In a comment to a post titled The Measures That Matter yesterday, TPV regular, Felix J. Torres, made a couple of comments in response to questions that PG though would benefit any who didn’t read them in the earlier post.
It’s Pay-to-Play publishing.
Not quite Tradpub, not quite vanity…or at least the honest ones are. The problem is it’s closer to Vanity that tradpub and it’s hard to tell the honest operators from the scam artists.
The idea is they offer one-stop publishing services for hire for authors unwilling or unable to manage the process themselves, typically because they want the “all-important” B&M shelf space. Which, yes, would be important to established legacy authors but… well, to a total newcomer without an installed base POD is a whole lot cheaper, albeit with a lower margin.
A hybrid publisher might offer editing, formatting, graphics, and the connections to China to order up a traditional print run…all paid up-front by the author, either in cash, a piece of copyright, or both.
Easy to see why they struggle to prove their bonafides, right?
And the OP is right: it is an old business model that harks to before the nineteenth century, when authors would pay a printer to run a batch of pbooks for an upfront free. Over time, the printers started doing more and demanding more and became what is now the legacy publishing business that has been mostly taken over by the multinationals. The smaller players that are getting hit the hardest by disintermediation seem to have reverted to the older model to try to stay afloat.
Personally, I don’t think there is enough money in today’s markets for the model to work for honest operators.
At the low end sales will be too low for a fair distribution so one or the other (most likely the author) will get shorted. At the high end, sales will be high enough the author will have enough leverage to negotiate a non industry-standard contract with an advance somewhere, instead of having to pay. What remains is mostly a narrow band of legacy midlisters dropped by the BPHs, successful Indies willing to pay to offload the backend workflow, and… Well, Dreamers with cash…
The idea is that you have to spend (lots of) money to make money but the assumption that B&M access is essential isn’t real. The payoff is limited and in most cases not justifiable for newcomers.
Sure they can [be hybrid publishers].
They can try, anyway.
As the OP points out, it’s a bad term but they haven’t come up with anything else to explain it.
An author is a hybrid if they send some books down a traditional publishing channel and some through non-traditional channels like direct sales, KDP, KU, D2D, Lightning source, etc. “Hybrid” refers to their distribution channels and revenue sources.
A publisher is hybrid if they earn some of their money from selling/licensing books and some from the author. “Hybrid” publishing refers solely to how they get their money.
An honest Hybrid publisher might split the cost of getting a book to market 50-50 with the author and, likewise, split 50-50 the net revenues (after warehousing and returns, pulping, etc), if any.
The risk is the “if any”.
An honest hybrid publisher that takes on too many “less than popular” titles might find themselves making 90% of their net from Author payments instead of from the minimal book sales. Depending on their bookkeeping, that might put them out of business or make them an accidental vanity press.
It’s slippery turf on both ends.
Publishers want to minimize risk and one way to minimize it is to not only pay minimal or non-existent advances but to actually “share” their costs with the author. How the costs and revenues are shared and how discriminating they are in taking on “partners” to share them with is the distinction between a hybrid press and a vanity press.
As with everything publishing related, the devil lies in tbe details.
It’s just a different minefield for authors to navigate, different risks and different trade offs. And, more often than not, another game that it is safest not to play because there is no significant difference between a scammer and an honest but incompetent operator.