More thoughts on hybrid publishing

Reading time: About 1 minute

This is my weekly installment of “writing about writing,” in which I scan the world for material to help other writers. Today I discuss the topic of hybrid publishing…

You may recognize me as someone who doesn’t much like hybrid publishing.

But in case you don’t know what hybrid publishing is, let me explain briefly here.

  • Traditional publishing is where a publishing company takes on all the risk and expense of producing a book and the author gets a small percentage of the sale price (called a royalty.)
  • Self-publishing is where an author takes all the risk and expense of producing a book and gets all the financial rewards (if they exist).
  • Hybrid publishing is where a company does much of the “sourcing” work for self-publishers (e.g. finding and negotiating with an editor, cover designer, printing house etc.) for a set fee. How they pay the author is the subject of negotiation. The excellence and honesty of these publishers is highly variable.

I have heard a number of hybrid publishing horror stories. For example, some such companies “pretend” they are traditional publishers by requiring participants to “apply.” The participants are unaware that most companies will work with anyone who will pay the fee they demand. In another example of poor practice, a former client of mine used a hybrid publisher, and the company changed her editor mid-way through the process, an inexcusable lapse.

But while many hybrid publishers are unfair to authors or downright unethical, it’s unfair to paint all with the same brush. Writer Meghan Harvey has written a useful post on the subject in Jane Friedman’s blog, available here.

As she puts it:

“To assign ethical purity to traditional publishers on account of their business model ignores the reality that there are bad actors across the industry. As in any industry, business ethics are about a commitment to transparency, integrity, and trustworthiness. Writers do need to beware.”

If you’ve ever tempted to hire a hybrid publisher, be sure to first check over — and use — Harvey’s list of questions at the end of her post.

Scroll to Top