Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Writer Wednesday: The Age of the Hybrid

Lately, I've seen more and more authors opting to go hybrid. They are both self publishing and publishing traditionally. Honestly, I think this is smart. Not all books are suited for traditional publishing. Some do better off as self-published titles. Other books need the traditional structure and the power of a marketing team and budget behind them.

I know an author who is a fantastic writer but is struggling to find an agent. The reason rests in the genre she writes and the agents she's queried have told her that. For her, I think self publishing could build her platform so she can get other books picked up by traditional houses.

I've seen other authors who self publish but don't have great sales, and I can't help wondering why they strictly self publish instead of submitting some books to traditional publishers. Traditional publishers have more reach than a one-man operation. When you have a great book, sometimes you need that push a traditional publisher can give you.

So I think it comes down to deciding what's best for each individual book. What would reach more potential readers—and that's not always traditional publishing. 

What are your thoughts on this hybrid model of both self publishing and publishing traditionally?

50 comments:

  1. I've been seeing this more and I think it's smart. If a writer has polished manuscripts ready to go, they should explore all avenues, even simultaneously.

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    1. I completely agree. I think this is the way for more writers to see success.

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  2. I completely agree. One of my projects for next year is a book of memories that I will hopefully co-write with a journalist friend. I think it would be much better suited to self publishing. However, the novel I'm working on would benefit from the backing of a traditional publisher. Thanks for sharing this interesting topic.

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    1. Sounds like you might be a hybrid author as well. :)

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  3. I think it's too easy to self publish, but that's a good thing for writers. It's not a good thing for readers. I end up reading 5 to 6 excerpts before I find one that was ever ready for publishing (at least to my standard. I like fast tempos and believe in less is more).

    I miss older books I've read in the past, ones that you didn't have to stop and think about, you just read it because it flowed, and to me that comes from the structure created by the traditional publisher. Writers write stories, but the traditional publishers create an experience in your reading.

    Either way, I like to read self-published material more often than not. I feel like I get to experience the story unfiltered so to speak.

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    1. You're right that self-publishing is almost too easy. There are people publishing books that aren't ready to be published. That's why I love the Look Inside feature on Amazon. The Try a Sample is great too.

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  4. I've been seeing a lot of this as well. Just off the top of my head, I read recent blog posts from Natalie Whipple and Elana Johnson saying they would be self-publishing novels in the coming year. Exciting times! =)

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    1. Yes, I knew Elana was. Didn't know about Natalie.

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  5. I think it's a very personal choice and a lot of factors go into making the decision how to publish, but you're right - what works for one book may not work for another.

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    1. Yes. You really need to figure out what would suit each book best.

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  6. For me personally, I think the control I have over my own work makes indie publishing more appealing.

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  7. I'm a hybrid author, having been published every which way from Random House to selfies to a digital-only deal with Inkspell. It's a fascinating journey, and each venture has its own unique flavor.

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    1. Yes, you do it all, which is great, Catherine! :)

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  8. I think a lot of it has to do with a trust factor, too. In self-publishing, an author maintains control, but once a manuscript is in the hands of a publisher - the way it's packaged and edited can change its original intent. It becomes more of a group effort than a single viewpoint. Also, there's no delay or deductions in payment. Authors know where they stand in terms of dollars and cents on a minute by minute basis, and they receive the full amount after the retailer takes its cut.

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    1. All great points, Faith. Though I have to say, being paid an advance is nice. ;)

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    2. Especially to aid in marketing, which can HELP sales overall, and you can pay back your advance and earn out sooner! (Hint to publishers who pry this blog...)

      I think sometimes publishers forget that we're taking on a lot responsibility, too, there's just as much risk for us as them, and business lectures aside, we don't want to fail anymore than they do, but not all of us have "Reserve Finances" and I don't mean to sound cheap or mean, I really don't, Kelly. (Smile!)

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    3. LOL, I can't even imagine a publisher giving me an advance. That's the stuff dreams are made of. But for authors like yourself and others, it makes me smile to know you're being justly compensated for your work. That's like ... nirvana! :-)

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  10. I'm all for authors having options, but I know for me personally, the upfront costs prohibit me from being hybrid right now. If I could make some headway selling to traditional outlets, then I could experiment with self-publishing.

    There are certainly some projects I'd rather take full charge of, but hiring an editor alone (Never mind cover designers and interior illustrations if needed for) costs more than I can afford, and I say this not to be cheap, but honest. There's a difference between "I can't pay what a great editor deserves" and "I don't want to pay what people's skills are worth!" and I wish more authors who talk about indie publishing understand that.

    Kelly, I know you've experimented with this, but for me, I really feel torn with how much I can compromise on without alienating the readers I want to have.

    Especially since my niche is so hard to break into, anything short of pro-level won't help my chances (Not just in sales, but reader interest), and as you know, I have a hard time balancing what's "Enough" from drafting to crafting query letters, and all in between.

    I'm thinking about doing a campaign on Kickstarter at some point, but I need to do more research so my project idea has legs to meet the goal, in the meantime I slave away with trying to have better query letters and synopses that inform without sounding lifeless...

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    1. It can be very costly to self publish the right way. I'm lucky because I happen to be related to some really great people who do both editing and cover design. Cutting costs like that are a huge help. Also, if you have a book that lends itself to ebook format (YA or adult) you can save money that way too because ebooks are cheaper and see higher royalties than paperbacks.

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    3. Typos...

      But since I and many authors mostly write middle grade or early readers and picture books, that's not necessarily a help for us, and many teens and adults (Myself included) still have a preference for print, regardless of of our socioeconomic status.

      Besides Kelly, since you've written middle grade (Into the Fire, right?) and published various picture books, you should know in some way what I'm talking about.

      I know you have a Kindle, but does your daughter?

      Has she or her friends asked for an e-reader or tablet?

      Do you see this digital shift we authors keep hearing about weekly if not daily?

      I'm not anti-ebook, I've purchased some (I have one of yours, Kelly, The Imaginary Friend and it's a great short read), but it's not the same as a print book in some ways, and I can't forsake that.

      And just because ebooks don't the overhead of print books doesn't mean it's any more affordable when the author essentially becomes their own publisher, and I feel in the all the major discussions about indie publishing, we treat this issue like it's small potatoes and it's not.

      I did months of reasearch and found it wasn't an option for me right now. If I had an advance for Gabriel I could've used whatever I had left over from promo and marketing Gabriel to invest in a team for a indie publishing project, be it an ebook or something.

      I'm not arguing against what you're saying, Kelly. I'm really not.

      I'm just saying there's more nuance to this issue than I feel authors from a certain era or vantage point forget and don't respect/understand, and if they do, I do feel get that gets left out of the discussion, or made light of.

      I can only comment on what I've experienced and from what those further along in their careers (Like you and Katie Clark) have been gracious enough to share.

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    4. That's why I said YA and adult. MG doesn't sell as well in ebook format. I do have a MG, Curse of the Granville Fortune, coming out October 2014, but that's my only MG title. Into the Fire is YA. I think MG needs to be in print. That might change, but it hasn't yet.

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    6. That was my point, and many teens and adults still prefer print, and even if some things I do someday are ebook only, I want to have some of my books in print, regardless of the target reader, and again, ebooks still need a certain level of quality that I personally can't yet give, in terms of cover design and content editing.

      Those still demand a premium, not just in terms of cost for the indie author, but also the reader, and I've heard too many horror stories of readers passing by based solely on unprofessional covers, and they do matter with ebooks since just like print books, it's the first thing people see, and again, I'm speaking with the mindset of having a limited budget, not when you HAVE the funds or professional connections like you mentioned above.

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  11. Yes! The best part of the self-pub boom is the options it gives writers. A friend recently asked me about chapter books for which I emphatically supported the traditional route. But same friend writes romantic suspense which does really well in self-pub. Every book is different and self-publishing gives authors the chance to treat each book individually.

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    1. Thanks for giving us an agent's perspective, Sarah. I love that so many agents are helping their clients self publish books that are better suited for that route. And I've seen a lot of those books wind up getting acquired by big houses, too, because they did so well as self-published titles. The industry is definitely changing.

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  12. I love the control I have as an indie publisher and I think I'll publish most of my work that way. On the other hand, I'm planning a picture book series and I really want to have a traditional publisher for that one in order to maintain the quality of the images.

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  13. I think you're right, Kelly. I haven't self published yet, but if the occasion arises I will. It's great that authors have choices in how to publish their books these days.

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  14. At the moment, it's finances for me. At the current exchange rate, editing, formatting, cover design etc. could (and would) cost me at least two months' income if I self published.

    But, if I have a platform and good royalty income from indie or traditional publishing, self publishing as well would be a definite possibility for me.

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    1. It can definitely be costly, though you do get to keep all the profits.

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    2. I so get what you're saying, Misha, and it's hard not to be jealous when you hear of all these great options, but if you're on a tight budget, it can still feel like there's only ONE way, going to a traditional publisher, and if you want wide distribution, it's getting harder to entice publishers without an agent, just to get that chance (I know agents don't guarantee getting published) but they are becoming more necessary just to be considered, even a lot of legit indie publishers are preferring to work with agented authors, and for me personally, I NEED that ally in the business stuff. I can't do it all alone! Anyway, I keep hoping they'll someday be legit options for the cash-strapped folks like me.

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  15. Hi Kelly!

    Great post. I would say the control we have as self-published is very attractive.

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  16. I think everyone needs to look at the work and weigh which option works best for them. So many factors to think about!
    ~Jess

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    1. Yes, there is definitely a lot to think about.

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  17. Hi Kelly, I am happily self-published, and I reserve the options to go the traditional publishing route for certain projects in future. You're right. Hybrid is the way to go. And as for self-publishing MG novels, as you and Taurean were discussing up there, it might still work (I hope it does because this is what is happening for me right now) because there are ebook and POD options. Promoting sounds tougher for sure, but if we reach teachers, parents and librarians who read MG novels, they would be the ones passing the books to the younger readers. (Too optimistic?)

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    1. I think it can definitely work for MG but the ereader craze hasn't enveloped that age group yet the way it has teens and adults. Though I have a feeling that will soon change. So be optimistic. :)

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  18. For myself, I'm interested in traditional publishing rather than self. But I definitely agree that there are situations when one or the other makes good sense.

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    1. Self publishing can be scary because it's ALL you. It's a lot to take on. I can see why some people stay away from it. But for those who are comfortable with it and have a book that suits self publishing better, I say go for it.

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  19. I agree... I have done both: self published an ebook ..and am now published by an independent publisher. Both have advantages and disadvantages -- I think the thing to take on board is whatever medium you choose, you still have to work your socks off for sales!!

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    1. Definitely true, Carol! Definitely true.

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  20. I agree! I am published right now with a small press, but I have a series that I am seeking representation for. I also have books that I want to try with a more widely known publishing company. After I write them. lol And if I can't find an agent for my series, I have another book that I will pitch to agents once it's finished. I even hope to self-publish a book for writers in the future. :)

    I believe authors should keep all of their options open, experiment, and find what works best for them. And using a combination of self-publishing and traditional publishing (with small presses AND big houses) is a great idea!

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    1. I agree that keeping our options open is a very good idea. Good luck with querying.

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  21. I say why go one way or the other? Why limit your options? Why be a hostage? I say go both ways. Life is like a box of chocolates, yes?

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    1. Yes! As always, I love the way your brain works, Brenda. :)

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