About Hybrid Publishers

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The hybrid publishing models bridge the gap between traditional and self-publishing. Getty Images / Stephen Hobson

"Hybrid publisher" is a general term commonly used to refer to publishing houses whose services fall somewhere within the huge gap between a traditional publisher and a self-publishing service. To to understand what's in the gap, here's…

An overview the publisher's resources, risks, rewards

The goal of all book publishers and book publishing services is to make money off the books they publish.

For any type of publisher, taking a first draft of a writer's manuscript and putting it out into the hands of consumers in its best form takes resources — that is, time, energy, money spent on professionally:

  • Developing the manuscript so it flows best for the reader
  • Editing, copyediting and proofreading the manuscript
  • Designing the layout of the book's interior and the book jacket
  • Producing the physical book, including costs for paper, printing and binding
  • Producing the ebook files and getting them to online booksellers
  • Warehousing and shipping the book (if there's a physical book)
  • Marketing and promoting the book – creating catalogs, writing marketing copy, point-of-sale materials, etc.
  • Selling the book directly to major national accounts, independent books
  • Publicizing the book to major media book PR media

Traditional publishers have specialized teams of dedicated and experienced people on staff to perform all of the above functions. Every book a publisher acquires gets at least a minimum level of the above attention.

But as you can see above, their overhead is high. They need to have some assurance that when an agent approaches them representing an author, they have a good chance of recouping their investment and getting a return in exchange for investing their resources in the book.

This's why traditional publishers look for writers with authors a great platform and a great idea represented by a book proposal or a brilliant manuscript. When a trade publisher finds an author worthy of the investment in their resources, they take a financial risk to "acquire" that author. For their trouble, they pay an advance against royalties, get a contract assigning the publisher rights to the work, and take the lion's share of the profits.

Self-publishing services are publishers only in the fact that they get the writer's work out into the marketplace, either in digital form or printed books.

While self-publishing services make available some publishing-like editorial, design, marketing, PR, and printing skills-for-hire, these all come at a price that adds up very quickly. Further, since the self-publishing service makes a profit on these services and doesn't see any of the back-end profits, they no vested interest in quality control of the finished book. 

Which brings us to the in-between publishing models.

Hybrid publishers are in the middle

Hybrid publishers assume some of the risk of publishing a book by providing at least a minimal amount of book publishing resources and they take some of the profits, whether by offering royalties (though almost never advances) or a shared costs / shared profit arrangement. Many offer some level of legitimacy and authority over self-publishing.  

That said, the term hybrid publisher is a catch-all phrase used to refer to a number of varied publishing models that have cropped up in the space between traditional and DIY and their level of service varies. Some look suspiciously like self-publishers in sheep's clothing, some are more like small publishers, some (like Booktrope) are newly-envisioned entities run more like tech companies than traditional book publishers.

Is a hybrid publisher right for you? Learn the pros and cons of hybrid publishers and about one author's experience with her hybrid press. And get these insights from a book PR pro about what to expect from a hybrid publishing experience.

If you thought this information was useful, check out the wealth of advice on how to publish your book from a fellow writer and Book Publishing Expert Valerie Peterson