Hybrid publishing is a very broad and downright confusing term used to describe publishers that operate using some aspects of traditional publishing and some aspects of self-publishing.
There are thousands of hybrid publishing companies out there, and some hybrid publishers operate so differently that you wouldn’t even think to compare one hybrid publisher to another. Similar terms that can describe some hybrid publishers include vanity publisher or subsidy publisher, although some companies that are labeled as hybrid publishers operate much more like a traditional publisher or small press.
You should know that the term “hybrid publisher” is still very new, and the definition of a hybrid publisher is still very much up in the air. If you asked 10 publishing experts about a list of publishers to see which ones were hybrid publishers, there would be a lot of disagreement and contention.
Note: See our list of the best hybrid publishers.
Types of Hybrid Publishers
Here are some of the different types of hybrid publishers:
1. Hybrid Publishers with Editorial Standards
Hybrid publishers with editorial standards do not simply accept any submission. Their editors review submissions and pick a small percentage of manuscripts to publish. Because of this, these publishers tend to have higher editorial standards and provide better editing services than self-publishing service companies that accept submissions from any author who is willing to pay.
2. Crowdfunding Publishers
Crowdfunding publishers only offer a book deal to authors who have proven sales or demand for their book via crowdfunding. Some of these publishers have their own crowdfunding platform, while others simply have their others use another crowdfunding platform like Kickstarter or IndieGoGo.
3. Self Publishing Services
Self-publishing service companies simply sell publishing services. They don’t have editorial standards, and they simply offer services to authors who want to self publish, or have the “hybrid publisher” become the publisher.
4. Traditional Publishers that Sell Self Publishing Services
Some traditional publishers or small presses sell self-publishing services. They’re essentially the same as a self-publishing services company, except they often tend to have more experience when it comes to actually editing, designing, distributing, and marketing books given their history as a traditional publisher.
5. Small Press Publishers or Traditional Publishers
Because small press publishers often operate similar to editorially curated hybrid publishers, it can be hard to tell them apart. Basically, a small press is a publisher that pays royalties and doesn’t charge authors any fees for editing, design, publishing, or marketing services, whereas an editorially curated publisher often does charge fees to the author to subsidize the publishing costs.
What to Look for in a Hybrid Publisher
Because there is so much confusion about exactly what a hybrid publisher does and doesn’t do, you ought to treat every hybrid publisher as its own unique entity. Do your research to find out exactly how they operate.
Here are some of the common differences to look for between hybrid publishers with editorial standards and traditional publishers.
Royalties and Advances
Even though some hybrid publishers do pay royalties, they often do not offer advances on royalties. To make up for this, they often pay higher royalty rates than traditional publishers, which means you’ll earn more money for each copy of your book sold through a typical royalty-paying hybrid publisher than you would with a traditional publisher.
Some hybrid publishers charge the author fees for services from editing to printing books to marketing. Generally speaking, I don’t recommend working with a hybrid publisher that charges fees because there’s a good chance you might not earn back your investment.
If you want to pay to get your book published, I recommend you either self publish or hire a self-publishing services company to publish your book for you.
Print Runs and Print-on-Demand (POD)
Most hybrid publishers don’t do print runs (unless the author is paying for the print run). Instead, they’ll use POD to print books when they are sold via retailers like Amazon.
This helps eliminate inventory, reduce risk, and make sure you and the publisher don’t have thousands of books sitting around in a garage or warehouse that will eventually end up in the landfill.
Marketing is what sets apart a great hybrid publisher from the rest, and could even make working with a hybrid publisher a much better choice than going with a traditional publisher in some cases.
A great hybrid publisher should be able to provide advice, guidance, and/or support with the following marketing materials:
- Creating and implementing a marketing plan
- Creating and improving your author website
- Digital marketing, including building your email list, social media marketing, SEO, and more
- Amazon promotions, Amazon ads, and marketing campaigns
Questions to Ask a Hybrid Publisher
Here are the questions you should be asking your hybrid publisher (or any publisher you’re considering signing a book deal with).
You should understand the answers to these questions before signing a contract.
- How are royalties calculated? What is the royalty rate?
- Does the author have to pay any fees whatsoever, including printing costs, marketing costs, editing costs, design costs, or other?
- Do you offer advances?
- What is the publishing timeline (from the time we sign the book deal until the book is released and available for sale)?
- Do you provide developmental editing, copy editing, and proofreading?
- In which format(s) will you publish my book—eBook, print, and/or audio?
- Are your books available through a distributor for physical retail distribution (like Ingram)?
- Do you pay for placement in bookstores or physical retailers?
- Do you have a sales team that will help get my book on bookstore shelves?
- Do you provide marketing services? If so, exactly what services will you provide? Does the author pay or does the publisher?
- Who owns the copyright—the publisher or the author?
- Do you provide any additional services or benefits I should know about, such as foreign language rights sales or distribution I couldn’t get if I self-published?
- Do you submit your books to trade reviewers
If you liked this post, here are some other articles you might love:
- List of Hybrid Publishers
- 023: Michael J. Sullivan on Publishing Fiction Traditionally, Self Publishing and Hybrid Publishing
- How to Publish a Book: The Ultimate Guide to Book Publishing in 2018
Tom Corson-Knowles is the founder of TCK Publishing, and the bestselling author of 27 books including Secrets of the Six-Figure author. He is also the host of the Publishing Profits Podcast show where we interview successful authors and publishing industry experts to share their tips for creating a successful writing career.