Hybrid Publishing, Diversity of Voices Focus at IBPA Conference

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From Publishers Weekly:

The growth of hybrid publishing, the business model where authors subsidize the publication of their books, was one of the major points of discussion at the Independent Book Publishers Association’s (IBPA) Publishing University held April 6-7 in Austin, Tex. The event was a sellout with 300 publishers of all stripes—traditional independent publishers, hybrid publishers, and self-published authors—in attendance.

. . . .

One session featured three women who have developed successful hybrid publishing companies. To help ensure the professionalism of hybrid publishers, IBPA recently created a list of standards that publishers must meet if they are to be considered in the category. All three panelists stressed the importance of adhering to these standards. To meet criteria, publishers must vet submissions, take responsibility for the design and editing of the book, offer active distribution, and attain respectable sales.

Brooke Warner, publisher of the hybrid house She Writes Press, was involved in developing the criteria. She explained on the hybrid panel that while “respectable sales” was a fuzzy term, hybrid publishers must work to achieve sales levels that are appropriate for whatever type of book they are publishing. Sales of a poetry book, for example, would not be expected to achieve the sales level of a popular mystery.

Warner stressed that while She Writes is paid up front, her company is heavily invested in selling its authors’ books because its reputation is tied to the success of its titles. “We need to demonstrate we can get sales,” she said. We want the industry to be impressed by these books.” In addition, while the authors earn at least 50% of royalties under the hybrid model, She Writes also receives a cut.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

PG suggests the threshold “standard” for these “publishers” is whether the author has enough money to pay them a large fee upfront to provide services the author could acquire directly from independent editors, book and cover designers on much more reasonable terms.

The fact that this program was a “sellout” at the IBPA conference does not bode well for credulous authors.

PG hasn’t seen publishing contracts from any of these 21st century vanity publishers. If anyone cares to share one with him for his contract collection, he can be reached via the Contact link at TPV.

15 thoughts on “Hybrid Publishing, Diversity of Voices Focus at IBPA Conference”

  1. I was there and found the conference highly interesting! The publishers at this event are not scam artists or vanity publishers by any means. The main focus of these small-to-medium presses is non-fiction, paper books, which makes sense for the audiences they serve. There’s nothing predatory about it, not even the ones who partner with the author to pay for production – aka a hybrid press. There is plenty of room in this industry for authors who want to hand their manuscript off to someone else, especially in the huge and diverse realm of non-fiction, where books tend to need lots of fancy formatting, illustrations, indexes – a whole world of things novelists don’t care about. The point of the well-considered standards was to help both publishers and authors make well-considered decisions about how to make beautiful books while balancing time and money.

    I learned a lot about the amazing diversity of the book industry beneath the level of the big corporations. I learned a few tricks useful for the indie novelist, but this wasn’t really about us. My takeaway is that writers of genre fiction are better off going solo, unless they really don’t want to mess with production, but authors of literary fiction or poetry might do better with a small press that has a good reputation with their audience. And non-fiction authors or children’s book authors who need beautifully produced paper editions would be wise to consider small presses or hybrid presses.

    These small presses, traditional and hybrid, also put a lot of effort into paper distribution, which is something indie fiction authors don’t usually care that much about. I had lunch with woman who spent 10 years getting Books-A-Million to carry her catalog, for example. That can be very hard to do by yourself, and time-consuming.

    I’m afraid you’re talking through your hat this time, PG. The people in IBPA are the opposite of crooks.

    • I wish PG were talking through his hat and this actually was a harbinger of fantastic opportunity for authors. The reality is, for every one hybrid publisher who honestly loves books and is willing to go to the wall to serve the authors and their books, there are a thousand fly-by-night crooks who see authors as naive chickens ripe for plucking.

      How do I know? Because I get emails all the time from authors asking me my opinion about so-and-so publisher who only wants a few grand to help with publishing expenses and is this a good deal? Every one I have investigated has either been an outright vanity press affiliated in some way with Author Solutions (worst of the worst) or it’s a crap little outfit that puts amateurish covers on the books and parks them on an obscure website with listings that sound like they were written by seventh graders. Looking up those titles on Amazon is sad–none of the books are selling. To add insult to injury, for the few thousand bucks the author has to front, the publisher takes 100% control of distribution, packaging, marketing and they want all rights from the author, too.

      I don’t know what kind of rights and control the hybrid publishers at IBPA are demanding from authors, but I can about guarantee that it’s at least 90% in favor of the publisher.

      I’m not going to say that every hybrid publisher as defined in this article is a bad deal for authors. But experience alone tells me to be highly skeptical.

      • The whole purpose of those kinds of “standards” is to protect the unwary, not helping bad apples hide among the honorable.

        If they are unwilling to police their ranks their “certification” and “standards” are meaningless.
        Nothing to see–move along, move along.

    • Any publisher who asks you to buy a certain number of print editions of your work is just covering their bottom line: they risk nothing and make an immediate profit when you sign the contract and have no incentive to put any effort into distributing and promoting your book.

      The high royalty rates that they promise is just a cruel deception because in all likelihood your book will sell very few copies.

      • And that’s assuming no Hollywood accounting behind the “net”.

        I don’t doubt there are some honest service providers in those ranks but there are many more pay-to-play providers who make all their money off the authors instead of off the books. Absent a clear way to distinguish between them the safest move is to avoid them all.

  2. I’d ask these publishers what percentage of their revenue comes from author payments, and what percentage comes from their share of sales royalties.

    I’d also ask for the average ratio of A/B, where
    A=Payments from author for individual book
    B=Payments to authors for individual book.

    I wonder if these are addressed in the well-considered standards?

  3. The whole process of the IBPA definining so called standards for a “hybrid publisher” to distinguish it from a vanity press was a complete sham – one readily supported by the likes of Publishers Weekly, of course.

  4. [posting to follow as the “follow without posting” btn went away; assuming this gets me email alerts when there are more comments to the OP and not just my little comment here, right? guess I’ll see…]

  5. It doesn’t help that I thought that the meaning of hybrid was already established as an author who publishes some books traditionally and self publishes others. I guess I now have to distinguish between hybrid authors who I can respect and hybrid publishers who require a high degree of scepticism.

    • agreed Mike
      the former re authors who pub trad and indie was in use before this muddled secondary meaning

    • “It doesn’t help that I thought that the meaning of hybrid was already established as an author who publishes some books traditionally and self publishes others.”

      It’s like the ads no longer saying ‘reverse mortgage loans’, everyone knows that trick, so the ‘vanity publishing’ publishers are trying to hide under the ‘hybrid’ flag.

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