From Jane Friedman:
I’ve written and spoken about hybrid publishing for years now, and it’s a nuanced and complicated issue. Some of you may know I’m not a huge fan of the term “hybrid publisher,” because sometimes it’s little more than a marketing ploy by paid publishing services, meant to make authors feel good about their choice of paying to publish. (More on that here.) But there are excellent hybrid publishers who deserve to be categorized differently than your average paid publishing service. She Writes Press is one of them.
The barriers to getting a book published have never been lower, and the consequence of this reality—that anyone can publish a book—is that predatory bad actors come out of the woodwork, and would-be authors must be on guard.
A prerequisite to becoming an author these days is self-education about the industry. The pay-to-publish space has been on a steep growth trajectory, evermore so in the past decade. There’s been a proliferation of self-publishing, but also of other non-traditional models—which, lacking any clear identifying label, have had to define themselves. Non-traditional by design, these author-subsidized publishing models have adopted labels that include hybrid (the one that’s been mostly widely embraced by the industry), partnership, subsidy, entrepreneurial, cooperative, and others.
I’m the publisher of two hybrid imprints, She Writes Press and SparkPress, and when I first launched She Writes Press in 2012, there was no right label for what we were doing. The only other presses I knew with this kind of “in-between” publishing model, where authors paid for various aspects of production, printing, and warehousing in exchange for higher royalties, were traditional publishers who cut hybrid deals with authors (often at the authors’ request because these models can in fact be in the authors’ best interest), and Greenleaf Book Group, who didn’t call itself hybrid at the time.
It was my early authors who pushed me to call what we were doing something—anything. They wanted a label because they wanted to distinguish themselves, and to explain to the outside world that their publisher was neither traditional publishing nor self-publishing. But being neither, we were in a gray zone. Many of my authors advocated for partnership, but in the end I settled on hybrid because that’s what it felt like to me—a hybrid between traditional and self-publishing, and I first wrote about this “third way” space in a Publishers Weekly Soapbox piece in March 2014.
Since 2014, hybrid publishing has exploded, but with the model’s elevated attention and reputation, the sharks started to swarm. One of the most complicated and disappointing results of naming this third-way publishing something concrete—hybrid—was how it started to be exploited and coopted. As She Writes Press and SparkPress began seeing true results, and therefore legitimacy, in traditional spaces (reviews, awards, sales), we also started seeing all kinds of entities, most of them providing services to authors to varying degrees of professionalism, who were calling themselves hybrid publishers. In the absence of any true definition for what this middle-ground was (in fact, I myself didn’t really know what it was and wrote a definition of hybrid in the first edition of my book, Green-Light Your Book, that I wouldn’t stand behind today), the floodgates opened, and all kinds of businesses were suddenly calling themselves “publishers” even when they were not true publishing companies (which involves vetting manuscripts or being selective about what you publish) and having a marketing, distribution, and sales strategy for all books.
One early response to this coopting came from the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA), who released its Hybrid Publisher Criteria in early 2018. It offers nine criteria for the industry and authors alike to use as a measurement of a hybrid publisher’s integrity. The problem is that human beings run companies, and human beings fudge the rules, and in the aftermath of making public those criteria, I talked to more than a few heads of “hybrid publishers” who said to me with all sincerity, Yes, we’re hybrid; we meet all but two of the criteria.
The failure to force well-intentioned would-be hybrids and bad actors alike to comply to true standards met a new point of resistance last week with the release of a report called Is It a Steal?: An Investigation into ‘Hybrid’/Paid-for Publishing Services, put out by The Society of Authors and The Writers Union. It was clearly initiated to draw attention to the degree to which authors are exploited by “pay-for” publishing services, but the underlying and wrong assumption the report makes is that all hybrid publishing is vanity publishing, and that no existing hybrids have standards they adhere to—which would include things like vetting, traditional distribution, and proven sales records. Nor does it acknowledge IBPA’s criteria, which has been around for more than five years. The report, instead, is an attack on the whole of hybrid publishing, without any nuance or acknowledgment from its authors that perhaps hybrid publishing needs also to be on the offensive because our label is being misused, and therefore hybrid publishing is being exploited too. It’s important to note that the Society of Authors and The Writers Union are UK-based, and as the US-based Authors Guild rightly notes in a statement it released in response to “Is It a Steal?”, “The hybrid publishing space is larger and more nuanced in the United States. There are some highly reputable hybrid publishers in the U.S.”
. . . .
“Is It a Steal?” attempts to address a known problem: predatory publishing practices. There are many bad actors out there, and we do need strategies to address this problem. We need to protect and educate writers. However, “Is It a Steal?” wants to strongarm bad actors by insisting that they follow a set of “recommendations.” But the bad actors won’t give a lick about recommendations; they will not be moved by a report telling them to be transparent and to produce a viable marketing plan if that’s not what they do or intend to do.
The better—and only—way to address the problem of bad actors in the publishing space, especially those who are coopting the good name of “hybrid” for their own reputational and financial gains, is to educate would-be authors. We must equip authors with the tools they need to see past flattery and compliments, to support them to think clearly when someone tells them they’ll make them a bestseller, to empower them ask critical questions about contracts and rights and finances.
. . . .
I started She Writes Press specifically because the barriers to traditional publishing are so high (too high) for most authors, and because there are many authors who do not want to self-publish, and for whom distribution and sales, reviews, and a team that supports them through the publishing process is the right combination of elements they’re looking for in a publishing experience. My own efforts as a hybrid publisher have focused from Day One on leveling the playing field for authors, to give them a fighting chance against their traditionally published counterparts and to sell more books that the average self-published author can on their own without infrastructure and publisher support.
Link to the rest at Jane Friedman
As the OP states, they offer a single package which you can find in bullet-point form here. The same page notes that the press is acquiring titles for its Spring, 2024, book list.
The Our Process page provides more details about what they’ll do. Near the bottom of the page, the following information is provided in bold type:
The cost of printing your ARCs and final books is not included in the She Writes Press publishing package.
In looking through the About Us page, PG learned that in 2014, SheWrites Press was acquired by SparkPoint Studio, LLC and got a new CEO. SparkPoint Studio has its own brand of hybrid publishing called SparkPoint Press. A quick run through the website of SparkPoint Press made it appear that it had adopted the same type of hybrid publishing model that SheWrites uses.
It was not clear to PG whether there is any distinction between the SheWrites plans and operations and those of SparkPoint.
SparkPoint Press also has a couple of additional links to more related and She-prefix sites that the company appears to own, BookSparks, SheReads and SheBooks. All the About Us pages (or their equivalents) PG reviewed featured women with the exception of one guy in what looked like it might have a peon job on one of the sites, so these are definitely women-run businesses. PG didn’t notice any information about ownership, but lots of businesses don’t talk about that unless they’re a subsidiary of a large parent company that doesn’t show information about ownership.
What PG didn’t find in all the She’s and Spark’s was a copy of the publishing contract any of these organizations ask authors to sign and return with an $8500 check.
PG would be very interesting in seeing a publishing contract for the She’s or the Spark’s.
He wonders why, with all the non-predatory practices of She Writes Press and SparkPress, the publisher of those two organizations who wrote the OP didn’t include a lot more information about the contract terms of those two organizations.
If anyone says, “We don’t want others to copy our contract!”, PG’s skepticism meter would jump to Stun immediately.
Contracts cannot be copyrighted. Anyone can copy some or all of the contract terms s/he finds in a contract used by another company. Since time immemorial, attorneys have kept copies of contracts they have drafted, contracts others have drafted and contracts they may stumble across anywhere else.
This hoarding practice allows attorneys to avoid re-inventing the wheel while drafting a new contract when they already have a perfectly good wheel-invention contract in their form files AKA copies of contracts they’ve collected over the years.
One of the things that first impressed PG about Kindle Direct Publishing is that they had their Terms and Conditions (internet-speak for publishing contract) available on their website. You can see the latest version here.
Reading it won’t keep you up past your bedtime, but everything that indie authors (and more than a few publishers who distribute ebooks via Zon) are asked to digitally “sign” is right out there for all to see.
The right of the author or Amazon to terminate the publishing agreement at any time is described in Section 3. The royalty provisions for KDP as referenced in Section 5.4.1 of Amazon’s online agreement are available here. Details concerning payments from Amazon Serviços de Varejo do Brasil Ltda are found in Section 5.4.5 of the online agreement.
End of Amazon minutiae.
If anyone can provide PG with a copy of an $8500 contract from the She’s or the Spark’s, he would appreciate reviewing it and, possibly, doing a blog post about the contract. Use the Contact PG link at the top of the blog to commence that process.