It used to be that if you wanted your book published, you needed to get a publishing house to accept your manuscript: a feat that only a select few could accomplish. If you didn’t make the grade, you could always self-publish by doing everything – writing, editing, design and layout, distribution and marketing – yourself. Another option was to publish through a vanity publisher who didn’t care about quality as long as they got paid. Nowadays, another publishing option is gaining popularity: hybrid publishing. But what exactly is hybrid publishing?
[This topic was discussed on The Empowered Author Podcast and you can always listen to that right here.]
As the name implies, a hybrid publisher is a hybrid between traditional publishing and self-publishing, taking certain characteristics from each of these publishing models. Some people think that because it’s an author-funded publishing model, hybrid publishing companies are no different than predatory vanity presses.
However, reputable hybrid publishers operate according to strict standards. In 2018, the Independent Book Publishers Association – or IBPA – published a list of nine criteria that publishers have to meet before they can call themselves a hybrid publisher. (Ingenium Books is a proud member of IBPA.) Let’s take a look at each of these.
1. A hybrid publisher has a defined mission and vision.
Any successful business has a clearly defined mission and vision helping to guide their day-to-day operations, the decisions they make and the future direction they want the company to move in. This is no different for publishers. For instance, Penguin Random House, one of the Big Five traditional publishers, defines its mission as: “Our mission is to ignite a universal passion for reading by creating books for everyone.” Hybrid publishers are clear about their mission and vision too: for Ingenium Books, for example, it’s: “Our mission is to enrich people’s lives by creating and publishing outstanding and award-winning nonfiction women love to write and read.”
2. A hybrid publisher vets submissions.
Vetting submissions is one of the big differences between a hybrid publisher and a vanity publisher. Vanity publishers will publish anything that’s submitted to them, even if it’s of poor quality. A hybrid publisher, in contrast, will reject submissions that go against their mission, vision and values. Like traditional publishers, they look for quality. However, they’re also more open to looking for potential and then working with the author to produce a quality book.
3. A hybrid publisher publishes under their own imprint and uses ISBNs.
In publishing, an imprint is the trade name under which a book is published. Traditional publishers often have multiple different imprints, each focusing on a specific sector of the market. Doubleday, Ladybird Books, Penguin Books, Puffin Books and Modern Library are all imprints of Penguin Random House, for instance. Self-published books and books published by vanity presses don’t always have imprints. Hybrid publishers always publish under their own imprint – or imprints, since they can have multiple, just like traditional publishers. Each edition of each book also has its own, unique ISBN: its International Standard Book Number.
4. A hybrid publisher publishes to industry standards.
Even when a hybrid publisher accepts a manuscript that isn’t of the best quality, they will work on improving it until it meets industry standards before they will publish it. Industry standards cover the elements all books should have, such as a title page and a copyright page, and the information that should be included on these pages. There are also design and layout standards for the inside of the book and for the cover. Finally, there are industry standards for the quality of writing and how to credit sources, photographs, and illustrations.
5. A hybrid publisher ensures editorial, design, and production quality.
In order to ensure that they publish books according to industry standards, hybrid publishers enlist the services of professional editors, proofreaders, designers, layout artists or formatters, illustrators and cover designers. These professionals often work on a freelance basis and many have learned the ropes while working for a traditional publisher.
6. A hybrid publisher pursues and manages a range of publishing rights.
Like traditional publishers and most self-publishers, hybrid publishers want as many people as possible to read the books they publish. So, they usually publish the book in digital format as well as print format: even if it’s print-on-demand. Authors can negotiate to keep their subsidiary rights, just like they would with a traditional publisher. Subsidiary rights include the rights to the audiobook and/or translated editions.
7. A hybrid publisher provides distribution services.
One of the great advantages of having a traditional publishing deal over self-publishing or publishing with a vanity press is that getting the book out to retailers and book buyers isn’t solely the author’s responsibility. Book distribution is daunting, especially for new authors. Hybrid publishers make things less intimidating by helping the author develop and implement a marketing, distribution and sales strategy. Like traditional publishers, they may also have a network of all the right people: not only big book retail chains but also specialty bookstores, book clubs and other potential buyers.
8. A hybrid publisher demonstrates respectable sales.
Because a hybrid publisher only publishes quality books, they aim to build up a good reputation. And because they have that good reputation, the books that they publish will generally sell. Of course there may be a book here and there that sells only a few copies but overall, the publisher’s books sell in respectable quantities for their niche.
9. A hybrid publisher pays the author more than the industry standard in royalties.
Contrary to what many aspiring authors believe, those who publish with traditional publishers normally only receive a small percentage of the sales as royalties. On average, the author gets royalties of between 5 and 25 percent, depending on whether it’s a paperback, a hardcover, an ebook or an audiobook. The publisher keeps the majority of the income from sales in order to recoup their investment in producing, distributing and marketing the book and to make a profit. In hybrid publishing, the author has invested in those services too so the publisher doesn’t carry all of those costs. This means a more even split of the income from the book: normally, the author gets a royalty rate of at least 50 percent.