This post is a reprint of my article in Indies Unlimited on Tuesday, July 14.
So you’re a beginning writer, and you loved writing the book, but now you’re faced with the dreaded publishing process. Becoming an independent author sounds just too complex, but you don’t really know how to attract an agent or a traditional publisher either.
And then someone sends you a ritzy free book called “How to Use Hybrid Publishing.” (I got one last week.) And you think, “Great. Best of both worlds. Where do I sign up, and (you aren’t stupid) how much does it cost?”
Well, beware, because you don’t know what you don’t know, and that leaves you wide open for the people who are selling services you don’t want and don’t need, and most important, won’t sell your books.
This article gives the first steps in figuring out what the beginning author might do to gain enough knowledge to deal with this situation.
Step 1: Learn the Definitions
Don’t mix up “hybrid author” and “hybrid publisher.”
The Hybrid Author
This is a very simple situation. You are already an author with a traditional contract. For whatever reason, you decide that you have a project that you would like to publish yourself, and away you go on the Indie route. Presto! You are a hybrid author. Of course, the difficult part is that in order to do this you have to have a Trad publisher on the line already.
The other way to do it is to become a successful Indie author, so good that a Trad publisher is crying for your services. Wouldn’t it be nice.
By the time you get to either of these scenarios, you have all sorts of experience and no need to be reading this article. The people who need this information need it because they don’t have that choice. So they can be tempted to try…
…The Hybrid Publisher
This is a company that offers Indie authors all the services of a Trad publisher, but gives you the opportunity to pick and choose, paying for only what you need. There is nothing wrong with this. As a freelance editor, that’s exactly what I do; I help you publish your work, just as I hire people to help me publish my work.
But read the publicity carefully. One end of this business is called vanity publishing. They offer to do everything for you and charge you a great deal, but in then end they do not promote or sell your book. And the latest come-on these people have developed suggests that somehow this process will translate into a contract from a Trad publisher and you will become a hybrid author. Pigs might fly, but only in your Fantasy novel.
BTW: Don’t get sidetracked to “hybrid writing” or “hybrid narrative,” a writing technique that has nothing to do with publishing. Let’s focus, here!
Step 2: Learn How to Spot a Scam
I won’t lie to you; it’s difficult to tell. Publishers run the gamut from businesses who sell legitimate services, through those who sell you services you don’t need, to those taking your money and not providing anything at all. If you followed Indies Unlimited in May, you would have found a whole lot of scenarios where experienced authors were scammed by people who did not deliver as promised in many different ways.
One way to tell, of course, is to follow the money. If you pay for some of your production and print costs in exchange for higher royalty rates, then at least some of the publisher’s profits are dependent on selling your books. This is good. If you are paying for everything and then paying too much for wholesale copies, you have transited “vanity publishing” and are well on your way to “scam.”
An author I know of who isn’t interested in making the jump to Indie went with a publisher of this sort. When I checked their list of promises, they were performing precisely the services provided by Smashwords and Kindle. These people were basically charging a fee for doing exactly what the big professional outfits do for free, and calling themselves publishers. But at least they delivered. She was paying for not having to go through the hassle, and she was satisfied.
And that’s the proof of the pudding. If “publishers” do what they promise for a reasonable rate, then they are legitimate. If they don’t, they’re scamming you.
So What Do I Do?
What you are missing is experience. You don’t know what you don’t know, and as such you’re prime prey for the vultures. I know, that’s a whole lot of negativity. I can hear you saying, “You tell me I don’t know enough, but what should I do?” Remember, you don’t know what you do know, either. The publishing business consists of three areas:
- Stuff you like and do well
- Stuff you could learn to do
- Stuff you need or want to pay someone else for.
Unless you at least try, how can you tell which is which?
Step 3: Go Ahead and Publish
Get the most qualified person you can to edit your book. (Don’t miss this step, no matter how tempting.) Go on Fivr and get someone to design you a professional cover for $5. Or get an artistic friend to do it for you. Sign up on Createspace, Kindle, or Smashwords. These services are great at coaching you to do everything you need, like writing a blurb and an author bio and choosing your genre and keywords. All for free. Once you look at your book and compare it to “real” books, the first thing you will discover is that it isn’t up to par. You need an experienced editor and cover designer. But that’s okay. You’re making progress.
Step 4: Now Start Learning
Do what everyone else doing. Keep in touch with other authors. Support them as they support you. Read online information from people like Indies Unlimited (shameless plug) and The Book Designer to find out more about the business. Pick up a “How To…” book or three. Spend a little money on advertising and see how it goes.
By this time you’re starting to get a handle on how the business works. You know what kind of work it takes to do each job, which tasks you can do yourself and which you want to contract out. You know the going rate for wholesale copies and other services. It will take you a couple of years and three or four books before you really know what’s going on. But don’t be discouraged. Do you want to be a writer or not?
Now think about it. If you’re making your own decisions as to what you want and contracting out the services you need, you can forget the hybrid stuff. You’re an Indie author already. Welcome to the club!
And remember, if someone tries to sell you on hybrid publishing but the details sound more like hybrid authoring, you now know what they’re talking about.