First, what is a hybrid press?
A hybrid press walks the line between traditional publishing (the “Big 5” of HarperCollins, Penguin Random House, Simon & Schuster, Hachette and Macmillan) and self-publishing (CreateSpace, Kindle Direct, Ingram Spark), taking aspects from each.
I chose a hybrid press for several reasons:
• After 14 months of getting close but not close enough to land a literary agent, I got impatient with the lengthy process and decided to take matters into my own hands.
• I decided against self-publishing because I wanted traditional distribution to bookstores, and that’s not something I could do myself.
• I also decided against self-publishing because I knew I wouldn’t have the bandwidth to learn everything there is to learn in a timely fashion.
• I wanted to work with a publisher who had ample experience with publishing and selling books, and I wanted a team to give my book its best chance.
After much research, I chose the cream of the hybrid crop—She Writes Press (SWP). This innovative press is blazing quality ground in the publishing industry right now. Here’s what their hybrid model looks like:
• Emphasis on quality books—they carefully curate their list;
• Traditional distribution through Ingram Publisher Services (IPS)—that means a dedicated sales team from IPS sells SWP books directly to booksellers, so your physical books end up in stores;
• Generous royalties—You invest up front for editorial, book production and printing, but you get a higher royalty per book sold than you would with traditional publishers (60% of the net profits on print books and close to 80% of the net profits on ebooks);
• Respect for authors—Authors are partners in the publishing process, get an education in how best to sell books, have a say in how books look, and retain ownership rights;
• Community—SWP fosters a supportive community of women authors, who learn from each other and support each other throughout the publishing process and beyond;
• Housekeeping—they take care of all the “metadata,” which goes to all outlets where books are sold, they warehouse books, file copyright and Library of Congress numbers, fulfill orders … all the stuff you don’t want to have to do from home.
One thing I worried about at first was whether working with a hybrid would limit my book in some way — would booksellers consider the hybrid press a poor cousin to traditional publishers? Would I be eligible for the big literary awards and grants?
In the case of SWP, I’ve seen no indication whatsoever that booksellers are thinking twice about carrying my book (my preorder numbers from bookstores were quite high). I’ve easily submitted, and been asked to submit, to many of the big-name book awards. There will be some grants that prohibit me from applying (the NEA Fellowship, for instance), but I’m going to try to blaze a new trail with those institutions by pushing them to reconsider their guidelines! The publishing world is changing, and trailblazers like SWP are leading the way.
Not all hybrids are created equal; there are other models out there to consider. Since I can’t speak about them from experience, I’ll leave you with some good articles for further reading:
• Not All Hybrid Publishers Are Created Equal: How Authors Should Evaluate Their Choices, Jane Friedman for Publisher’s Weekly
• The Indie Author’s Guide to Hybrid Publishing: Hybrid publishers look to combine the best of traditional and self-publishing, by Nicole Audrey Specter for Publisher’s Weekly