—Guest Post by Mark Fretz—
Hybrid Publishing is a word that we're hearing more often lately. What does it entail? How do you decide it if it's right for you? Mark Fretz of Radius Book Group explains and lists the top five questions to ask before you decide to publish your book with one. (For more information on self-publishing companies in general and what to watch out for, see this earlier post from BookWorks Legal Expert, Helen Sedwick.)
Hybrid publishers are a new breed that straddles the space between traditional and self-publishing. Instead of the publishing company doing everything for you (traditional), or you doing everything for yourself (self-publishing), hybrid publishers balance these two extremes. If you are considering a hybrid publishing company, here are the top five questions to ask before you commit:
Who Is In Control?
The hybrid publishing scenario presumes that the author pays some or all the costs associated with publishing his or her book. Although you may be paying the piper, that does not necessarily guarantee that you will get to call the tune. The ideal company will both recognize that the author is in control of the book, and become your most trusted ally as you make decisions. By control I mean casting the deciding vote on major publishing decisions. Control also covers your copyright, as well. You alone should determine the destiny of your book, and you alone should hold and control the copyright. If the company cannot clearly state that the author is in control, and the author holds onto the copyright, you will want look elsewhere.
Where’s the Money?
It may not be a matter of showing you the money. However, a hybrid publishing company should be able to explain where or how it makes money to operate. You want the company to be financially healthy and know where their revenue comes from. Potential sources of revenue include direct services, reciprocal referrals, licensing, distribution fees, and so forth. On the services end, you control what services you want and need and what you are willing to pay. Hybrid publishers need to pay their people well to be able to offer you top talent. You get what you pay for, and editorial, design, and production are not places to skimp in your book project. Depending on their business model, a hybrid publisher may rely on volume to generate sufficient profits or may rely on a higher price per service to keep the volume manageable. The more transparent the company is about where the money is, the more confident you can be about the value for which you are paying.
What Will You Actually Do for Me?
As service providers, hybrid publishers perform the services required to publish your book. If you could do everything yourself, you would stick with the self-publishing model. Because you cannot, or choose not to do all the things required to publish your book, you decide to engage a highly reputable experienced publishing team to help you. You must clearly establish the scope of services to be covered in your agreement with a hybrid publisher (or any self-publishing company). What exactly will the publisher do? What will be the extent of this work? The corollary question is what will you the author do for yourself? Saying “We will provide marketing” is not as specific as “We will obtain X book reviews, we will promote the book on Amazon.com, we will build a title-specific website, we will promote the book through Goodreads, we will place a space ad in such-and-such magazine.”
What Are the Deliverables?
A natural outcome of the services provided by hybrid publishers is for them to produce certain products as the deliverables. If they typeset your book, the hybrid publisher should give you all files (application files, a printer-ready PDF of the book, as well as any XML derived from those sources). If they build eBooks, the deliverables should include ePub and Mobi files. Similarly, if you agree to manufacture a given number of print books, those books are deliverables. Before starting the process, clearly stipulate all deliverables you expect to receive in the end, in terms of what/which formats, quantities, and where/when they will be delivered.
When Can I Publish My Book?
Finally, one of the key questions to ask is about the publication date. Traditional publishers have long frustrated authors by requiring twelve to eighteen months to publish their book. The hybrid publishing world leverages technological advances and flexible operations to shorten the publication cycle. This does not mean necessarily that the author can dictate whatever publication date she or he may desire—there are limitations after all. Yet, an advantage of the hybrid model should be the ability to accommodate author preferences for the publication date. If the hybrid publisher does not empower you the author to set and meet your own publication date, there’s something wrong with that picture.
Is Hybrid Publishing for You?
Hybrid publishing is a new model but reputable companies follow best practices. They may operate differently and offer various strengths, but the good ones are trustworthy and worth the investment. Many are very selective about the authors they help publish and won't accept anyone with the price of admission. Be sure to check their catalog to see what company you'll be in.
Hybrid publishers devoted to putting authors first have a vested interest in seeing you succeed, as much as you do. Use these five questions as a starting point and ask more of your own. Like any good relationship, its success will be based on mutual agreement and integrity.
Note: I will be available to answer your questions and provide more detailed information on how hybrid publishing works at Radius Book Group, on the BookWorks Discussion Groups forum Publishing Your Book".
Mark J. H. Fretz, PhD, joined Radius Book Group in 2017, the new author-centered custom imprint at Diversion Publishing Corp., based in New York City. Previously Fretz was editorial director of Scribe Inc., and prior to that Publisher at Morehouse and Senior Editor at Doubleday. Fretz is building a list of compelling nonfiction titles by independent authors looking for full-service publishing and distribution of their titles. The imprint aims to publish 20 to 30 titles per year; see radiusbookgroup.com for more information.
If you haven't seen the new version of BookWorks, please check us out for more great content like this and join our community of indie authors, editors, coaches, designers, marketers, bloggers and other self-publishing pros.