Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Publishing - A Basic Primer - Part Three

by Janis Patterson

Hope you had a lovely and romantic Valentine’s Day! We didn’t do much - just exchanged cards and shared a bottle of our favorite Veuve Cliquot champagne while watching some unfortunately not very romantic movies on tv. (The Husband prefers action-adventure movies and I prefer having my romance in real life, so we’re both happy with the way the evening turned out!)

I hope all of you are warm and safe during this terrible weather. We were without power for 30+ hours and the low was -1F! Not fun...

As promised, here is the third part of my originally conceived of two part series on the varieties of publishing. Nothing every really goes exactly the way you want it to, does it?

In the first two installments I covered the basics of and differences between Traditional publishing and Self publishing. Now I’m going to talk about a fairly new version of publishing, the Hybrid. I do so with some trepidation, as while I have published many times in both Trad and Self, I have never done Hybrid. So - if I make any egregious mistakes and you know Hybrid, please elucidate in the comments.

As its name implies, Hybrid is a melding of both Trad and Self where - basically - the writer pays for most everything but the mechanics of production are done by the company. It sounds as if it were a panacea with everything perfectly set out, but if things sound too good to be true they usually are. Hybrid pubbing can run the gamut between wonderful and supportive and worth it to just about the worst scam that can be imagined, costing the writer many thousands of dollars and delivering little to extremely little to - in a few sad cases - nothing at all.

In an ideal scenario the writer produces a book and contracts with the Hybrid, who produces a good editing, a good cover, a flawless format and uploading to the chosen market)s) and decent publicity with the writer bearing the cost. It is a true collaboration in every way, with the writer involved in every step. The author benefits from the radiated glory of being published by an imprint of a well-known and respected house. (The reader rarely knows or cares that the MyNewBook imprint is a hybrid arm of BigPublishingHouse and not a regular imprint.) Like the Cinderella principle mentioned in the Trad pubbing blog, it does on occasion happen like this - but very very rarely.

In the worst case scenario the writer produces a book and contracts with the Hybrid, who gives a slap-dash editing if any at all, an execrable cover, a so-so formatting and the only publicity is a listing on their usually pathetic website. Sometimes this kind of Hybrid demands that you give them your email and sometimes snail mail contact lists so they can aggressively market to your friends, relatives and other contacts. Unfortunately, this is more often about soliciting new authors for their publishing services than about selling your book. Sometimes it is difficult to tell the difference between these low-life Hybrid outfits and a pure scam dedicated to separating a writer from his money.

Yes, I am a cynic, but I’ve been in this crazy business a long time (since 1979) and know how bad it can get.

Worst of all, these kind of Hybrids offer low royalties, some as low as the genuine Trad publishers - literally pennies on the cover price. Getting your money - whether much or little - is the next problem. Sometimes writers never see a cent or even get a statement of how many books have been sold. If any. The line between Vanity and these low-type Hybrids is sometimes very blurred.

Now before you inundate me with emails praising your Hybrid publisher, let me say that there are good ones out there. Some are very good. Some are honest but not very effectual. Sadly, many more are barely a hairsbreadth above the scam level. 

Personally, I cannot understand why anyone would risk such huge amounts of money and - on occasion - losing the copyright and ownership of their book by Hybrid publishing when they could hire out everything on their own and retain control. I just can’t. I have seen a bad Hybrid contract where the poor writer paid in the lowish five digits for basically nothing - a badly edited, badly covered book that got no publicity from the ‘publisher’ at all. The royalty scale was less than 5% of cover price - and I don’t think there was ever a copy sold except those the writer guilted friends/family into buying, and he didn’t even get royalties on those! However, I know there are many writers who prefer Hybrid pubbing and they deserve the respect due their freedom of choice. 

So how do you find a good Hybrid? First of all, read everything you can about any Hybrid house in which you are interested - and don’t assume that just because they are affiliated with a recognizable publisher they are aboveboard and honest. There have been a couple of real scandals through the years about semi-scams - at least from the writer’s point of view - in which exactly that and worse happened. Thankfully I haven’t heard of any concerning a big house recently, so maybe that sad time is over.

Which doesn’t mean that there aren’t ugly sharks out there just waiting to gobble up little wide-eyed writers’ money! You must do your research! Google the company and look at both good and bad comments. Best of all, ask your fellow writers. Most writers today are connected through at least one eloop, or know someone who is, and your fellow writers are the ones most likely to know if a Hybrid is good or bad. If they say it’s good, believe them - but verify! If you can get hold of their contract, go through it word by word - and you might be best served if you show it to an attorney. Who owns the copyright to your book? What input do you have in editing/cover/whatever? What are they offering - i.e., what are they guaranteeing in writing - for the money you are paying? Don’t be dazzled by smoke and mirrors and pie-in-the-sky promises. Publishing is contractual, and the contract should be equitable and airtight.

There are good Hybrid publishers out there - there are so many more bad ones. If this route is your choice, do your due diligence and be careful in your choice.

So - these last three blog posts have been nutshell descriptions of our publishing options. I believe there are so many variations and permutations of these three basic types that it would take a work bigger than War And Peace to cover them all, and by the time it was finished there would be new ways appearing.

Whichever you do, be careful, look out for yourself and your work, and choose wisely. And whichever way you decide to go, I do wish you the very best of good fortune.


6 comments:

Vicki Batman, sassy writer said...

good thoughts. I have trad pubbed mysteries and indie pub short stories. Works fine for me for now.

Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

Mine are now all indie published, and I'm happy!

Jacqueline Seewald said...

I'm still with traditional publishers. How wise that is I couldn't say.

Morgan Mandel said...

At first I was published by a small press, which was sold to another small press. The second press didn't do anything for the authors who were sold over, so I requested my rights back and went indie.

I've heard of many vanity presses who charge a lot and are basically scammers, but if a person knows others in the business sometimes if they don't want to do covers and do want editing, they can ask friends or get recommendations. I'd do that before paying a large sum to get a book published.

These days I do my own covers, although I did have a good cover artist before. Now that I'm retired, I pinch pennies. I also knew an editor, but she became incapacitated, so I send my manuscript out to 3 people I trust to offer editing suggestions, which works well for me.

I've said it before, but I'll say it again. The best thing about going indie is being able to control your book. Also, the worst is also being able to control your book, because it involves making decisions and wondering if you made the right ones.

authorlindathorne said...

This was very interesting. I honestly did not know about Hybrid publishers. I turned down a vanity press years ago, after looking into what they offered. They were pushy and I felt like it was a con rather than a business deal. You have a great deal of knowledge in these areas. Thank you for sharing.

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