When most people think of publishing they think of two options:
1. traditional publication by either a large publishing house or a small press. In this method a publisher purchases publication rights, edits, designs a cover, and markets the book. Large houses offer advances. Small presses rarely do.
2. self-publishing . The author pays for editing, covers, and marketing themselves. Usually they contract individuals for each of these tasks. (There are self-publishing companies like Lulu or Bookbaby that you can pay to do everything in a package deal, but I’ve yet to meet any successful professional who has used them more than once. They tend to be expensive for what they offer. They’re fine if you are only going to write one family history book to sell to your relatives. Otherwise, there are better options).
What is hybrid publishing?
Hybrid authors are BOTH traditionally published AND self-published.
Why would you do it?
Traditional publishers offer a sense of legitimacy, and in theory, a marketing machine. However, with millions of books submitted to publishers each year, only a handful are going to meet the specific niches a publishing house feels are viable investments. Your traditional publisher may not be interested in all the books you’ve written. Rather than sitting on those works, you can release them yourself. Because you don’t have the tight margins those publishing houses have, you don’t have to sell as many books to make it worthwhile.
Self-publishers earn significantly more per book (30-70% retail) that those who are traditionally published (10-15%). Those who master marketing can do very well.
Authors own their name and their brand. They don’t have to be stuck in only one model to sell their books.
Examples of hybrid publishing:
Your publisher may be contracted to release your book in the US. You retain rights for the rest of the world. You will have to get a different cover and a new ISBN, but then you can release your book everywhere outside your traditional publisher’s jurisdiction. Robert Sawyer and C. C. Humphreys are authors I know who do this.
You may be well known for one genre and traditionally publish in that genre, but if you’d like to branch out and try something different, your publisher may not be interested. Eileen Cook is a traditionally published YA author, but she writes non-fiction writing guides which she self-publishes. Craig di Louie is a traditionally published horror writer who self-publishes his World War II historical fiction.
Publication contracts are dated. A publisher has publication rights for a certain amount of time. When the contract runs out, the rights revert to the author. The author can then self-publish these pieces from their backlist (i.e. previously published works). For example, Diana Gabaldon writes short pieces for anthologies or magazines. When the rights revert, she self-publishes them as ebooks.
You may choose in your contract not to give all rights to the publisher. For example, Jonas Saul’s Sarah Roberts print books (paper back or hard cover) are traditionally published; however, Jonas retained the ebook rights and self-publishes the ebooks.
Flexibility is the key to success. Today’s writers are learning that it is unwise to put all their eggs in one basket. Hybrid publishing gives them the opportunity to have a variety of income streams.
All the authors I know who are hybrid publishing tell me they’re delighted to have more control over their income.