“Are you happy you used a hybrid publisher?”
I’ve been asked this repeatedly since publishing my memoir with She Writes Press, usually just after I’ve stammered out a definition of what hybrid means.
“Hybrid publishing is a middle-ground,” I explain, parroting my editor, “between traditional and self-publishing in which the author pays for some of the services.” [For a fuller definition of hybrid publishing, see this post from Jane.]
And before I can answer comes the inevitable, “Do you think I should?”
I would never tell someone to publish with a hybrid publisher. Here’s why.
1. Every writer’s publishing goals are unique.
You know better than anyone what your goals are. I don’t. More specifically, I don’t know your work, your platform, and your finances. I don’t know what your motives are for publishing your current book, and how much work you are willing to do to get the word out about it after publication. I didn’t even know how much work I was willing to do until after publication when I was happily surprised at how much I enjoyed promoting my book. And that’s been a relief, since not promoting my book would result in even more boxes of paperbacks hogging my car’s space in the garage.
2. Hybrid publishing puts substantial financial risk on the author.
With hybrid publishing, there are no book advances. No team of marketing geniuses scheduling future book appearances unless you pay for them. The cost of your print run? It’s on you. And you’ll need to roll up your sleeves and sell that print run, because a year later, the warehouse storage fees will be yours as well.
While it’s true that after your book is accepted by a reputable hybrid publisher, you will have a talented team to help with editing and the selection of a stunning book cover, help ensuring your book is discoverable online, and that your book will (depending on the hybrid publisher) be available in bookstores and libraries. Still, what happens after the launch is up to you.
3. Another publishing option may be better suited for your book.
There are many routes to publishing, and all may lead to success or failure. So I encourage you to explore all of your options thoroughly.
For example, a retired Marine I met set a goal to become an author. He self-published 12 books after his first year. Today, three years later, he makes thousands of dollars a month on his rapidly expanding series of dystopian novels. Another author I met through a writer’s group toyed with hybrid publishing her ghost-written memoir, but instead reached out to a university press. Her book is close to its release date, and already she’s been asked on a national television show to promote it. And several author friends I met through my publisher have become bestsellers and award winners, and some others have found other income streams using the book as a tool for speaking engagements or teaching writing courses.
On the flip side, I know authors who’ve published with both large and small presses and with hybrid presses who complain that their books aren’t selling. They’re unhappy that they must use their own resources to hire public relations and marketing experts to generate book buzz. They insist that they don’t want to be tethered to social media to engage with fans when they could be writing.
So how should you publish your book? I encourage you to learn as much about every opportunity available to you before diving in. Ask questions. Compare options. And then proceed with confidence.
My path to hybrid publishing came after years of disappointments. I’d shopped my book to agents at conferences. I got feedback, joined a critiquing group, hired an editor. I rewrote it again and again, and shopped it some more. While I got a few nibbles on my queries, they did not result in getting an agent or the traditional publishing deal I wanted. My final nudge was when a literary agent told me that he loved my first pages, and had no suggestions of how to improve them. “But it’s another abuse memoir,” he said, shaking his head. “I just can’t sell it.”
When I finally learned about hybrid publishing, the clouds parted. There are many hybrid publishers to choose from, like Inkshares or Evolved or Ever After. My book, Pieces of Me, found its home with She Writes Press after I found that they offered what I’d been looking for.
I’d worked for over two decades to tell my story. More than a misery memoir, it was a book of hope about bucking intergenerational patterns. I wanted my book to be accessed wherever books are sold. I wanted it to be eligible for trade reviews. And I wanted to be a part of an author cooperative where innovative ideas and ongoing support is at my fingertips.
I would never tell you to publish with a hybrid publisher. Every writer’s publishing goals are unique. Hybrid publishing puts substantial financial risk on the author. And another publishing option may fit your work best.
But am I happy that I went with a hybrid publisher?
Lizbeth Meredith’s memoir Pieces of Me: Rescuing My Kidnapped Daughters is a 2017 IPPY Award silver medalist. She blogs at her website, is a contributor to A Girls’ Guide To Travelling Alone by Gemma Thompson, and is the author of When Push Comes to Shove: How to Help When Someone You Love Is Being Abused. A former domestic violence advocate, Lizbeth has worked with at-risk teens for nearly two decades as a juvenile probation supervisor.