everything that goes into making a book after it’s written. With a traditional book deal (which we will cover in detail), you, the author, write the book and then hand it over to a publisher who takes care of everything else: the front and back matter, the editing, the formatting, the layout, the proofreading, the cover design, the printing, the distribution, the marketing.
Whew! That’s a long list!
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, that’s normal, and we’re here to help as much as we can. The good news is that with digital technology available in our modern age, things are easier than ever. It’s true: there are a lot of elements to consider and figure out. But if you have come this far, you’ve already done the hardest part of actually writing a book. And we have already covered front and back matter, editing, formatting, and cover design. So really all that’s left is the printing, distribution, and marketing. Let’s dig in, shall we?
How do I know if I should self-publish or not?
Deciding to self-publish is really a personal choice and it comes down to one big question: what is your main objective for publishing a book? For some authors, their main objective is simply to get a book deal. But if that isn’t you, and your main objective is to put the word author in your bio on your website well, then, self-publishing is probably your best option. Self-publishing is also best for folks who want to use their book as a calling card, to build authority and legitimacy in their niche, or to establish another revenue stream for their business. Self-published books are also a great way to generate potential leads for entrepreneurs and business leaders. If a potential client is hesitant to make a huge dollar investment in your products or services, but you have a book they can buy first then it’s a low-cost barrier for people go to get introduced to you and what you have to offer.
We know authors, including Pat, who have been offered a traditional book deal and turned it down, opting to self-publish instead. Why would someone in their right mind want to do that, you might ask. The reason is: control. When you self-publish, you make all the decisions on what the title will be, how the cover will look, what the price will be. And, you keep more of the revenue. With a traditional book deal, which we cover in the next section, the publisher owns the book, not you, and therefore has final say on all of those decisions. And, you have to share the revenue with them.
So to reiterate, self-publishing vs. traditional publishing really comes down to what you hope to accomplish with publishing a book. If you are still trying to figure that out, we recommend taking sometime to answer the question WHY? Why do you want to publish a book? Your answer should help you decide whether self-publishing is the path for you. Also be sure to read chapter 9 and chapter 11, where we look specifically at two of Pat’s self-published books, Will It Fly? and Superfans.
What are the options for self-publishing?
If you’re browsing books on Amazon you’ll probably notice that most are available as a paperback or Kindle version. So, yes, it’s standard practice to publish both a digital and print version. However, many authors do publish ebooks only. Again, since you’re self publishing, the choice is up to you. The questions to ask yourself right off the bat are:
- What format will I publish? Ebook? Print? Both?
- What platforms will I use for distribution? Amazon? iBooks? Barnes & Noble? Others?
Answering these questions will determine the type of format you’ll need for your book, because ebooks require a different format from print, and Amazon requires a different ebook file format than other distribution platforms. If you also want to publish a print version, you’ll need to determine if you’ll use print-on-demand or handle printing on your own. Deciding on the format of your book will impact how you distribute and market your book, and each format type has a number of different variables.
Ebooks are a go-to choice for many self-publishers because it can be as easy as creating a pdf and standing up a payment gateway on your own site. This is especially effective for authors with an established audience or experienced content creators who get a lot of unique traffic to their site on a regular basis. This option usually satisfies the goal of establishing a source of passive revenue, and one that allows you as the author to keep 100 percent of the revenue. However, many authors opt to publish ebooks on Amazon because they feel that, even as a self-publisher, it brings a level of legitimacy to their book and to themselves as an author.
Even if you want to publish a paperback version of your book, most people expect to see the ebook version as an option on Amazon. Ebooks are usually priced lower than paperbacks because there is no cost to produce a unit since it is a digital file, and it’s an easy way to make a lower price-point available. It’s also a little bit easier to produce, because you don’t need to have the book’s interior designed and laid out for print. There is some design involved in selecting fonts, setting heading styles, and you’ll still need a cover, but most of that can be done easily enough in a Word document rather than a specialized software program like Adobe’s InDesign.
The main thing to know with ebooks is that for publishing on Amazon you need a .mobi file format and for every other platform (iBooks, Barnes & Noble, etc.) you need a .epub file. Amazon will do the file conversion if you upload a Word file or a PDF, but we do recommend doing it yourself or hiring someone who has done it before to ensure that there is no funky formatting that happens in the conversion. If you don’t have any other option than to use Amazon, we recommend as much QA and testing of the file as you can manage on your own and with anyone else who you can solicit to help. Amazon has simulators that allow you to test the file. You can also simply add the file to your own Kindle or e-reader app before uploading it for publishing.
If you also want to publish a paperback version, then you need to have the interior designed and laid out, and you also need a full-jacket cover (both of which we cover in chapter 4 on design). That means in addition to the front cover, your book will also need a spine and a back cover. You’ll also need to decide how you’ll get the book printed. Amazon’s print-on-demand (POD) service CreateSpace lets you upload your book file and make it available for purchase in print on Amazon. When a book is ordered, CreateSpace prints and ships it to the buyer. Hence POD: a book is printed only when it’s purchased.
POD is convenient for many reasons and sometimes inconvenient for others. It’s convenient because basically all you have to do is upload your file and then the printer does the rest. They process orders, payment, fulfillment, and send your cut of the revenue on a predetermined frequency. It could be considered inconvenient because of things like set dimensions, meaning your file has to meet their required measurements for size. Or because there’s a fixed unit cost to produce a paperback, which also determines your minimum price.
Traditional Print Run
You could use traditional printing, ordering a certain number of books in bulk from a printer you find on your own. In that case, you are the one storing the books (however many you order) and fulfilling orders when a purchase is made. This option involves more legwork on your end because you have to research and find the printer you want to use. It does allow some flexibility with cost, depending on production value and often where the printer is located, and can then result in more control over determining your price. You also have more flexibility with the file dimensions, which may be important to you if you’re set on a non-standard size book.
We don’t typically recommend this option for authors, because with a traditional print run all you’re getting is the printing. Most authors want to make the process as easy as possible, and packaging, labeling, and mailing a single book every time an order is placed is not exactly keeping things simple. You also have the up-front cost of getting the books printed.
Let’s recap. Here’s a quick breakdown comparing the three different options for self-publishing:
|✓.pdf file for self-hosted sales|
✓.mobi file for Amazon
✓.epub file for other platforms
✓front cover required
✓minimal design required
✓file conversion required
✓zero cost; lower price-point
|✓ interior design required|
✓ full-jacket cover required
✓ pdf file required
✓ dimensions set by platform
✓ fulfillment included
✓ unit cost; higher price-point
|✓ interior design required|
✓ full-jacket cover required
✓ pdf file required
✓ dimensions flexible
✓ storage & fulfillment required
✓ unit cost; higher price-point
My book is formatted; how do I make it available for sale?
The most popular distribution platform, as you might have guessed, is Amazon.com. It’s the most popular for distribution because it’s also the most popular for shopping. It’s a sad but true tale for those of us diehard independent bookstore supporters, but Amazon has definitely cornered the market for online shopping, especially for buying books. So if you are trying to sell a book, the best advice we can give you is to get it where the buyers are and that is, at a minimum, Amazon.com. As mentioned in the section above, you can distribute both an ebook and print version of your book on Amazon. You’ll need an account with Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) to publish your ebook on Amazon. You can also use Amazon’s own POD service CreateSpace if that is the route you choose.
For other ebook distribution channels such as iBooks for Apple devices, Barnes & Noble for Nook devices, Kobo for Kobo devices, and other less mainstream e-readers here’s the catch: each has its own marketplace with its own platform management. That means if you want to be on these other platforms, you’re managing an administration account for each. You have to upload the file to each platform individually, enter your metadata like title, keywords, price, categories, description, etc. on each platform, and anytime you want to make changes you have to do it on each platform.
There are independent online services, like the outlier Smashwords, where you can upload your book file and enter your data once, and it acts as a distributor to the other platforms on your behalf. Update your book file and reupload it or change your pirce all on Smashwords, and it pushes the updates to the other sites. It’s a helpful service if you are dead set on being on other platforms in addition to Amazon. Most of the authors, however, see the majority of their sales come from Amazon and so don’t feel it’s worth spending time and energy on the others.
The same logic usually gets applied to the POD vs. traditional print run question. With POD, especially if you use CreateSpace, your paperback book is sold right alongside the ebook. Buyers can choose the version they want and it either gets delivered right to their device or shipped directly to them. You don’t have to do anything beyond making it available on the site.
But, again, this is where the decision depends on your goals. Maybe you have a large enough audience who would buy books directly from you on your own website. And maybe you have support staff who can process orders as they come in. Or maybe all you want to do is have books available for people to buy directly from you when you speak at conferences. All of those hypothetical situations could be very good reasons to go with a print run so that you have books on hand for when you need them.
We’ve mentioned several different options in this section. Let’s recap.
iBooks, B&N, Kobo, other
|✓KDP account required for ebooks|
✓CreateSpace account required for POD
✓automatically connects ebook & print version of
|✓individual account required per |
✓ebook distribution only
✓ebook distribution only
My book is available for purchase. Now what?
Congratulations on making it this far! Now the fun can begin. Well, it depends on your perspective. If you’re a nerd like most of us here at Team SPI, then everything leading up to this point has been fun. Others still think that the hardest part is yet to come: marketing. Yes, it’s a lot of work, but it’s also often the most fun part for many authors because of one reason: they get to talk about the book!
If you’re settled on self-publishing then you can skip or skim the rest of this chapter on hybrid and traditional publishing, and jump right to chapter 7 on marketing and selling. Now that your book is available, the next thing to do is: let people know about it!
Book Publishing Cheat Sheet
Get the Cheat Sheet
Sign up to receive emails from SPI and we'll give you access to our free Business Toolkit, including the Book Publishing Cheat Sheet.
Get a high-level overview of the five stages of publishing, from pre-writing to marketing, whether you're writing an ebook or a print book, and whether you're self-publishing or going the traditional route.
If you’re like every other writer on the face of the planet, you probably have a secret (or not-so-secret) dream: to be discovered by an agent, publisher, or editor who instantly recognizes your talent and brilliance and who offers you a three-book publishing deal complete with a six-figure advance.
This does happen from time to time. A writer we know was earning her MFA in creative writing, and one of her teachers told her that the novel she was working on was good—so good, in fact, that she should shop it around to literary agents. In just a few months, she had a book deal with a SEVEN-figure advance (yes, that’s a million-something and change) and her book ended up on the New York Times best seller list.
She’s living the dream, right?
But the problem is that stories like this are few and far between. Up-and-coming novelists, or well-known entrepreneurs, politicians, and celebrities may be courted by a publisher and get a big advance, but that doesn’t happen often. And that’s the great thing about the publishing landscape these days—you don’t have to wait to get discovered by the publishing gatekeepers. You can self-publish your work, as we discussed in the previous section, sell a lot of books, make money, and build credibility as an author and entrepreneur. The options authors have these days give you more power. That’s good news!
But what if you still have that dream of getting your book published by a traditional publisher? And what if you don’t want to deal with editing, formatting, designing, printing and distributing the book yourself? Then traditional publishing may be the route to go. You may not get a dramatic discovery or a big advance, but there are many, many authors who find a literary agent, get an advance, and experience the thrill of seeing their book on a book store shelf with a well-known publisher’s imprint on the spine.
Besides fulfilling a dream, traditional publishers offer many services and advantages that self-publishing does not. We’ve already talked about self-publishing, so now let’s talk about traditional publishing.
The Pros of Traditional Publishing
Credibility: First, you will have the advantage of being affiliated and represented by a publisher. When a reader sees your book on the bookstore shelf, they may ask: “Why should I read this book? Is this author credible? Can I trust them?” If you’re an unknown author, readers may be more likely to see your book as credible if it has been vetted and produced by a traditional publisher. While this attitude is changing rapidly, as self-published books are more common-place and there’s less stigma attached to self-publishing, some readers still want to recognize the publisher’s imprint on the spine of a book.
An advance: When your book proposal is accepted (we’ll talk about proposals in a bit), and you sign a contract with the publisher, typically you will receive an advance. This is up-front money a publisher gives you before any books are sold. Basically, the publisher is paying you advance royalties on what your book will eventually (and hopefully) earn. The amount will be based on how much the publisher believes they can make from selling your book vs. the cost of publishing it. The advance could be any amount from a few thousand dollars to millions, but will likely be somewhere in-between. Typically you receive half of the advance when you sign the contract, and half when the publisher receives your complete manuscript.
Professional editing and proofreading: Once your book proposal is accepted, the contract signed, and the full manuscript submitted, a publisher will assign you an editor. Your editor will give you feedback on any issues you need to address in your manuscript. He or she will help you polish your book and take it to the next level. A good author-editor relationship is invaluable, and your editor will help you grow as a writer. Your book may go through a few rounds of editing, and be sent back to you for rewrites and changes. Once it’s done, a proofreader will take over and make sure the manuscript is error free.
Book cover design: A traditional publisher will know market trends, what types of book covers sell well, and will help position your book in the marketplace. They typically have in-house designers who will provide you with a professionally-designed cover. Depending on your contract, you will be able to offer suggestions for the cover design, but the publisher usually has the final say since they are investing money in your book and they know best what cover design will help your book sell.
Exposure: If you long to have your book reviewed in the New York Times Book Review, then traditional publishing is the way to go. Publishers have sources and contacts throughout the publishing industry, and know where and to whom to send your book for review. Publishers also have relationships with bookstores, and have sales people who will pitch your book to bookstores in an attempt to get the bookstore to place it on their shelves. Industry knowledge about how to get your book out there and into the world, whether it’s by selling it in bookstores, garnering book reviews, or getting award nominations, is invaluable.
Promotion and marketing: Publishers know how to sell books. They know industry trends, what types of books are hot, how to create a marketing strategy, and how to position your book in a crowded marketplace. In the good old days of publishing, the publishing house would do all of the marketing and promoting for you. However, as the publishing industry has changed in the past two decades, publishers are relying more and more on authors to do their own marketing and promoting. We will cover how to do this in chapter 7. But even if you are required to do a lot of the marketing yourself, your publisher will offer some support.
The Cons of Traditional Publishing
While there are many advantages to traditional publishing, of course there are also downsides. Nothing’s perfect, right? All of the services traditional publishers offer, there’s also a price, including:
Longer timeline: Self-published authors can write and publish their book fairly quickly. But with traditional publishing the timeline is much longer. The process of editing, proofreading, designing the cover, printing, and developing a marketing campaign can take awhile. In addition, a publisher may strategically release your book during a certain season they think will garner the most sales (i.e. they may want to release a light-hearted novel in the summer, or a business book in the fall, etc.). From signing the contract until your book shows up on bookstore shelves, the process can take at least a year, and usually more.
Lack of control: While a traditional publisher offers many services, the trade-off is that you lose control. The publisher will make the final decisions about the title, cover design, and core marketing messages, among other things. They are taking a risk on your book, so they get to decide what will help it to sell the best. While you may have written what you think is a killer title, the publisher may decide that it’s too similar to another book out there, or that it doesn’t position the book correctly in the marketplace. Or you may hate the cover design the publisher develops, but ultimately the publisher will have the final say.
Shared earnings: Typically, for a first-time author, hardcover royalties range from 10 to 15 percent of the retail price; trade paperback royalties range from 6.5 to 7.5 percent of the retail price; and mass market paperback (usually lower quality printing/paper than trade paperback) royalties range from 7.5 to 10 percent of retail. And before you can start earning royalties, you need to earn your advance. For instance, if you received a $15,000 advance, that means you were paid $15,000 of your royalties in advance. If your book is priced at $25, and you receive a 10 percent royalty, your book needs to sell 6,000 copies to earn your advance, and that’s before you start receiving any royalties (10 percent of $25 = $2.50. $2.50 x 6,000 = $15,000).
How to Get a Book Deal
So if you’re still convinced you want to go the traditional publishing route, how do you go about it? Most authors will need to write a book proposal and shop it around to agents, or publishers, or both.
For non-fiction books, you need a well-written book proposal and at least three solid chapters of your book completed in order to pitch it to agents. The three chapters will show agents that you have the chops to write a good book.
The proposal is a thorough document that will show agents you have a solid vision and an idea that is marketable, that you have ideas for promoting it, and that you have the credentials to write it. It needs to show agents and publishers that your book is worth the risk.
What to include in a book proposal
- Overview: A summary of your book, similar to a book introduction, that will give agents/publishers a quick idea of what your book is about. This summary needs to be well-written and compelling. It needs to catch the eye of an agent who probably looks at several proposals a day. What makes your book unique and worth publishing?
- Author bio: Why are you qualified to write this book? What are your credentials? You need to convince an agent/publisher that you have the knowledge and experience to write on the topic.
- Target audience: Who are you writing this book for? Do you know the audience well and is the audience big enough to sell a lot of books? Publishers will want to know if there are readers out there who will want your book.
- Competitive title analysis: Are there other books that have been published on this topic? If so, how is yours different? Why do readers need another book on this topic?
- Table of contents/outline: A table of contents, along with a summary of each chapter of the book, will give the agent/publisher additional insight into what the book is about and what you plan to include.
- Marketing plan: How will you help the publisher promote the book? How big is your social media following or existing audience? Do you have well-known people who can give you endorsements? Are you willing to give readings, radio interviews, and even schedule your own book tour? You need to show the publisher that you will hustle to sell your book.
- Sample chapters: You need to complete three top-notch book chapters to show publishers you are a good writer.
When you are finished with your proposal, it’s time to find an agent. Let’s talk next about whether or not you need an agent, and how to find one.
Do I really need an agent?
If you want to publish your book with a small press, you probably will not need an agent. Small presses are like small businesses that often focus on certain genres or topics and publish fewer books in smaller quantities than larger publishing houses. Many small presses work directly with authors and don’t require them to work through an agent. Maybe you have a niche book and you want to target a smaller publisher that specializes in your niche. In that case, you can reach out directly to an editor at that press and ask them if you can send a proposal.
However, most bigger publishing houses, such as HarperCollins or Penguin Random House, only consider book proposals that are sent to them by literary agents.
So what does an agent do?
When you send your query to an agent, he or she will determine whether or not they want to represent you. Is your book idea marketable? Are you a good writer? Do they think they can successfully pitch your idea to a publisher?
If they accept you as a client, the agent will then critique your book and offer feedback. Maybe they see potential in your idea, but it’s not quite there yet and you will need to make some revisions. Maybe your sample chapters need to be revised or rewritten. An agent knows the book market and understands what publishers want. They will help you to best position your proposal to make it attractive to publishers.
Once your proposal is polished and ready to go, the agent will send it to various publishers to see if any are interested. Agents have a deep understanding of the book market, and of which publishers may be interested your book. They have connections and in-roads that you may not have. They know the industry.
If a publisher is interested in offering you a contract, the agent will then negotiate your contract with the publisher and basically be your advocate throughout the whole process. You’ll want to discuss, in depth, contractual stipulations like how audio versions of the book get handled, and if you’re willing to sign over international publication rights. While the agent will take a cut of your advance (typically 15 percent), it’s worth it to have an agent do all of the legwork for you.
How do I find an agent?
To find the right agent, you will need to do some research. Start by asking other published authors you know to recommend an agent. Compile a list of names from publications and websites. Find other books that are similar to yours, books that you admire and like, and see if the author lists his or her agent in the acknowledgments.
Once you have a list of agents, determine which ones represent books similar to yours. Some agents only deal with fiction, and others only nonfiction. Some specialize in business books, and others in sports or cookbooks. All agents have a specialty, so you need to find ones that will be a good fit for you.
Once you have narrowed down your list, start reaching out to them to see if they will take a look at your proposal. Another good way to contact agents is by attending writers conferences. Many agents attend writers conferences and will set up one-on-one meetings with potential authors. Or maybe you know of another author who will introduce you to their agent.
It takes a bit of legwork, but it’s worth it to find a good agents who will be your advocate. Chemistry is vital!
When do I get to go on my book tour?
Hopefully the day will come when your book is published and on bookstore shelves. Exciting! So when do you get to go on a book tour? Maybe you have dreams of being interviewed by Oprah, or the Today Show, or interviewed on your favorite podcast. You publisher may set that up for you. But . . . maybe not.
Sadly, with all of the changes in publishing in the past decade, publishers have less money to spend on promoting mid-list authors (basically any author who isn’t a super-star). So they may or may not put lots of effort into marketing and promoting your book. Congratulations if they set up a book tour, but if not, don’t worry. In chapter 7 we will cover how to market your own book. If you’ve already decided that you want to self-publish your book or go the traditional route, you can skip to chapter 7. Otherwise, be sure to read the next section to learn about a third way to publish your book: hybrid publishing.
The world of publishing has evolved more in the past twenty years than it ever has. A myriad of options greet the author with a publication-ready manuscript, and questions about the process can be stressful. As we’ve already discussed, most writers find themselves choosing between either traditional publishing or self-publishing, but even this binary can be eschewed in favor of a third, somewhat rarer option: hybrid publishing.
Hybrid publishing strikes a middle ground between a traditional book deal and self-publishing. It’s difficult to define exactly what hybrid publishing is, because it can vary substantially depending on the iteration you encounter. There are four basic types of hybrid publishing, and we’ll go over all of them which we’ll get into in a bit. But regardless of what variety you end up pursuing, one element remains the same: The onus of publishing will be shared between you and your publisher. It’s also likely that you’ll be ponying up your own cash right off the bat, which might sounds overwhelming, but can actually be a great reason to hybrid publish.
The main benefit? You won’t be walking alone. You’ll have a publisher, which can be validating in and of itself. Just having a logo and a team of professionals on your side can make all the difference, and (depending on your unique situation, of course) can be well worth the money spent to hire them.
Before we get into pro and cons, and some nitty gritty, let’s contextualize all of this. We find that sometimes, writers have misconceptions about what a traditional publisher will do for you, or what exactly goes into self-publishing, so it’s difficult for them to understand what hybrid publishing is, exactly. We covered self-publishing and traditional publishing in the previous chapters, but here are some key takeaways in case you skipped right here:
Why hybrid publish?
For someone who has had difficulty getting a book published in the traditional model—maybe they’ve been rejected countless times—the hybrid model can be appealing. It’s more than just a stab in the dark; hybrid publishing includes the benefit of a support structure that you wouldn’t get with self-publishing. If you want a little more hand-holding, and the advice and support of real professionals, hybrid publishing could be the way to go. You’ll have a team on your side who likely knows more about publishing than you, and that experience may prove to be irreplaceable.
Hybrid publishing is a dynamic form of publishing in that it’s so varied; this is, again, what makes it somewhat difficult to define. There are a huge pool of publishing houses out there that offer hybrid publishing services; just search “self publishing company” on Google. And when you’re courting hybrid publication companies, you’re not just searching for a publishing house that can publish your book, you’re searching for a company with the kind of arrangement you want to engage with as well. You, the author, are empowered to pick and choose the kinds of deals you want to make, and what rights you even want to put on the table. You could reserve the world English rights for your book. You could opt to sell the film rights and keep everything else independent. You reserve the final say.
For authors, the pros of working with a hybrid publisher include the support of the community (instant feedback), working with a publisher who believes in your work, transparency in process, not as challenging or seemingly insurmountable as would be to publish through traditional means.
Why not hybrid publish?
Still, hybrid publishing is certainly not for everyone, which is why this chapter presents all of the options available and not just one. But the biggest reason to not hybrid publish is validation. A lot of authors seek the prestige and validation that comes with a traditional book deal, and just can’t be pleased with any other arrangement. And we respect that—go for it! Other authors prefer the complete control they get with self-publication, and we gladly flash the rock n’ roll horns to them as well.
Hybrid publishing is as much of a gamble as any other form of publishing—certainly less so than self-publishing, but not by much. You still retain a lot of the responsibility for the success of your book, and will likely be putting a lot of your time into marketing efforts for it. But there’s zero guarantee that your book will even sell one copy, you’re paying to have your book put into print in the first place, and the company that’s printing it hasn’t given you any advance. So there’s significant risk involved, potentially more risk than if you were to flat-out self-publish.
You should also be wary of the bait and switch tactics some hybrid publishers employ. Because they operate similarly to a traditional publishing house, hybrid publishers can get listed in directories alongside those publishing houses. You might send them a query and be surprised when they try to get you to pay for their publishing services instead.
And just because a publisher is willing to publish you for money doesn’t mean you should give them a penny. While there are solid hybrid publishing operations available that are absolutely worthwhile, there are some thorns floating around the ground out there that you don’t want to step in. Some of these hybrid publishers will do little more than popping your book up for sale on their store as an ebook and will do very little to actually help you sell copies. Be sure to do your research and look into the hybrid publishers we’ve recommended below, but also make sure you do your research when it comes to any new publisher. We wouldn’t want to see you hurt from a bad deal.
Types of Hybrid Publishing
There are four general types of hybrid publishing that you’ll find out there in the market. Each have their pros and cons, so you should take your time and make sure you pick the one (if any) that’s right for your unique author journey. These four types of hybrid publishing include:
A curated publisher is one that is more selective about the types of authors and books that they want to bring into their publishing space. They don’t bring in everyone that walks through their door. As an author, you would pay for the costs of editing and publishing, but since the publisher is more curatorial about their titles, you will usually benefit from better and more in-depth marketing and distribution.
The major players that generally follow the curated publisher model include: She Writes Press, Greenleaf Book Group, Evolved Publishing, and Ever After.
Under the umbrella of hybrid publishing there’s a thing called partnership publishing. Authors who publish through partnership publishers, such as She Writes Press, pay for that service. Also, the authors keep a high percentage of the royalties, so inherent most of the risk.
The value for authors to go with partnership publishers like a She Writes Press is that they receive traditional distribution, and other traditional publication benefits, including the ability to set your book up for preorder and access to traditional review channels like Kirkus Reviews, Publishers Weekly, and Booklist.
A model like She Writes Press is a bit different from services such as InkShares and Publishizer who use crowdfunding to publish. Once a project gets enough interest in the form of pre-orders, the book can be sold.
A crowdfunded publisher is one that requires the author to raise money for their book, before they are granted a deal. The onus is on you as the author to build your readership to the point at which you can generate enough in a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter, IndieGogo, or GoFundMe. After that crowdfunding goal is reached—and this number could vary between publishers—the rest of the process more closely resembles a traditional publishing model.
The major players in the crowdfunding publisher model include: InkShares, Publishizer, and Unbound.
An assisted publisher is really just self-publishing but with some guidance that varies in scope among the companies. Authors pay to publish in this model, and it’s unclear if there are any prerequisites for authors to work with these types of assisted publishers. To some, assisted publishers are described as “vanity publishers,” speaking to the idea that some authors are more focused on seeing their name on the cover of a book (and willing to pay for that) than with the validation of quality that comes from a traditional book deal. The same could be said of self-publishing, but it’s especially prickly in the paid publishing model because anyone could potentially have a book published.
If you decide to go down this route, make sure to do your research to find out if they offer any of the value of a hybrid publisher (i.e., editorial guidance, distribution, marketing, etc.).
Traditional with Self-Publishing Arms
Some traditional publishers, usually smaller, lesser known ones, have been known to broker deals that are similar to hybrid publishing arrangements, where the author pays a little up front. It’s self-publishing, but with some guidance from a small press publisher. This approach we don’t recommend, frankly.
But there are some similar approaches to this model that may hold some more merit, such as agencies like Andrea Brown Literary Agency, Curtis Brown (UK), Dystel & Goderich Literary Management, and April Eberhardt Literary. Each of these agencies help authors self-publish digitally.
In most cases, authors retain the rights to their book, but may be asked for a set term of agreement (sometimes six months to a year).
Similarly, there are even independent literary agents who can work with authors to help them get their work self-published. These agents are often former employees of traditional publishers, and have broken off to guide authors on a more one-to-one level.
Over at WritersDigest.com, Jane Friedman, the internet’s resident book publishing expert, says:
Several years ago, when agents began assisting clients with self-publishing, some offered a one-size-fits-all model, which usually meant a 15 percent commission on sales, with the author paying freelance costs, such as copyediting, cover design and e-book formatting.
Today, some have moved to tiers of service or customizable arrangements, to take into account the unique needs of each client. The agent may earn a higher commission for providing hands-on marketing support, which can involve advertising placements, blog tours, advance galleys, Goodreads campaigns and more—if the author wants.
How to Choose a Hybrid Publisher
Each hybrid publisher varies in the level of support they provide. Some provide more editorial support, marketing services, and strategy, where some might just focus on the strategy without offering editorial services such as copyediting. It’s up to you what makes sense for your author journey.
But we can provide some guidance on how to choose a hybrid publisher. Here are some things to consider:
Usually, a reputable hybrid publisher will have guidelines around for curating their titles (i.e., picking what books they want to publish). It behooves them for you to succeed, so if they’re picky, that’s a good sign. If they look as though they take any submission that comes their way, you’ll likely find more value elsewhere.
The best hybrid publishers will offer print distribution to retail establishments and, ideally, brick-and-mortar bookstores. She Writes Press, for example, offers traditional distribution through a partner, Ingram Publisher Services. EverAfter, a romance publisher, offers distribution plus additional services like warehouse storage for your books and sales team support.
Overall, distribution for hybrid publishers varies, depending on the capacity of each publisher and the relationships that each has built with distributors. It’s also rare that hybrid publishers will sell and distribute physical copies of your book to bookstores. Most focus on digital distribution. But a few who can distribute print copies of your book include She Writes Press, InkShares, Matador, and Greenleaf Book Group.
Some firms do digital distribution only, so it’s important for authors to weigh their options, and assess the pros and cons of having print distribution, etc.
Marketing and Promotion
If you want to get your book into the hands of readers, make sure to research what the publisher does for marketing and promotion. Efforts like sending your book out for reviews, writing press releases to announce your book, and sending the book to print and online media outlets for coverage are examples of some ways hybrid publishers can help with marketing and promotion. For example, InkShares, indicates that they do reach out to their own community as well as pitching for reviews, features, and interiviews.
If you come across a hybrid publisher that doesn’t offer editing and proofreading, we recommend pivoting toward one that offers editorial services. Again, we’re going to highlight She Writes Press here because they provide a great example of the types of editorial services they offer authors, broken down into specific tracks. If a publisher offers proofreading, copyediting, and developmental editing, you’re on the right track.
Hybrid Publishers We Recommend
- NEWTYPE Publishing
- She Writes Press
- Greenleaf Book Group
- BQB Publishing
- Evolved Publishing
When assessing the right hybrid publisher for your needs, if you take into consideration all of these things—curation, distribution, marketing and promotion, and editing—you’ll have the tools to make the best decision for your author needs.
With any choice you make, always do your due diligence and determine for yourself what is right. Hybrid publishing, as you can probably tell, isn’t so cut-and-dry. It’s still a relatively new form of publishing, and with that comes uncertainty.
If we can leave you with one thing, remember to check in with your goals as an author. Make sure your goals are clear at the start of your publishing path. Take your time. Be patient with the process and determine the publishing option that works best for your desired outcome. You’re an entrepreneur and soon-to-be author, you’re a creative person pursuing big dreams.
In the next chapter, we dig deeper into self-publishing with a closer look at why and how that option has worked so well with Pat’s own titles. To date he’s self-published three books: Let Go, Will It Fly? and Superfans.