Making choices self-publishing choices can feel like throwing darts blindfolded. With all the changes to publishing in the last decade or so it gets even more confusing. For instance, now there are opportunities with hybrid publishers which can open more doors for authors and leave them more perplexed than ever.
When indie-publishing really took off, the options were traditional publishing or self-publishing either through a vanity publisher or using Createspace and other such options. Now, Ingram and other distributors offer the opportunity for availability in their catalogs but that doesn’t get you to bookstore shelves. True distribution to bookstores is usually not available for indie authors even if you choose to make the book returnable and offer the standard 55% wholesale discount. Looking at it that way, making a book non-returnable and only offering 30% discount is much more profitable and allows authors to price print books competitively.
And then along came hybrid publishing which melds traditional and self-publishing in such a way that an author is supposed to have more opportunity to gain shelf placement. If you’re not familiar with hybrid publishing, here’s a quick thumbnail. Traditional publishers vet submissions from authors and take on all the financial burden and risk of publication. Old-style vanity publishers rarely vetted author submissions and the author took on all the risk for publication – often at great cost (vanity presses often promise far more than they can deliver).
Hybrid publishers have stepped into the mix and offer publication with a vetting process. In the end, the cost and risk of publication is shared in some way between the publisher and the author. How that sharing works can be different depending on the hybrid publisher. For instance, Inkshares allows authors to submit and go through a crowdfunding process of gaining pre-orders. If the submitting author reaches 750 pre-orders, then Inkshares takes on the submission with all the services of a traditional publisher, even getting print editions to bookstore shelves.
But there are still a variety of hybrid publishers, many offering high-priced solutions that will get your book to shelves. In the end, many of these publishers calling themselves “hybrid” are glorified vanity publishers willing to take an author’s money regardless of the quality. Inkshares, Evolved and several others are more reputable hybrid publishers with a good track-record of producing quality books through their submissions processes. But one of the pluses includes a much higher royalty with a good hybrid publisher.
However, there are a few more caveats to hybrid publishing, the main one being rights. Let me explain: up until now, I’ve managed my own books entirely, but only as e-books because that’s what I can produce at the lowest cost to my budget. However, with the completion of The Bow of Hart Saga and increased sales, I’ve begun to investigate options for other media formats. Audio will be taken care of soon (more about that on my own blog site soon). But print is a big question mark.
My initial thought was that I’d try to make the print version of the series available to bookstores. But with the realization that this is nearly impossible, I began to just cut my losses and plan to go the most competitive pricing route while pushing print editions online. However, I thought I might investigate further with hybrid publishing,. I soon ran upon that aforementioned caveat: rights.
Much like a traditional publisher who might be willing to take on my series, hybrid publishers would want all the rights to publish in all channels. Now don’t get me wrong, that’s a nice prospect. But when I’ve done all the work with the e-books and this one essentially being a shovel-ready project, I’ve done all the leg-work and I’d want a very high royalty rate for the eBooks – something even hybrid publishers don’t want to talk about. Additionally, they want rights to all channels including audio. Remember what I mentioned? Well, I’ve most likely have that last one covered so giving up those rights is probably out of the question.
So that’s my answer and something of which authors should be aware. I feel that ebook and audio are my best revenue channels followed by the shrinking print market. If I don’t have access to enough of the print channel, it’s likely not worth giving up ebook rights, let alone those for audio. I can probably do as much on my own with print since I’ll sell more in ebook and audio because most of the requests for another form of media have been audio.
Will I consider hybrid in the future? Certainly, especially since Evolved, Inkshares and other good hyrbrids offer a much higher royalty. But then again, it all comes back to my out-of-pocket expense. I might be able to produce my book much cheaper than a shared publication experience, no matter the chance of getting to shelves.
As I work on my other projects, I’m going to be aware of these options and carefully consider how I’m going to approach publication the next time. My initial efforts took me further than I expected, so my choices were based on expectation. Now, I have to keep all my options open and think through how I’ll proceed. Some projects will just be done by me while others may need a hybrid, or even, traditional publisher.
What do you say? How do you think you should approach your next publication project? What will determine your approach? As a hybrid author (meaning, being traditionally and self-published), I have to think through the options carefully, even if I’m not yet traditionally published. How about you?