Hybrid Authors: Spotting One in the Wild

Expert publishing blog opinions are solely those of the blogger and not necessarily endorsed by DBW.

When I co-founded the Fuse Literary agency in March 2013, my partner Gordon and I were clear on one thing: We wanted to create the model for the literary agency of the future, one where digital storytelling was a foundation pillar. To us, storytelling should be the central part of any author’s career, but where readers (or viewers or participants) actually found the stories—the storytelling format, in other words—could be as widely diverse as the formats. Movies, television, streaming experiences, binging, playing, co-creating … there were so many avenues to explore for the open-minded author. And we wanted to be the business partner to make it happen for our clients. To build them a stable writing career. To help them grow as writers and as storytellers.

How Do We Define Hybrid Author?

We think the term hybrid author means much more than simply having one foot in traditional publishing and one foot in indie or digital publishing. To Fuse, hybrid authors see their stories as the core of their art, whether their work is published as print books, ebook, video games, Web series, flash fiction, comics, poetry, movies, television shows, streaming media projects, or anything else. A hardcover novel published by one of the Big Five could easily have short story expansions of secondary characters, alternate endings unlocked by quizzes or contests, spin-offs on YouTube, or mobile publishing episodes meant to be read in short bursts on a cell phone. The same storytelling core is there, but there are many avenues for experiencing that story, its world, and its characters.

A Hybrid Success

One of our first hybrid author success stories was Alex “A.R.” Kahler. We sold his debut novel, The Immortal Circus, to Amazon’s then-fledgling 47North science fiction/fantasy/horror imprint. It was planned as a serialized story told in episodes of 3,000 to 5,000 words each—just like Charles Dickens did, but in digital format for easy distribution. The first book met with rousing applause, and I was able to secure two more books to finish out the trilogy. Then Alex was offered a chance to take part in another new initiative at Amazon: Kindle Worlds. He wrote a series of super short stories in the Vampire Diaries world and is still earning royalties on that project today. Next, he was asked to participate in the Kindle Singles short story project with a story of his own making. Then came his Immortal Circus spin-off series, starting with The Pale Queen, which was in the Kindle First program where Amazon Prime members could snag it as a free book one month before the title’s debut. Sales figures were staggering.

A Range of Publication Media

Alex is a bestselling author now, with traditionally published books in adult and YA categories with Simon & Schuster’s Simon Pulse and HarperCollins’ Harlequin Teen imprints. He also had The Immortal Circus series optioned for television by a production company, and he’s working on a pilot script. I credit much of his success to that early Amazon experience where he worked his tail off and didn’t say no to any opportunity that came his way.

Story Is at the Core

Since then, we’ve had authors self-publish interim novellas and novelettes to support their traditionally published annual novels and keep their fan base engaged. We’ve had authors quickly publish backlist titles with our Short Fuse publishing arm to take advantage of the publicity surrounding new books becoming available. We even had one author publish a backlist YA book with Short Fuse because after many years a sequel was imminent and the original YA book had long gone out of print. We turned it around in 60 days, and it came out weeks prior to the new title’s debut.

The point is that if an author keeps the story as the core of their publishing empire, it can take a myriad of forms for consumption. You never know where readers or viewers will find your work. But if they like one book or one Web series, they will buy more. And that’s the promise of hybrid storytelling.

Possibilities for Expanded Careers

Digital books are more than mere copies of their print doppelgangers. There are so many opportunities for expansion, expression, and exploration within digital realms.

So think about becoming, or supporting, a hybrid author, and open your mind to all the new possibilities.

 

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