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What Is a Hybrid Publisher?

10 September 2019

From Jane Friedman:

Over the last year, I’ve received more questions than ever—usually from journalists—asking me to explain “hybrid publishing.”

This is a confusing term to discuss, because you will hear different definitions or descriptions of hybrid publishing depending on who you ask and what their agenda is. The term has become popular among companies that wish to put a new, “innovative” face on a very common, age-old activity: charging writers to publish.

Here’s what I think most people can agree on: Hybrid publishers combine aspects of traditional publishing and self-publishing.

. . . .

While is nearly impossible to generally describe hybrids, here are some rough categories you’ll find in the market today.

  • Editorially curated. While authors typically subsidize the costs of editing or publication, the publisher doesn’t accept every author who walks through the door. As a result of their selectivity, the publisher usually has better marketing and distribution. Examples include She Writes Press and Greenleaf Book Group.
  • Crowdfunding driven. Publishers such as Inkshares and Unbound require the author to raise a certain amount of money from their readership before they are granted a deal, which then closely adheres to a traditional publishing process.
  • Assisted self-publishing. Authors pay to publish, and there is little or no discernment in what types of authors are accepted.
  • Traditional publishers with a self-publishing arm. Some traditional publishers—usually small presses you haven’t heard of—may offer author services or assisted self-publishing.

These last two categories can be the most questionable in value. In the case of assisted self-publishing or publishing services (called “vanity presses” in the old days), these companies adopt the moniker of “hybrid publisher” to look more innovative or attractive to authors. They’re not really a hybrid publisher unless they can point to what they do that offers a traditional publisher’s value—such as selectivity in acquisitions, editorial guidance and vision, and distribution and marketing muscle that can’t be secured on your own as a self-publishing author.

In the case of small presses with a self-publishing arm—which may not offer great professionalism to begin with in their traditional operations—they may be using paid services to prop up their business and also to position themselves as progressive. These can be the most frustrating “hybrids” of all, since they might be identifying themselves primarily as a traditional publisher and be listed in market guides such as Writer’s Market, but could use that as a bait-and-switch: Oh, sorry, your work doesn’t meet our editorial needs for our traditional publishing operation, but would you like to pay for our hybrid publishing [or self-publishing] service?

Link to the rest at Jane Friedman

Self-Publishing

2 Comments to “What Is a Hybrid Publisher?”

  1. She lost me here:

    “Some traditional publishers—usually small presses you haven’t heard of—may offer author services or assisted self-publishing.”

    That’s right. Because no one has heard of Penguin or Harper Collins or any other major publisher with connections to Author Solutions.

    I’m also curious as to what “better marketing and distribution” might look like (from her first point). Better than Author Solutions? Better than a no-name small press? Or better than a proper trade imprint?

    • Not sure about the marketing (what can they actually do?) but the distribution is hardly a selling point.

      Getting into Amazon or Ingram is trivial, B&N is heavily in the BPHs pockets, as far as it matters, and the standalones might move onesie-twoies at best. The rest of the pbook market is BPH new releases only, like the newstands.

      For that you pay?

      Either go tradpub or Indie.

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