A question came up a while back in a writing group about what exactly hybrid publishers are. One person asked if the ‘hybrid’ means that they publish paper and electronic (this isn’t what they are). I’ll start this post off with the “polite” description that hybrids use to describe themselves, then my own view of them further down.
How Does A Hybrid Publisher Describe Themselves?
A hybrid publisher would say that they’re a hybrid between traditional publishing and self-publishing. Traditional publishers accept a manuscript, pay the author an advance, then make money selling the resulting book after they’ve edited and printed it. Hybrid publishers provide each of these services, for a fee, to the author.
The idea behind this is that writers know how to write, but they don’t know how to design a cover or format a manuscript and even the best writers rarely can self-edited or self-proofread. They pay for these services through a cash payment or a cash payment combined with assigning the book’s rights to the hybrid publisher.
What’s Really Going On
Hybrid publishers sell services to writers when no traditional publisher will accept their work. They’ll sell you editing and proofreading, sell you a cover, sell you formating your manuscripts, sell you printing, sell you audiobook recording, sell you advertising and marketing services, etc. This can easily run into thousands of dollars. I read about someone who was asked for $14,000 from a hybrid publisher.
All of this would generally be ok, except that usually they aren’t upfront that this is what they’re selling. They also grossly overcharge for each of these services. They pretend they’re “accepting” your submission, like a traditional publisher, because your work is so great. Then they ask for a bunch of money.
The reality is that they “accept” every submission (who can pay), because they’re in the business of selling those services (like a car dealership “accepts” every driver who can pay). They don’t make money the way traditional publishers do (by bringing an author’s book to market profitably for both the author and the publisher). They make money from selling these expensive services to wannabes who don’t know any better. It’s deeply predatory.
Some hybrid publishers will take the rights to the author’s book, even though the author has paid them for their services, then hold them hostage if the writer decides they want to do something else with the work.
They’re the modern form of a vanity press, up to and including denying being vanity presses.
Money should always flow *FROM* a publisher *TO* the writer. Any time a publisher wants you to pay them, they’re a vanity press (and you should decline whatever they’re selling, there are cheaper / better ways to get everything they sell).
So NEVER Use A Hybrid Publisher?
I would never use a hybrid publisher, but there is perhaps a narrow situation where it might make sense. If a writer had more money than time and couldn’t be bothered to manage any of the publishing parts of writing a book, then maybe hiring a hybrid publisher makes sense.
In such a situation, I would expect the hybrid publisher to be very clear about the services they’re offering and what they cost. If there was any hint of the idea that the hybrid publisher had “selected” their work, I’d dump them and find someone more honest to work with.
For the vast majority of people who would consider using a hybrid publisher, they would be far better served by learning the various aspects of bringing their book to market. This is the business they’re getting into, so they might as well start figuring it out.
Have you ever talked to (or used) a hybrid publisher? What was your experience like?