Hybrid Publishing: A Publishing Alternative, Not a Scam

By Tara Alemany for New Shelves

Note from Keri
Today’s post is by Tara Alemany, founder of Emerald Lakes Books, a hybrid publishing company. I have personally known Tara for many years and have worked with her and several of her authors.

When speaking to Tara a few weeks ago during an interview for the Publish with Purpose Virtual Summit, she mentioned that she was putting together a panel of hybrid publishers to discuss the myths and mysteries of the hybrid publishing model. She offered to let me screen the panel recording before it went live and I was blown away by the candid honesty shared by four hybrid publishers as they discuss what they charge authors to publish their books, value proposition, marketing, myths and scams.

Any author who has spoken with me personally, or who has tuned in to Free Advice Friday has heard me say that there is no “wrong” or “right” way to get published. Rather, I believe that it is important to know your options, consider how they may (or may not) fit your own personal goals and to make well-informed decisions. I asked Tara to expand that panel discussion into this post because I feel it is important for authors to receive a more rounded view of hybrid publishing (beyond the online and social media hype we’ve seen in the spring and summer of 2022) so that they can make their own informed decisions. My hope is that the article below as well as the featured panel give you food for thought as you continue to ask yourself, “What do I want out of my publishing journey and what are the best steps to get me there?”

Hybrid Publishing: A Publishing Alternative, Not a Scam

Earlier this year, the Society of Authors and the Writers Guild of Great Britain issued a joint report regarding the hybrid publishing model called “Is it a Steal?” In this report, hybrid publishing came under fire as being “the worst option a writer can take” and accusing hybrid publishers of predatory practices.

For those who aren’t familiar with hybrid publishing, it’s a publishing model whereby the author subsidizes most or all of the costs of publishing the book while their publishing partner leverages their knowledge and expertise to create a quality book and send it out into the proper distribution channels to reach the author’s ideal readers.

As in any industry, there are bad actors out there.

You must do your due diligence before signing any contract. Some companies use aggressive marketing tactics trying to sell you on services and add-ons that you don’t really need, while others aren’t transparent about their contracts and will publish anything as long as you can pay them to do so. Still others produce poor quality books with little to no sales potential, intent on generating all their revenue from the fees they charge with little regard for earning income from their share of royalties.

But the bad actors are not the norm in this industry.

As a member of the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA), I have met many hybrid publishers who truly put their authors’ needs foremost in their business practices. You’ll meet a few of them in the video below.

Brooke Warner, publisher of She Write Press, says,

“Hybrid publishers are, in fact, more author-centric than traditional publishers because of the collaborative nature of our business model. I’ve always seen hybrid publishing as the best of both worlds—in which the author retains a lot of creative control while benefitting from the expertise of publishing professionals who know this complicated industry inside and out.”

For many authors, hybrid publishing provides a valuable service.

They are partnering with their publisher for the professional support they need to create the books they want quickly while adhering to industry standards for quality books. For these authors, learning how to self-publish may require an investment of time they simply aren’t interested in taking away from their other priorities. Or publishing may require a level of technical aptitude they recognize they lack. But the passion for writing is still there, and they’d love to get their books into the hands of readers, which the hybrid publishing model enables them to do.

Your path to publishing your book is a personal one.

You should choose the publishing path that fits your goals, skills, temperament and budget the best. So it pains me to see authors being shamed by people who boldly claim, “If you have to pay a publisher, it’s a scam.” I can’t help but think of all the good work hybrid publishers do for authors whose books might not otherwise ever see the light of day.

There are countless amazing books that readers get to experience because the author believed in themselves enough (and understood their priorities well enough) to work with a hybrid publisher to produce their book.

Canadian author, Mark Leslie Lefebvre, who is also the Director of Business Development for Draft2Digital, says,

“The [publishing] model that works best when you want to have a long-term writer career is making sure that you adjust your goals for each book project. Each book has its own unique path. Each project has its own unique marketing path and publishing path.”

Knowing the market and which readers will be most interested in your book helps determine where your book needs to be available. And sometimes publishers simply have better options to get your book where you want it to go, even though self-publishing would otherwise be a completely viable option.

So the decision as to which publishing model is right for you is an individual choice, not just for you, but for your book as well. If you have ten books, you aren’t limited to following the same publishing model for each one of them. Knowing how you plan to get your book into the hands of readers may dictate that you need more help in some areas than others. So, while it may make sense to self-publish many of them, you may want help with others.

Stereotyping any publishing model is short sighted.

It’s clear that hybrid publishing is going through some tough growing pains right now, just as self-publishing did years ago when it wasn’t widely accepted as a viable publishing option. It took years for author-publishers who were producing their own works to gain the respect and recognition their books deserved. And hybrid publishers are faced now with stereotyping and disrespect just as self-publishing was before.

The myths surrounding hybrid publishing.

To give you a better understanding of hybrid publishing and some of the misinformation we regularly hear repeated, Emerald Lake Books convened a panel of four hybrid publishers to talk about the myths surrounding hybrid publishing and what you need to know to make an informed decision regarding your publishing options.

The panelists include Teri Rider from Top Reads Publishing, JuLee Brand from W. Brand Publishing, Alexa Bigwarfe from Kat Biggie Press and Purple Butterfly Press, and myself, Tara R. Alemany, from Emerald Lake Books. We invite you to listen in as we discuss (and bust) many of the myths surrounding hybrid publishing.

This discussion took place as part of the annual Publish with Purpose virtual summit, which starts today, October 10, 2022, and that New Shelves proudly sponsors.

Hybrid publishing isn’t “evil.”

I hope after hearing how these publishers address the myths surrounding our industry that you’ll see that hybrid publishing is a viable and proven publishing model.

“Where bad actors are concerned, I think it’s an inevitability that we’re seeing an explosion right now because hybrid publishing has gained so much legitimacy,” says Brooke Warner. “Whenever that happens, you’ll have critics and copycats and scammers. It’s so important that authors do their homework and not throw the baby out with the bath water. Hybrid publishing is here to stay, and it’s the success and longevity of the hybrid publishers, in the end, that will rise above the noise.”

If you’re considering working with a hybrid publisher…

Angela Bole, the CEO of IBPA, had this advice to share,

“It’s important to research each organization to be sure it’s reputable, but assuming it is, a hybrid publisher is a fine option for the educated author. Authors and potential authors are welcome to use IBPA’s Hybrid Publisher Criteria to help make this research easier.”

We highly recommend using the recently updated Hybrid Publisher Criteria to gauge whether a hybrid publisher you’re interested in is one you’d benefit from working with.

Perhaps after watching this panel discussion and reading this article, the next time you hear “If you have to pay a publisher, it’s a scam,” you’ll understand why that’s not necessarily the case…

Tara Alemany is an award-winning author, speaker, business consultant and publisher, as well as the host of the Publish with Purpose virtual summit and a recovering serial entrepreneur. Her publishing company, Emerald Lake Books, specializes in working with positive people to create high-quality books designed to achieve the author’s goals. 

We want to continue this conversation. Are you an author with a great experience with a hybrid publishing company? An author who decided hybrid publishing wasn’t for them? Or maybe you still have questions about hybrid publishing… Let us know in the comments.

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