The Truth About Hybrid Publishers
by P.J. Hultstrand
If you Google the term “hybrid publishing,” you will find all sorts of articles and small publishers boasting that they are hybrids. There has been a move toward hybrid publishing as a third solution to the publishing industry’s polarization between traditional publishing and self publishing. Interestingly, small publishers aren’t the only ones using this model of publishing.
Many in this industry are trying to wrap their heads around the benefits that can be found through hybrid publishing. According to the article in Publishers Weekly, a hybrid is “author-subsidized, which is where the similarity to self-publishing ends. In every other way, modeled on a traditional press, with a strict vetting process, traditional distribution, and authors who bring strong marketing plans to the table.”
Some years ago, HarperCollins decided to step into the self-publishing ring with its white flag ideals of helping authors to publish manuscripts that had not been accepted by any of the editors of the many imprints under its publishing house. In recent years, Simon & Schuster also stepped into the ring by introducing its Archway Publishing arm.
Admittedly, when I first heard what HarperCollins wanted to do, I thought this would be the ultimate “best of both worlds” approach to publishing. The general idea was to submit through a group page on the HC website where other readers/website users would help hone your manuscript through the critique method of editing. Then, if the HarperCollins editors passed your manuscript on to one of its many imprints, you had the option to PAY TO PUBLISH. The author would fund the editing and pre-production process while still receiving the benefit of the HarperCollins name and distribution channels, which is what was most appealing about this process in the first place.
However, after having taken my eyes off of this process for the last few years, I went back onto some of the forum boards recently to find that HarperCollins had allowed shark infestation of what might have been the holy grail for self-published authors. The option is still under its Authonomy site; however, the printing option is now handled through Author Solutions, and the chances of distribution have fizzled, along with HarperCollins’ important name association.
When I saw that Simon & Schuster was offering a similar white flag for self-publishers, I looked into it and didn’t have to read very far to find that Archway Publishing is another front for Author Solutions. Right on its submission page, it states the following: “Archway Publishing offers a specialized approach with expert self-publishing services provided by Author Solutions.”
So, what’s the big deal? you may be asking. Why is this a problem?
Author Solutions is the parent company of the self-publishing companies/imprints AuthorHouse, iUniverse, Trafford Publishing, Xlibris, Palibrio, and Booktango. One of the very reasons I went into the publishing business back in 2008, with our first book in print in May 2009, was because of the reputations of several of these companies. I had authors who had been hung out to dry by some of these companies and had come running to someone who would tell it like it really is: “There is NO easy road to publishing where you make millions.” While these companies may not be as dastardly as Publish America, they still have years of tarnished reputations, and most books they put out are not allowed anywhere near a bookstore shelf.
If these are considered the “hybrid” publishers of today, then I would rather my company, Az Publishing Services, LLC, which was a hybrid before such a term was coined back in 2009, not be associated with these publishing companies. Now, my company is among the growing number of hybrid publishers who really believe in working one-on-one with its authors. I consider this author/publisher relationship to be a marriage of sorts, similar to the author/editor relationship that sometimes transpires within the traditional big publishers’ houses. If an author is fortunate, an editor falls in love with a book/series and works with the author to hone the project to make it the best it can be, then follows it through to publication and works with that author to build his or her writing career. At least this is the way it used to happen. Now, it is rare to form such a tight relationship with an editor. In many cases and horror stories I have heard from authors over recent years, they lose their editor and are reassigned to another who doesn’t love their book or just doesn’t “get them” like the original editor did.
Is this the wave of what’s new in the publishing industry? I suspect that more big traditional publishers will embrace self-published authors, and a few may actually make it to the hall of champions by being published by one of their actual imprints, and not just fed to the sharks. However, if the quantity of books being published by the Big 5 publishers is any indication, the overall numbers from these houses have decreased slightly, and they still don’t really know what their readers are looking for in books. They still pay big advances to the aging rock n’ roller and the latest reality television star while hundreds, if not thousands, of well written books, with the potential to be the next big thing, fall into the rejection bin – or even worse, are fed to the sharks.
As I always say to aspiring authors when asked whether they should have gone with _____________ (fill in the blank) publisher, do your homework! Check them out. Then, dig deeper and find out what they are really offering. Are they your publishing savior, or are they Sharknado? While I can guarantee that no deal out there is ironclad or pristine (even under my own publishing company), you just need to decide if you would rather keep trying for one of the Big 5 publishers, go it alone as a self-publisher, or find a partner to tag along with who can hopefully lead you down a smoother road with fewer potholes.
Best of luck with whatever publishing decisions you make.
Patti J. Hultstrand has assisted in bringing 78 books to market since 2009 through her company, AZ PublishingServices, LLC. She has been a graphic designer for 24 years, fourteen of those years in a print shop. PJ is an author of four books, three fiction and one nonfiction. She is also the Managing Editor for the pop culture newspaper, The WOD, and is a media host on KWOD Radio. You can find her speaking or running her media team at many local Arizona conventions throughout the year. Follow her on Facebook.