Expanding Options for Publishing: The New Hybrid Author

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There have been some fantastic reflections of late on the emerging powerhouse that is the “hybrid author”. One of my recent favorites is Jane Friedman’s interview with CJ Lyons. Lyons discusses her experience on the fronts of traditional publishing (big advance and all) with all its upsides and major downsides (the book was pulled a few weeks before it launched), and her experiences since as one of the most successful self-published authors out there, who, along with her agent, decides whether to accept offers from traditional houses or go it alone on a case by case basis.

Related: Why Authors Choose to Work With a Publisher or Go It Alone

But there is an emerging middle ground between traditional publishing and self-publishing; a ground which we occupy at Diversion Books. Diversion publishes in eBook and print-on-demand formats only, with a curated list, a hands-on and long-term approach to marketing and publicity, and high royalty splits beyond what any author would find at even the e-only imprints of the bigger houses.

With all of this in mind, I’d like to discuss a second type of “hybrid author”. We recently signed a three-book deal with Karina Halle, who is a self-published success story. Karina has nearly a dozen titles to her name, with more rolling out each month, it seems. She has an incredibly devout following with which she is constantly and effectively engaging, and is a great self-marketer. Karina does not have a day job; she is a full-time self-published author, paying her bills with royalties. Ultimately, Karina wants to see her books on the shelves of Barnes & Noble—she wants that big deal with a traditional house.

So, with a successful career having gone-it-alone, along with hopes for a big-six deal, why would Karina sign with Diversion, when she can put the books out in digital format on her own and keep 100% of royalties? I asked her to share her thoughts on this decision, and explain how she now occupies a new category of “the hybrid”.

* * *

I’ve been writing since I was a little girl, filling up notebook upon notebook of stories that never got finished. Naturally, my dream was to one day see my book on the shelves of a brick and mortar store. But, like most things with time, the dream changes. I’m still aiming for the utltimate goal of walking into a store and picking up my book, but until then, I’m finding a common ground with Diversion Books.

With more and more self-published titles filling up online retailers such as Amazon, the market for indie books has become extremely competitive. As a result, indie writers are having to spend more and more time on the marketing and production aspects of their books, time they’d much rather spend writing. Now, you not only need to have a book, but it needs to be professionally edited with a eye-catching cover that rivals those of traditionally published books. The formatting has to be seamless and the book has to be available in as many outlets as possible for maximum reach. You as an author must build your brand, interact with your readers, plan blog tours, query book reviewers and work around the clock to market and promote yourself. You have to do all of this, plus write the damn book and make sure it’s the best work you can put forward. To put it mildly, it’s exhausting.

What a company like Diversion does is keep the independent approach while taking a load off for the writer. They handle all the nittygritty aspects such as metadata, formatting, and copyediting, and they have strong standing relationships with retailers that I would never have access to. This all means that I can continue marketing myself by interacting with readers via tweets, emails, Facebook and GoodReads (you know, the fun stuff). The nice thing about Diversion is that during your contract, they don’t stop promoting your book – they keep the ball rolling, continuously drumming up interest and increasing discoverability. It definitely helps me feel like part of a team, something that I, as a self-published writer, had missed out on.

That doesn’t mean that I’m trading in all my royalties for support. The royalty rates are far higher than those with the traditional publishing model, allowing independent authors to reap the benefits of their sales. Aside from the royalty rates, one of the biggest reasons I signed with Diversion is their targeted distribution. Normally, when I publish on Amazon, it can take weeks, maybe up to a month, for the book to go live on Barnes & Noble. This is because I can only distribute my novels to places such as B&N, Kobo and iTunes by using Smashwords and then I have to wait forever for the books to show up on the sites, much to the annoyance of my non-Kindle fans. Diversion puts your book up on the other sites in a few hours, making your novels instantly available to everyone, no matter where they buy their books. No more waiting, no more disgruntled Nook-users.

Even though I believe in the power of self-publishing and think there’s nothing more satisfying than seeing success come at your own hands, there’s still a stigma against indie authors. Many bloggers and media outlets won’t review your book, people assume your work is poor quality, and your uncle Jim keeps asking you when you’re going to become a “real author”. Diversion is a full-fledged publishing company out of NYC, publishing both new authors and backlist, some of them NYT bestsellers. Tell uncle Jim to throw that in his pipe and smoke it.

While I don’t think I will ever stop self-publishing, and while my dream is still to get that traditional publishing deal, I believe there’s a happy medium out there that not only covers both models but creates a new one. The publishing industry is changing as we speak and I think Diversion’s new publishing hybrid might be the much-needed solution in these unpredictable times.

 

 

 

 

For more information and analysis on hybrid authors — who they are, what sets them apart and what they want — read our exclusive report on the topic, What Authors Want: Understanding Authors in the Era of Self-Publishing

 

 

 

Mary Cummings

About Mary Cummings

Mary Cummings is the editorial director of Diversion Books, a digital publishing venture that has produced many bestselling ebooks for authors like S.E. Hinton, Mark Cuban, and The Washington Post. Mary has worked in editorial and marketing capacities, assisting authors in every step of the publishing process. Follow her on Twitter @sum_mary.

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8 thoughts on “Expanding Options for Publishing: The New Hybrid Author

  1. Interesting. Pretty much the same as what we’re doing at Cool Gus. However, one can publish directly to those various platforms outside of Smashwords, but otherwise her reasoning is sound. I truly don’t think one can “self” publish for long and stay viable in this business. Writers want to write.

    • Thanks for the feedback, Bob. I agree — it’s certainly possible to publish directly to other retailers, but it becomes a lot of work insofar as updating metadata, tracking sales, etc., when you’re doing it individually and not through some centralized hub (even if there are limitations to that model). What began as a lot of work for a self-published author suddenly becomes A LOT more work…

      • At http://www.offthebookshelf.com we do the heavy lifting for the author but we also offer the experience of veterans from traditional publishing. We help our authors learn to market themselves and to even the playing field with the traditionally published authors. A lot of the time they choose to self-publish because it is part of a larger branding strategy or they are working toward a cause. There are good reasons to do both, as long as the self-pub authors do not ignore the protocols of producing good books, they can have great success with the new digital marketing opportunities.

  2. This is a very similar model to what we’re doing at Xist Publishing–but our focus is solely on children’s books. In this realm, the difficulties for self-publishing are amplified. From formatting to distribution, publishing children’s ebooks takes a significant amount of expertise and not all of the channels (B&N’s Nook Kids for example) are even available to self publishers. We too offer generous royalties and take all of the risk up front–including finding an illustrator or pairing an illustrator interested in working in this medium with a story.

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  4. As an author/self publisher, I have a hard time giving any of these so-called “hybrid” models any long term weight. To me, it’s just people rearranging the same functions of publishing in different ways. That’s not a hybrid. You are simply redefining the roles of “publishers”, “agents”, publicists” and even authors/content creators, with the digital form factor thrown in. You are also trying to figure out how the existing publishing infrastructure goes about discovering/compensating new talent.

    I suggest that the specific mix of those roles will vary depending on the author and the particular strengths of any given publisher-agent-marketing company. Eventually, y’all will settle upon a basic mix of services that any credible publisher or agent will need to provide (regardless of digital vs. brick form factor). Some such companies will be stronger in some areas than others just like now.

    The true “hybrid” that’s emerging and that the publishing industry more or less still doesn’t want to think about, is the “enhanced book”; everyone is still thinking with a “text” mindset when they think “book” or “ebook”. Most just figure they can job out the “enhanced” piece. They don’t yet see the potential value. Admittedly, I imagine most current authors see such “enhancements” as mere bells and whistles that could all too easily detract from their work. Personally, I love the printed word and will always treasure works created by typing on a keyboard. Perhaps that should remain the only role of the traditional publishing industry, with the minor exception for “art” pieces and, of course, for children’s ebooks.

    The area with the greatest potential is that of “enhanced ebooks”. Actually, that term itself lays bare the dominance of text in the industry’s mindset, and is inaccurate. What they really are/will be are multimedia experiences that creatively combine every sensory output that is digitally possible.

    Think the movie “Memento”, the print “Griffin & Sabine”, a graphic novel, a concept album, augmented reality, geo-caching, long form text, fan gatherings in brick settings and fan fiction rolled into one, ongoing experience.

    THAT’S a hybrid. And one the publishing industry simply will not be capable of transitioning to (or, to which the publishing industry will not be able to transition). Right now you call it “trans-media” and I suppose that’s as good a name as any. But it will be produced in areas currently dominated by the digital entertainment industry, not by the traditional publishers.

    One last thought, this to do with self-publishing, royalties and this ethereal, slightly self-serving construct you call “hybrid”. In reality, digital self-publishing has been a virtual jackpot for traditional publishers. Never before has there been a system that consistently reveals salable new talent without any effort at all by publishers or agents. Damn straight such hard won market vindication deserves a bigger cut (my work should be such a success!). Most of us writers, I’d wager, view this packaging as the traditional publishers’ effort to co-opt our hard work and success (even if we haven’t had any . . . yet) in a subtle, patronizing way, like they are natural allies, when, actually, they were the ones that rejected our manuscripts in the first place.

  5. There is no doubt that self-publishing is an option for writers, however, a publisher’s chores are much different and require a separtate set of skills.

    I have always maintained in my 3by3 process that having the support of a publisher with all their marketing and distributions skills combined with an author’s social networking, and media support is a powerful combination that a lone author has trouble equaling.

    Certainly the cost of publishing a print-on-demand or eBook is minimal, even when considering the mandatory cost of hiring a professional editor to review the book.

    The HUGE challenge to the self-publisher is not creating a polished, typo-free book. The challenge to all publishers is convincing their customers to BUY their book.

    The percentage of writers who are lucky enough to be chosen by a publisher is small, so self-publishing is a great way to bring a writer’s work into the marketplace. It is not easy or lucrative, but it is a choice.

    We writers do not care about the low percentage of success, because we are writers. We must write. It is what we do. Any avenue to have our work seen is better than none.

  6. Pingback: Interesting Articles About Writing and Publishing | A Writer's Quest

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