Expanding Options for Publishing: The New Hybrid Author
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.
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”.
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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.