Can’t Decide on Traditional vs. Self-Publishing? There’s a Third Option

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Mandy Eve-Barnett (author) and Linda J. Pedley (owner of Dream Write Publishing) at Word on the Street, Lethbridge, Alberta, September 2014.

Can’t decide on a publishing method for your recently completed manuscript? I’m constantly reading about authors who are weighing the pros and cons of traditional versus self-publishing and their respective limitations.

There’s good news. You need not be confined to either extreme, because there’s a third option: hybrid publishing. I will be discussing this method today, since it seems to be little-known, or at least little talked about.

Below are the pros and cons of three publishing methods: traditional, self, and hybrid.

Traditional publishing highlights

Pros

  • Exposure and distribution (publisher advertises and distributes the book)
  • Prestige (since it’s difficult to get your book accepted, it makes you look good)
  • Presumed lower cost to the author, although traditional publishing has changed and there is a higher number of hidden fees, including:
    • Professional pre-submission editing (highly recommended, now more than ever)
    • Pre-submission promo to prove the book is saleable by getting a large following up front, which costs the author advertising fees and time
    • Publication contracts often bind authors to continue promoting with costs coming out of their own pockets
  • Publisher will handle design and production
  • Possible advance

Cons

  • Hard to get your book accepted (limited number of books a publisher can publish in a given year, your book doesn’t appeal to the publisher, publisher believes your book won’t sell)
  • No control (publisher can request cuts and changes, publisher designs cover and inside, publisher may use a different title)
  • Low royalties

Self-publishing highlights

Pros

  • Full control over design and content
  • You own all accounts associated with the book
  • You select and hire your own contractors for editing, design, book trailers, etc., or decide to do the work yourself
  • Higher royalties (note that book online sites take a cut, and bookstores may take your books only on consignment)

Cons

  • You do everything yourself (promotion, distribution, design, etc.)
  • Extra costs for holding accounts
  • Lack of access to some registries or awards designed only for publishers
  • No advance

For additional information about traditional and self-publishing, read Dana Wayne’s excellent article about these two methods: Your Book is Done — Now What?

[Added May 27, 2017: An in-depth overview of traditional and self-publishing in Publishing Your Novel by MladenR on Writer to Writers. A future post will include Amazon partners.]

As the name hybrid publishing suggests, this method combines aspects and advantages of both traditional and self-publishing. Hybrid publishing is not to be confused with vanity publishing, since credible hybrid publishers are selective about manuscripts and will not accept badly written work.

Hybrid publishing

Pros

  • Your publisher is a partner, so you have control over your content and design but also have access to suggestions and help
  • Your royalties are higher than with traditional publishing
  • The publisher does the book formatting, e-book conversion, posting on book sites and other distribution, helps with promotion beyond your own contacts and resources, and has access to printing companies or print-on-demand accounts
  • The publisher has access to library distributors, registries, bookstores, organizations, events, contests, connections within the community, and may travel with your books
  • Some hybrid publishers are modular: you buy only the services you need (option to buy logo design, editing, cover art, chapter headers, etc., or you can do it yourself or contract out to people of your choice)
  • You can get books shipped to you at cost through an account the publisher has already set up
  • The publisher has as much incentive to sell your books as you do
  • The publisher keeps track of book sales (except the ones you sell directly, which you should keep track of), does the financial spreadsheets and calculations, keeps track of royalties, and mails out tax forms to the author
  • Some hybrid publishers offer payment plans so you don’t have to pay all fees at once
  • Credible hybrid publishers vet manuscripts, which have to pass their screenings in order to be accepted for publication (advantageous for both author and publisher since accepted work has a level of quality)

Cons

  • More expensive than traditional publishing (up-front fees for publishing agreement, paperback publishing fee and/or e-book publishing fee)
  • Printing and other accounts (e.g., online sites where the book is posted) belong to the publisher
  • Publisher can close (you should have a plan in place so you can take over control of your book accounts and sales if this happens)

When choosing a hybrid publisher

  • Relationship, relationship, relationship
  • Check credentials, years in business, stage of growth, number of books published, sales track record, where books are distributed, how books are advertised and marketed, expectations for the author
  • Make sure the publisher is familiar with, and produces and sells, books of your type and genre
  • Talk to other authors about their working relationship with the publisher
    • Does the publisher listen to their requests?
    • Does the publisher respond in a timely manner to emails or other agreed-upon methods of communication?
    • Does the publisher follow through (e.g., changes or adjustments to text or design, problem with a sites or links, etc.)
    • How does the publisher promote books? (organizations, events, bookstores, libraries, online books sites, own website, social media, etc.)
  • Understand your role and the publisher’s role
  • Make sure you have seen and agree with the publishing contract

Why I chose a hybrid publisher

  • Production. I have a full-time job, and although I came close, I could not do all the research and work it takes to produce and distribute a book all by myself. I would never have time to write another book. The publisher helps with interior and exterior design and format conversion (bar code, pricing, ISBN number and their proper placements; formatting of cover art and text; file conversions and formatting for paperback or e-book), which for me are the biggest obstacles in being able to take my book from Word manuscript to final product.
  • Distribution and pricing. The publisher handles the postings to books sites and registries (some of which I don’t even know about), another time-consuming obstacle for me. The publisher is in-the-know about pricing and can help set the best prices for the size and format of a book.
  • Promotion. Since I’m either always working or writing, my list of contacts is limited. I don’t get out to enough events because of my work hours. I don’t have money, vacation time, or energy for travel or advertising. I need the added exposure.
  • Inside information. I’m pretty connected to the writing world, but the publisher is more connected. She knows about events, organizations, awards, etc.
  • Financials and taxes. The publisher handles financials and royalty calculations, provides tax forms, and gets me books at cost through her accounts. This lightens my load further.
  • Control of my art, but with help. As with self-publishing, I have control over my book and own my work. But I don’t have to do everything myself, which leaves me time to write. I have access to services and publishing knowledge, but I have choices. I know things are done right.
  • Who is my publisher? Linda J. Pedley, Dream Write Publishing. Ms. Pedley is one of the founders of the Writers Foundation of Strathcona County (WFSC). She was chosen as a Canada 150 Community Leader for the 150th anniversary of Confederation in 2017.

Selling Your Book — A Personal Touch  by Mandy Eve-Barnett

To help you decide

A.G. Young’s article on A Writer’s Path, although titled Should You Self Publish or Traditionally Publish, also touches upon hybrid publishing. This informative article begins by having you ask yourself five important questions about your goals and resources, then proceeds to discuss each point in depth. A.G. Young also points out what you need to consider with each method in terms of services and costs, with hybrid publishing fitting in somewhere between, as the name hybrid implies. It is well worth the read!

See also:

What Is Hybrid Publishing? Here Are 4 Things All Writers Should Know
by Brian Klems, The Writer’s Dig, Writer’s Digest, August 11, 2016

The Indie Author’s Guide to Hybrid Publishing
by Nicole Audrey Spector, Publisher’s Weekly, May 20, 2016

Should You Self-Publish or Go the Traditional Route? How Do You Decide?
by Katie McCoach, A Writer’s Path, May 11, 2017

About Eva Blaskovic

I am a multi-genre author of literary fiction and fantasy, and writer of non-fiction articles on parenting, writing, education, health, and travel. My background encompasses both the sciences and the arts. I teach at a specialized clinic for learning difficulties and mentor young authors. In addition to writing and teaching, my passions are weather, Indian food, gardening, and music. I have played eight musical instruments and spent many years immersed in taekwondo and karate. In my youth, I was an avid canoeist. I was born in Prague, Czech Republic, grew up in Ontario, Canada, and moved to Alberta in 1988, where I raised four children.
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12 Responses to Can’t Decide on Traditional vs. Self-Publishing? There’s a Third Option

  1. Dana Wayne says:

    Great post! Lots of great information!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Jack Eason says:

    When you have little money at your disposal, self-publishing is still the obvious choice Eva. Besides, having no one else to rely on you soon learn how to do each and every step in the process from editing to promotion and all stages inbetween, that would otherwise cost you a great deal of money which if the book does not sell, you will never regain. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  3. JJAzar says:

    Thank you thank you thank you for writing this up. This is comprehensive and informative and invaluable. I didn’t know a thing about hybrid publishing prior to this, and now I’m interested enough to do research and explore this avenue. I’ve bookmarked this for future reference, it’s that good. THANK YOU!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Dan Antion says:

    Thanks for such an in-depth and useful post!

    Liked by 1 person

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