More on Hybrid Publishing

Last week, I blogged about the recent influx of offers some writers were receiving about how so-and-so would “publish” their book for a fee. Of course, some of these fees only escalated. The more you wanted, the more you paid–all for services you could do yourself or that would be done by storefronts when you uploaded a DOC file. This morning, I found the following over on The Passive Voice. So let’s get to it.

The PG post links back to Jane Friedman’s website and a guest post “We All Need To Be Protected From Predatory Publishing Practices”. The author of the post, Brooke Warner, is a hybrid publisher. While there is a lot of what’s “right” in this article, it also raises some questions. For those, I’ll refer you back to PG’s commentary back on his page. Read it and think about everything he has to say.

One point in particular PG made that resonates with me is the question of why the OP’s hybrid company doesn’t share a copy of its contract–one that will cost you a $35 submission fee and then $8500 if you sign. As he states, contracts are not subject to copyright. So why not put it out there for potential clients to see?

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.

This is a question you should ask of any publisher before you sign with them. It is especially true of a hybrid publisher. What are they offering, what are the terms, what is the “boilerplate” that might rise up to bite you on your authorial ass later down the road?

Those are just some of the questions you should ask if you are considering hybrid publishing, especially if that same hybrid publisher adds that the monies you pay upfront just to sign the contract do not apply to print ARCs or–duh–actual print books for sale.

Oops!

Speaking of Ms. Friedman, she wrote a post back in 2021 about hybrid publishing. In it, she gives a good–and simple–explanation of what a hybrid press is:

Hybrid publishing combines elements from two different sources.

  • It resembles self-publishing because the author carries the cost and financial risk; thus, it involves an investment of your own capital.
  • It resembles traditional publishing because professionals, not you, carry out the tasks required to transform a Word document on your laptop into an object called a book that people can buy and read.

But what I found most illuminating, at least for those who are considering hybrid publishing and want guidance on what they should look for, is the list guidelines set out by the Independent Book Publishers Association in 2018. These are the “musts” a hybrid publisher must be able to do:

  • Define a mission and vision for its publishing program.
  • Vet submissions.
  • Publish under its own imprint(s) and ISBNs.
  • Publish to industry standards.
  • Ensure editorial, design, and production quality.
  • Pursue and manage a range of publishing rights.
  • Provide distribution services.
  • Demonstrate respectable sales.
  • Pay authors a higher-than-standard royalty.

Ms. Friedman has more valuable information in the post, including her own experience with hybrid publishing a couple of works. Read the post and see what you think.

For more information on hybrid publishing, what it is, what you should be aware of, etc., check out this post by Tiffany Hawk. This post is especially helpful for its advice on how to avoid publishing scams. Remember last week’s post. In fact, on a personal note, I checked my author email account after writing the post and found close to 10 such “solicitations” the spam folder had caught. So none of us are safe from them. Because of that, remember the adage that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

If you still aren’t sure what to think about hybrid publishing and whether it is vanity publishing or a real alternative to traditional publishing, let me present the opening paragraph to a MasterClass on it written back in Oct. 2021:

You may struggle to get your first book in the hands of the right people at the right publishing company, leading many authors to give up before finding a home for their manuscript. Hybrid publishing, a newer option in the publishing world, gives authors a quicker and easier path to publishing in exchange for shouldering some of the upfront publishing costs.

The first sentence is little more than clickbait. After all, it basically says there is only one way to find a home for your manuscript and that is with a “publishing company”. Except that is only true if you demand a traditional publishing contract. There are all sorts of small presses out there, not to mention indie publishing. But let’s keep reading.

Hmmm, according to MasterClass, hybrid publishing offers a “quicker and easier path to publishing” in exchange for “some” financial investment from the author.

How is it quicker? Can they convert the book from DOC to mobi or epub or whatever quicker than I can and put it in my hand? I doubt it since I can do so in less than three minutes in most cases using Vellum.

Can they create a cover that meets my requirements quicker than I can find the artwork and put it together? Nope. What about when I decide to hire the art done? I can still probably get it done quicker because I can decide whether to use an artist with a long waiting list or not. Oh, and lets look at the covers those hybrid publishers use. Are they original covers or are they similar to what I do where they have stock art images that may or may not be manipulated? Most of the ones I’ve seen are stock art and I have even been able to find the cover creation sites where they came from.

Editing? Well, what are they calling editing and how long does that take?

Let’s go back and look at the $8500 investment from the hybrid publisher mentioned in the first article listed above. The second bullet point shows that you’d better not write over 100k words. If you do, you have to cut it down in order to fit their “custom interior design”. (Read template) Oooh, and here’s the kicker. Most writers who go the hybrid route do so because they want not just conversion and cover services but they want a “real” editor to edit their book. I may have missed it but all I see listed is that the book will be proofread.

Oops.

Now, this isn’t saying there aren’t legit and excellent hybrid publishers out there. But it is a warning to watch yourselves and don’t let the “shiny” get in the way of the critical thinking before you sign the contract.

Now for a bit of business. I have a couple of new-ish books out and another coming out soon.

Firestriker

Foil of the Gods

Jaguar Bound — coming May 17th

Featured Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

27 comments

    1. I have a Macbook Air specifically so I can use Vellum. It was worth the investment in a refurbed model, imo. As for Atticus, I have it. It has potential. My issue with it is it is trying to be too much. It wants to be word processor, Scrivener, Plottr, and Vellum all in one. I know a lot of folks love it. They do have great customer service, or at least seem to. I am also willing to give it some leeway because one of its developers has a very good record when it comes to authorial software/tools that really are helpful.

      That said, my issue with Atticus is it came out in much the same condition a lot of AAA video games do these days. It wasn’t ready for primetime. They have been updating and improving it, however. Now, one more observation, Atticus isn’t quite as intuitive as Vellum, so be prepared for a learning curve. But that’s not to dissuade you. As I said, there are a number of folks out there who love the program. Check on FB for Atticus Hive Mind group. It may have some useful information for you.

  1. Thanks for the heads up. Though these folk are making it harder to FIND the actual editors and printing houses (as distinct from publishers), which is grumpy making.

    Personally, if I am going to spend $8500 on a book, I think I’ll just hire an editor and an artist, and save the left overs for scouting out print runs. I can do the formatting myself. (I’m not as fast as you, but book 2 was exponentially faster than book 1 so I anticipate getting there.)

    1. I remember it taking days to do a decent–not great, but decent–conversion. Back in the old days, when I walked five miles to school in the snow and uphill both ways, conversions were done by hand-coding to html. Now get off my lawn you young whippersnappers!

      1. Having done websites in HTML lo these many aeons ago (’98)… nope nope nope. I will take the modern tools thank you very much!

        1. Now think about doing that for a 100k word (or more) book, where every effect, every paragraph, every everything had to be coded.

          1. As I said. I’ll take what we have now. My imagination suffices. I had enough issues with accidentally unclosed brackets and funky symbols not displaying properly. Nope.

      2. And it may start taking that again.

        I hadn’t seen this mentioned here; I got it in an e-mail yesterday:

        Dear Kindle Customer,

        Thank you for using the Send to Kindle service to send personal documents to your Kindle library. We wanted to let you know that starting August 2022, you’ll no longer be able to send MOBI (.mobi, .azw) files to your library. Any MOBI files already in your Kindle library will not be affected by this change.

        MOBI is an older file format and won’t support the newest Kindle features for documents. Any existing MOBI files you want to read with our most up-to-date features for documents will need to be re-sent in a compatible file format.

        I highlighted that last sentence, because it’s the same one my employer sends out with “upgrades”, and what it means is “if you send a mobi file and your Kindle implodes, we aren’t providing support unless you can duplicate it in a supported format.” Convert all your offline files now.

        1. I actually look forward to the rest of this email, the part with

          Also, compatible formats now include EPUB (.epub), which you can send to your library using your Send to Kindle email address. We’ll also be adding EPUB support to the free Kindle app for iOS and Android devices and the Send to Kindle desktop app for PC and Mac.

          Because this is a move away from the proprietary formats to a standard.

          1. Yes ma’am; however, my intent was to remind people here who talk about saving stuff offline so Amazon can’t delete it that pretty soon they won’t be able to re-load it to a new Kindle and read it without having up converted. My company does that too. May take a couple of releases, but eventually de-support follows deprecation.

            1. I only approved this comment because someone approved your earlier one. You have been warned time and again about trying to take over a thread or even a post so you can change the topic of discussion or beat your favorite drum of “Bad Amazon”. No where in the OP was there anything about Amazon formats, conversions, etc. The closest was when I wrote about how easy it is to upload files (manuscript files to be put on sale, in case you missed the entire import of the post) in DOCX or many other formats to Amazon and EVERY OTHER MAJOR STOREFRONT and they will convert for you. If they don’t, sites like D2D will.

              So, here’s the deal. This is a one time only approval, at least on my posts. You are still in the “must get approval” before your comments go live. If your comment has nothing to do with the topic of the post, if all you are doing is trying to get jabs in on Amazon without also looking at the other storefronts–from an author’s point of view–your comment will not be approved. You have been warned by several of us about this before. Please, stick to the post content and we will approve your comments. Otherwise, they get shunted off to spam.

              1. Sarah asked, I answered. I didn’t choose the forum, since she has my personal e-mail. And as I said then, you do what you do and then I’ll do what I do. But my response is the same no matter the platform. You brought the topic up amd I answered with what I thought was relevant. So, by the way, did others. I don’t know if they got moderated, but I suspect not based on relative speed with which comments hit my inbox.

                Arbitrary enforcement of unknown and ever changing “rules” based on personal whim is the source of most of the oppression we see today. That applies even to those supposedly on our side, and at any scale.

                1. First of all, look back at the thread. There is nothing before your comment dealing with the Amazon letter, conversion of files mailed to your kindle, etc. Perhaps you meant to answer on another post. But, just so we are clear, there is a comment asking about Atticus since Vellum is Mac only, there is a comment about monies paid and how Wyrdbyrd would rather spend her money, there’s even one about “young squirts” not knowing how easy they have it.

                  As for arbitrary rules and enforcement, I suggest you go back and look at when Dave, myself and others have called you out on hijacking threads, using this forum to attack Amazon when that is not the subject of the post, etc. I know I have explained to you more than once that it would not be allowed and that until you showed you could stick with the topic, your comments would remain in moderation. Is Amazon perfect? No. But coming in on a thread for a post that has nothing to do with their conversion of files mailed to your account is going off-topic.

                  Again, comment on the post, you’re comments will be approved. Comment on non-post content and they will not.

  2. For a new writer, the process of getting published is a black box. You don’t know what the heck is going one, what to expect, or what to do. Going with a publisher get you out of having to figure all that out.

    It also gets you out of having to assess others’ work. My hats off to you, Amanda, for doing your own covers. They look great. I can’t do my own covers, so I hire a cover designer. But it was hard figuring out a good one. I’ve learned the hard way that all sorts of elements matter, from fonts to art, to the interplay between the text and the art. I seriously question my own ability to tell if a cover does or doesn’t work. I, also, therefore, questioned my ability to tell if someone was a good cover designer or not. However, with much research and hanging out at places like MGC and 20Books on Facebook, I found a good designer.

    Publishers require the same amount of anxiety and assessment, yet writers seem to feel they don’t need to feel the anxiety or do the assessment if they hook up with a publisher. There are too many stories of publishers providing awful covers to books, not marketing a book, or otherwise doing little to earn their monies to suggest that a writer can avoid doing the necessary homework.

    As one of those articles said, writers need to be educated. I’d rephrase that: writers need to educate themselves.

    1. Covers are hard. They take time to learn to do and you have to constantly keep an eye on what the current fashion for a genre happens to be. What authors have to understand is that a cover might help capture the attention of a reader if they see it on a bookshelf or in a list of “if you bought this, you might like that”, those covers don’t have to be custom created for hundreds or thousands of dollars. Stock art can be used, elements can be excised and repurposed (assuming it is allowed by the licenses) and made into something unique. I cringe every time I see a new author talk about how much money they spent on a cover, money most will never recover.

      And yes, we have to educate ourselves. That is how MGC first came about. I was brought on because I was spending a great deal of time doing just that. Sarah and Dave asked me to start doing a weekly post with links to sites and articles where I found information that could help writers, new and old, keep from falling victim to the scammers, etc. My role here has evolved some over the years but the purpose of the blog has never changed. It has been to help writers and to help promote our work. Hopefully, we are still helping folks.

      1. Yep, things like this are why, after I incorporated the changes suggested by my beta readers, I just uploaded everything to Amazon and said ‘Bezos take the wheel’. 🤣 My book may not be the most professional looking, but it’s doing OK so far.

  3. The gap between spellchecking “editing” and alpha/beta reader “editing” is huge. I’d bet most of the folks who don’t want to self-pub want the latter, not the former.

  4. so, hybrid publishing is just like a small press ripoff from the old days, but digital?

    1. And not to be confused with hybrid publishing of people who have some traditional and some independently published work.

    2. We’re going to get into semantics here. The rip-offs were the vanity presses. There have always been small presses that covered niche markets. Most of those were not rip-offs. Vanity presses, otoh, were (and are) all about money flowing from the writer to them. Who knows how many authors have boxes of books they had to buy to be “published” still sitting in their garages.

      Hybrid presses/publishers have always bothered me. I understand there are some writers out there who have their own reasons for not wanting to covers, editing, copyediting, proofing, conversions, whatever. But those are services that can be individually contracted for without paying big bucks for “package deals”. Now, add in those agents and pr reps who have opened their own hybrid houses. These are people who are supposed to be working for you, to make you money but they are offering to publish your work for a fee instead of shopping your book out to traditional publishers. Color me skeptical and seeing conflict of interest.

      1. managing that stuff for someone shouldn’t cost $8500. I don’t believe in the old 50% markup…

  5. Ah yes, contracts. I’ve been doing some in an other-than-publishing space. It really pays to have a lawyer go over these things, because lawyers know about dangers that we mundanes don’t.

    As well, the other side may include ‘gotcha’ wording in case you might be the dumbass that doesn’t hire a -good- lawyer. I had one like that the other day, putting in things like “You agree that Our Company will be your sole-source provider of Product X.” They put it in two different places. After a few emails back and forth explaining that no, I didn’t agree, they changed it. No muss, no fuss.

    If somebody wants to do a deal with you, they’ll do the deal. If the contract contains stupid stuff you can change it and they’ll go along. If the contract is a trap because their business model is them stealing your work and the income from it, then they’ll get up on their high horse and say ‘how DARE you sir?!’ That’s how you can tell it’s a trap.

    In conclusion, the world contains shysters, chisellers, scam artists and thieves. They have a presence and an impact far larger than their numbers would suggest. If somebody hands you Rumpelstiltskin boiler-plate, counter-offer the terms that -you- want and see what they do. Reasonable men negotiate, thieves bluster and threaten. Never be afraid to flip them off and walk away whistling.

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