Why Authors Are Turning to the Hybrid Publishing Alternative

Following is a reprinted article by David Thalberg from Bookstr.com about hybrid publishing

Why Authors Are Turning to the Hybrid Publishing Alternative

Why Authors Are Turning to the Hybrid Publishing AlternativeHybrid: /hīˌbrid/ Defined by Google as: “a thing made by combining two different elements; a mixture.” That’s the second definition. The first is: “the offspring of two plants or animals of different species or varieties, such as a mule (a hybrid of a donkey and a horse).” For the purpose of this article, we will stick with the first definition!

There has always been “self-publishing.” As an 8 year-old child, sitting at my kitchen table with a Smith-Corona typewriter (some of you remember – the one with black and red ink), I wrote great stories. Imaginative. Science Fiction. This was “YA” before “YA” was a thing. I gathered them together, and voila, I was published – for my entire family to read. Forty-plus years later, my children can write similar stories, and with the press of a couple of buttons on a keyboard, their stories can be read by an international audience. Voila. Self-publishing.

The likelihood of my or my kids’ stories being picked up by a “traditional” or “Big 5” publisher is highly unlikely. Within the last few years, though, a new type of publisher has established a foothold in the publishing community: the “Hybrid Publisher” opening new doors for true and honest book publication and distribution.

Hybrid publishers “combine aspects of traditional publishing and self-publishing,” states Karen Strauss, Executive Vice-President of Union Square Publishing – a hybrid press. The comparisons start early: “Traditional publishers pay advances, but they own the rights to your book and pay (authors) a much smaller royalty than Hybrid publishers do,” she continued. Hybrids may pay smaller royalties, but you get “to keep the rights to your own book,” which may become quite valuable down the road.

As might be expected, there are many different business models for Hybrid publishers. When choosing a hybrid publisher, authors need “to look under the hood and see what are the things they bring to the table,” offers Brooke Warner, publisher of She Writes Press and SparkPress. “Some Hybrid models make a lot of sense, but many just look like ‘assisted self-publishing.’”

Union Square’s Strauss suggests asking key questions of a potential publishing partner: Do I own all the rights to my book? What is the royalty rate? (Can vary from 20-70%), Will you receive free author copies? What is the author price? What is the term of the contract and can you get out of it easily? What marketing services are offered?

And what about traditional bookstore placement? Today, many self-published books are only available online as print-on-demand. “That’s a problem for self-published authors,” opines Warner. “When bookstores go to order their book, if it’s strictly POD it shows ‘Zero Inventory’ and (they) will be hesitant to order.” Warner states that She Writes Press and SparkPress “never” have “Zero Inventory” due to their relationship with Ingram Publisher Services, a the leading book distributor. Only a small number of hybrid publishers have distribution deals with Ingram Publisher Services, including the above-mentioned Union Square Publishing.

As a self-published author, you have total control over your publishing process. But as Jeremy Soldevilla, publisher of Christopher Matthews Publishing offers, “ Almost anyone can build their own house, but without the skills, experience, tools and knowledge of building codes of a professional contractor, they are not going to be happy with the results.”

In other words, you want to surround yourself with the best people – the ones that will fully support your content so that you will receive maximum awareness… and sales. A new Hybrid publisher with the quirky name, We Heard You Like Books understood this concept. When WHYLB’s publisher, Jarett Kobek was releasing the book he authored, I Hate The Internet: A Useful Novel Against Men, Money and the Filth of Instagram, the first title from the imprint, he hired an outside publishing consultant, Leah Paulos: “We knew that, first-off, we had to make sure this wasn’t considered a self-published book. For better or worse, most (media) won’t consider anything without an established imprint behind it. We had to find a way to get people to pay attention.” Digging deep into all of their joint contacts, they were able to secure a blurb from noted author Jonathan Lethem “which we used at the opening of every pitch.” With that as a lede and some intense pitching, press attention came with pieces in Salon, the Literary Hub and others, leading to a coveted review on the front page of the New York Times Art section.

Sometimes all the pieces just fall into the right places – especially when you have a strong team behind you.

Final advantage of a Hybrid versus a Traditional publisher: Soldevilla says that “generally, hybrids give an author deeper and more personal attention than traditional houses. If a book is lucky enough to (gain national in-store distribution) but doesn’t initially perform well… (a) traditional publisher… will likely put it out of print within a year. Hybrids will stick by a book indefinitely.”

To sum up: If you are considering taking the Hybrid publishing route, note that you as an author still need to be an active participant in the process. YOU still need to promote. YOU still need a website. YOU still need social media. YOU still need to reach out to your community of “evangelists”. You need to be a strong partner with your publisher.

David Thalberg is founder of BrandStand, an affiliate of Stryker-Munley Group. A book publicist with more than 25 years experience, he is a frequent instructor at publishing and writers retreats and has a regular publishing column, Writing from the BrandStand on Bookstr.com. He can be reached at dthalberg@brandstandpr.com or http://brandstandpr.com.

What’s the theme of your story?

CS Lakin

In her recent series of posts on theme, C.S. Lakin explores the importance of theme in your writing. She says,“without theme, plot is just a string of scenes, with little purpose. And although such a collection of scenes could be exciting to read, theme takes that plot to a much higher level and ultimately gives you a higher quality story.”

Your novel will be richer and a more rewarding experience for the reader if it is based on one or more themes. But, how does one identify or work theme into his or her story?

First, she suggests:  Ask Questions to Get to Your Theme

“Ask yourself, ‘Why did I write this novel? What excited me about the idea? What moved me to take this idea and form it into a concept with a kicker? Why do I love my protagonist? What excites me about the conflict in my story and why do all these things matter to me?’And my favorite: ‘Why am I willing to spend months of my life slaving over this story—what is compelling me to such madness?’”

If you can answer these questions, Lakin says, you will be able to answer what your story is really about, what the heart of your story is. And that is your theme.

“Themes are not just topics or subjects . . . You might say your book is about abortion or capital punishment. That is just the topic (idea). Ask: What are you saying about that topic through your characters? Whether you are taking a strong stance or none at all, in order to have a story with a plot, with characters who care about something, you will have theme.”

Theme Is Intrinsically Connected to Concept, Protagonist, and Conflict

“If your concept involves astronauts on a dangerous mission to Mars, for example, and you are writing action/adventure/suspense, what is your theme(s)? Well, that depends on your other pillars: the concept, the protagonist and his goal, the central conflict with high stakes.

“Let’s look at the protagonist’s objective in the movie Red Planet (also the collective goal of all the characters)—which is to get to Mars to see if the experiment to grow algae is a success. That may or may not present a viable or engaging theme. With that idea, you might have a purposeless string of scenes as they get to the planet (or not) and face danger or obstacles.

“But here’s the concept and kicker for that movie: It’s 2055. Earth can no longer feed all its inhabitants, so this is a desperate measure to save humanity (great concept and kicker, danger/conflict with high stakes,a clear goal). By setting up this story with three strong corner pillars, it makes the way for great themes. How so?

“Interestingly, there are a lot of themes going on in Red Planet, which makes it a rich and fascinating story in addition to the basic action/adventure going on as one thing after another goes wrong and the characters die one by one. The plot is exciting and well structured, which is key.

“What the screenwriter did to make the way for themes galore in this story was to create a cast of characters from different scientific disciplines, each passionate about something that clashes with other characters’ passions. When you have characters all conflicting because of their worldview, beliefs, morals, and priorities, you have the ingredients for rich themes in your story.

Theme Emerges in Conflict

“In Red Planet, the scientists must struggle to overcome the differences in their personalities, backgrounds, and ideologies for the overall good of the mission. Note that they share a common goal, but each has different passions and beliefs. When their equipment suffers life-threatening damage and the crew must depend on one another for survival on the hostile surface of Mars, their doubts, fears, and questions about God, man’s destiny, and the nature of the universe become defining elements in their fates. In this alien environment, they must come face-to-face with their humanity.

“Plot shows the story; theme is the story. Plot is the vehicle for theme.”

The above excerpts are glimpses into some of the insight Ms. Lakin brings to making your novel stronger and richer through an understanding of what the theme of your work is and how to effectively work it into the plot and characters. C.S. Larkin is a writer and freelance editor whose blog, Live, Write, Thrive provides excellent advice for new and experienced writers and includes extremely helpful checklists to make your writing the best it can be.

 Our thanks to Ms. Lakin for her permission to reprint this material from her blog.







Even JK Rowling needs a good publicist

The following is a guest post by book publicist, Alison O’Leary.

AlisonOLeary.headshotIf you’re not JK Rowling, there’s work to be done

If your book received “withering reviews’ that included an assessment like, “so willfully banal, so depressingly clichéd” you’d never sell any copies, right?

Unfortunately, writers with gold-plated names like JK Rowling can overcome such a New York Times review (it was of one of her post-Harry Potter novels, “The Casual Vacancy”). According to this article it still sold more than 1.3 million copies and was the No. 1 best-selling hardcover fiction book of 2012.

So, unless your name is JR Rowling and your readers aren’t looking too closely at the cover, there’s a lot of work to be done to get book sales rolling.

The behind-the-scenes work to create a platform prior to publishing your book is almost as much work as the writing itself.

This is a great, step-by-step guide to  publicity and marketing, including working with related blogs two months before publication and planning a “cover reveal.” Interestingly, it says little about sending out advance copies for reviews.

And if you’re querying agents, your online presence is important, according to this survey. So think about showcasing your expertise in your subject matter or providing evidence of an audience (yes, prior to publishing). It’s all about your platform, which is well-described in this blog post.

Later, Rowling published “The Cuckoo’s Calling” under a male pen name (Robert Galbraith) and the book sold only modestly until she was unveiled as the true author. It had done about $50,000 in sales, prompting the NY Times writer to comment:

‘What’s clear is that without the aura of celebrity, “The Cuckoos’ Calling” would have been just another work of debut crime fiction. Its author might have gotten a modest TV deal, and maybe another book contract, while working another job to make ends meet.’ 

Published with permission. Alison O’Leary is a book publicist who can be reached on LinkedIn.