When a Hybrid Publisher is the Best Choice for Authors

19 May 2020


When Patricia Marshall’s mother started self-publishing her own books a decade ago, she paid someone to print her books on an Espresso Book Machine (a machine that can print and bind a book in a few minutes), one book at a time. She would then ship the books to Amazon to sell them.

She lost money with every sale.

Although her mother was happy to fulfill her dream of becoming a published author, Marshall felt there had to be a better way.

“I knew I could do a much better job, and with lower costs,” said Marshall. Inspired to help authors like her mother, she founded Luminare Press, a hybrid self-publishing company.

Self-publishing continues to expand rapidly: According to Bowker, the number of self-published books grew by 40 percent in 2018. With more and more authors seeking help with self-publishing, hybrid publishers having been stepping up to guide them through the process.

What Exactly is a Hybrid Publisher?

The term hybrid publisher is used to describe self-publishing companies who have stepped into the void between the traditional publishing model (where the publisher takes care of all aspects of getting a book out into the world) and a 100 percent self-publishing approach, where the author does everything themselves.

To help explain the services of hybrid publishers in more detail, and why authors might choose to use one, we talked to the founders of three hybrid publishers: Patricia Marshall of Luminare Press, Alexa Nazzaro of AAxel Author Services, and Ella Ritchie of Stellar Communications Houston.

With a hybrid publisher, authors can pay to receive help with some, or even all, of the steps required to get a book published. Instead of having to shop around for each piece, a hybrid offers the necessary services under one roof, for a fee.

The work of a hybrid publisher varies depending on the needs of the client. For those who want to produce a personal project, such as a family history, it doesn’t make as much sense to think of hiring a “publisher.” In those cases, Ritchie often describes her role in simpler terms. “I’ll sometimes call myself a ‘book project manager,’” she says.

Others are looking to get a finished book that they can sell in both ebook and print form, to as many readers as possible. These authors will need a full suite of services, including publishing their book under the hybrid publisher’s imprint.

In such cases, Nazzaro describes her role as “shouldering part of the cost of publishing in exchange for shared royalties.”

Self-Publishing Doesn’t Have to Mean Doing Everything Yourself

Self-publishing is attractive to many authors because it allows you to have full creative control over your book. But it also means you are totally responsible for all the steps needed to get your words packaged into a book format, whether as an ebook, printed book, or both.

At a minimum, you will need to get your book edited and proofread (preferably by a professional). You will also need to properly format your book, design the cover, and take care of distribution. If you want to have printed copies, you need to decide whether to go with print-on-demand or a larger print run.

If you hope to sell copies, you need to develop a marketing plan, which requires understanding pricing, social media, and outreach to bookstores and other venues.

It’s a lot to take on, and the learning curve is rather steep.

“Not everyone is interested in figuring it all out on their own,” says Nazzaro.

Instead of taking on each step of the process by themselves, some authors are turning to hybrid publishers for help.

Who Should Use a Hybrid Publisher?

Authors who are willing to invest money to simplify the self-publishing process for themselves can benefit from using a hybrid publisher. This is especially true for authors writing a book for the first time.

Without previous book-writing experience, it’s easy to have a lot of misconceptions about what is involved in creating a well-crafted and well-designed book. Authors need to decide which self-publishing platform to use, how much editing they need, and where to find a good illustrator or cover designer.

As Ritchie explains, “Many authors start with little to no knowledge — they don’t know what’s out there. And most don’t have the time to do the research.”

By using a hybrid publisher, you benefit from their expertise and knowledge of the publishing industry. They understand how to create a finished product that is on par with any traditionally published book.

There are many details to consider. Take, for example, the matter of a book’s design. The wrong cover or layout could immediately peg your book as amateurish.     

“If you are not strategic, your cover could look unprofessional. If you want your book to have a fighting chance, you need to do this part right,” says Marshall.

There are many factors that new authors are completely unaware of that can also significantly add to the marketability of a book. A well-written manuscript is only the beginning.

“Things like an inside-jacket fly, endorsements, and a personal introduction are often overlooked and can make a huge difference in the finished product,” Ritchie says. A hybrid publisher can help you gather and create these elements.

Protect Yourself From Scammers

The world of publishing is complicated, and unfortunately, there are some bad actors who try to take advantage of the ignorance of new authors. Some authors are afraid to trust any hybrid publisher because they’ve been told they should never pay someone to publish their book.

But hybrid companies are offering a much-needed service to those who are choosing to bypass the traditional publishing route. As long as the company is clear about what you get for your fees and deliver on their promises, they are providing a legitimate service.

The key is to gain enough understanding of how the self-publishing process works to avoid being scammed.

“If you want to explore using a hybrid publisher, you need to do your due diligence,” advises Marshall.

One red flag to look out for is when a company approaches an aspiring author telling them they are “interested in publishing their book,” without mentioning their fees. Unsuspecting authors believe they are being offered a publishing contract, rather than being sold on a service.

The Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA) has developed a set of standards that authors can use to evaluate the legitimacy of a hybrid publisher. They are a good starting point for knowing what questions to ask and the level of service to expect.

The IBPA recommends looking for the following in a hybrid publisher:

  • They evaluate potential clients before agreeing to take on their book
  • They clearly outline the services they provide
  • They are upfront about all fees
  • They don’t make any promises about your book becoming a “bestseller”
  • They pay significantly higher royalties than a traditional publisher

Another helpful source is the Alliance of Independent Author’s (ALLi) Watchdog Desk. Self-publishing companies of all types (including hybrid publishers) are rated and placed into one of five categories. The scale ranges from Excellent to Watchdog Advisory. If a company is not included on the list, you can contact ALLi to ask them for an evaluation.

Making the Right Choice for You

Before agreeing to sign up for any kind of service, discuss your goals and expectations with the hybrid publisher thoroughly. Many authors have big dreams for their books. Marshall works hard to manage expectations for her clients from the beginning. “We will help authors reach their goals as much as possible, but there are no guarantees in this business,” she says.

Those goals and expectations will differ depending on why an author wrote their book in the first place. Someone who is interested in creating a family memoir or history, with a hardcover and high-quality paper, will want a company that can drill down on the design aspects of their book. A fiction writer hoping to sell a lot of books should look for a company that offers substantial help with marketing. Costs can vary widely depending on how much of the work you are willing to take on yourself.

The bottom line (and this is true for any publishing venture) is to thoroughly research all of your options. All reputable companies will make their book lists publicly available. Take a look at some of the books and study the level of quality. You could even contact some of the authors and ask them about their experience.

There are many reputable hybrid publishers that strive to help authors create a book they are proud to share with their audience — whether it’s a small group of family members or a large group of fans.

“It’s an exciting time to be an author,” says Nazzaro. “But you need to be proactive and engaged in the process” in order to make informed decisions and succeed at reaching your goals.

Carol Kim 

Related Content


2 thoughts on “When a Hybrid Publisher is the Best Choice for Authors

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *