Combining self publishing with traditional: A New Publishing Hybrid

There has been much debate over the future of publishing and a divide in opinions over which is better for authors – the traditional or self-publishing route. I propose that combining the best of both worlds might, in some cases, be a good answer to solving the issues of:

1. Authors with a great book that NEARLY gets signed by a big publishing house, but can’t cross the final hurdle. Author is left exhausted by querying process & all the disappointment but is resistant to self-publishing.

and

2. The difficulties faced by an author with no background in marketing, no time, resources or desire to market and promote their book (essential for sales) yet intrigued by the freedom and opportunity that self-publishing allows for.

A little backstory

Yesterday I told you the inspiring story of Kathy Lynn Harris’s 10 year road to publication. In case you missed it, in short, Kathy spent 8 years querying her book to big NYC publishing houses and *almost* sold her book on several occasions. When it never quite happened, she put it away to gather dust, and then 2 years later decided to self-publish it. Three months later an indie publisher bought the rights to it.

Today I want to admit that that indie publisher is me.

Yes little old me.

I fell in love with Blue Straggler the moment I started it. As all the best books do, it stayed with me for a long time after finishing those last words. I couldn’t get the characters out of my head. The story opened my eyes some how. I was honored and excited that Kathy had  asked me to work on the promotions for it (as part of my consulting services), and I knew that due to both Kathy’s hard-working nature and the quality of the book, it would go far. I couldn’t wait to give Kathy the branding, website, exposure she deserved.

I also REALLY wanted to see the book in paperback, though that wasn’t something Kathy could do, nor wanted to pursue on her own. I nagged at her for a couple of months about it, but it didn’t seem like it was going to happen. So as usual (anyone who knows me will tell you I’m not one to sit around waiting for a miracle), I decided to take matters into my own hands!

My husband and business partner (at 30 Day Books), Brandon, hadn’t read Blue Straggler but he knew how much potential I saw in it. So when I casually joked that we should ask Kathy if we could buy the paperback rights to Blue Straggler and act as her publisher he thought that was a jolly fine idea.

A few days later I asked Kathy, Kathy said YES! and we got to work crafting our perfect arrangement.

We came up with a model that suited both us as publishers and Kathy as the author. We combined the freedom, efficiency and awesomeness of self publishing with the expertise, guidance and financing that a traditional publishing contract provides*. In January 2012 a contract was signed and a happy partnership was born!

*Brandon and I worked with a traditional publisher in 2011 when the rights to his own book were bought by one of Asia’s largest publishing houses. I am basing my observations of working with traditional publisher on this experience along with what I have garnered from friends who have been through the process. I am sure that every situation is different, so please accept some generalization of the industry in my comments.

Here’s how the self-publishing/ traditional publishing hybrid model we crafted works:

Here’s what we love about the hybrid model:

- 30 Day Books is a consulting and promotional “book studio” and we can use our marketing expertise and experience as authors ourselves to push the book further than Kathy might on her own.

– We can make objective decisions that are hard for Kathy (or any self-pubbed author) to make independently.

– We  can jointly handle promotions depending on our strengths. For example we are familiar with online promotions & social media; Kathy’s strength is her connections and network – valuable for local promotions.

– Though we don’t have the resources of a big publishing house, between us Brandon and I have published five books, two of which were best-sellers on the Kindle in their categories. We are adept at the latest technology and stay on top of the latest trends in publishing.

– We have designed and formatted print on demand books several times before, so we know the rules of the road with regards to formatting, timeline and pricing. This can save Kathy the headache of learning it.

– Kathy doesn’t pay for our marketing knowledge on an hourly basis as some authors do. In fact she doesn’t pay a dime upfront in marketing costs since the deal is profit-sharing.

– We have a closer relationship than I imagine most author and publishers do. I talk to Kathy every day via email, social media or on the phone. If something needs doing I get it done right away and vice versa. She doesn’t have any trouble getting through to me if she needs a question answering, I generally get back to her within the hour.

– I have a real interest in Kathy’s book, and in Kathy’s success. Our interest is not in making a ton of money off the book, it’s simply getting the word out about Blue Straggler and making sure that it is read.

– We are a small company that handles most things internally so our overheads are lower than most publishers and our turnaround is very fast. We got the book to print, complete with a promotional timeline and marketing plan in place, within 3 months of signing the contract.

– Due to the profit sharing model, we are ALL essentially working on commission – this encourages both us as publishers and Kathy as the author to work as hard as possible on it’s success.

– Unlike most traditional publishing contracts, we have a long-term interest in the book. We won’t be looking at sales figures for the first 6 weeks and then winding down if things don’t work out. We are committed to the book for the next 5 years, and we’ll keep working hard on it for that long.

Now for the Cons of the model:

– Limited distribution channels – we can’t accept returns – so it’s much harder for us to get into bookstores. Though we will be in some local book stores on consignment, this is much, much more limited than the big publishing houses.

–  Since it is a profit sharing deal, Kathy must trust us as publishers to spend marketing money wisely and efficiently. Relinquishing control after self-publishing can be difficult!

– Obviously, Kathy must split her profits, versus keeping 100% as a self-publishing author.

In summary:

By combining our financial backing, expertise and experience, we aim to move Blue Straggler a lot further than Kathy could by herself, while also allowing Kathy’s personality to shine through and her hard work to pay off (and boy does she work hard. She’s the dream author to work with). That’s synergy folks!

This model isn’t perfect for all authors, but might be a good option for those who want to publish and then focus on their writing, not learning about marketing. I am all for authors being “authorpreneurs” (a term coined by the great Dana Lynn Smith), and there are several fantastic sites providing those authors with the bandwidth to teach themselves about marketing and promotions ( You can find my personal list of recommendations here) but learning all of this certainly isn’t for everyone.

What are your thoughts on the hybrid model? Which parts would you change/ keep the same?



Laura Pepper Wu is the co-founder of 30 Day Books: a book studio. She has worked with a variety of authors to successfully promote their books, including many Amazon best-sellers. Laura is the author of wedding non-fiction guides and book marketing guides 77 Ways to Find New Readers for Your Self-Published Book and Fire Up Amazon!

Laura also runs Ladies Who Critique, a critique-partner finding site. When she's not working at the studio, you can find her walking her dog, "yoga-ing" or at a coffee shop in Seattle.

 

  • Pingback: Book Marketing, Promotions & Publishing Links. Week of 3/12-1630 Day Books | 30 Day Books

  • Pingback: Self-Publishing: Carnival of the Indies Issue #18 — The Book Designer

  • Erica Olson

    Just in the past few days, I’ve started thinking of setting up a hybrid publishing house, so this post is very timely. Initially, I wanted to start a publishing company from scratch that would publish not only my own books, but books from other authors as well. But this project would need a good amount of start-up capital, which I don’t have. Why would authors want to choose my publishing company over others that had more resources. So I began to change the model. My hybrid publishing house would target self-publishing authors who want to take their work to the next level of excellence. I wouldn’t do everything that traditional publishers do, since I don’t have the resources, but I could focus on several advantages that traditionally published authors have over self-published authors: 1) Access to editing, 2) High-quality book formatting, 3) Mix of print books and e-books. My ideas so far: Have a “pool of authors,” working in groups of 2-3, who exchange books for concept and copy-editing. Each author would be “paid” for doing this editing work by having their book edited in turn, without having to pay an independent editor. (The problem with this, of course, is that not every author is proficient at editing; there’d have to be careful selection of the authors admitted to participate). I, as the publisher, would study book formatting and develop an expertise to help my authors. We’d publish print books through Create Space under the name of the publishing house (Arpinum Press). I haven’t yet solved the problem of marketing (still working through this with my own books, since I have little experience). I’ve thought of having high school students do unpaid, online internships to help set up social media marketing (the benefit to them would be the experience, since the internships would be unpaid). Thanks so much for this post! Glad to see that others are working with hybrid publishing models as well.

  • http://www.30daybooks.com 30 Day Books

    Hi Erica, thanks for your comment and thoughts. It’s certainly not a “brand new” concept, but it is certainly one I see having a lot of potential, providing that a) The book is well written and has appeal and b) The marketing angles have been well thought out and a solid plan is in place. The major benefit to the author is that they can relax a little on the marketing and promotions and not have to learn everything from scratch, a major complaint of authors who wish to focus on writing.
    I recommend that all my authors try to understand the business of marketing for themselves because it’s an investment in themselves that will pay off in the long run. However, having the expertise of someone who can coach and guide them through the process, and save them the time and energy of trying to figure it out from zero would be the major benefit of this model, I believe.
    I’d love to hear how your plan pans out, keep us updated!

  • http://twitter.com/thecreativepenn Joanna Penn

    Hi Laura,
    I think we all need some new words to describe what’s going on right now! I have been using hybrid to describe authors like CJ Lyons, who has a number of books, some with traditional houses and some as indie published – so she has a hybrid career. Chuck Wendig and Scott Sigler are other examples – bestselling authors who decide per book which is the best way to go.
    I’m not sure what other word to use for your hybrid but I can see this getting very muddled :)
    (FYI your table goes into your sidebar to be covered so I can’t read column 4 – I’m on Firefox on the Mac – perhaps you can make it smaller as I’d love to read it!)
    Thanks, Joanna

  • LPepWu

    Hi Joanna,
    I agree, we’re all using the terms differently! Perhaps a hybrid career and a hybrid publishing house model? I don’t know, it is indeed confusing. I wrote this post 6 months ago, and I wouldn’t exactly describe us as a hybrid publisher anymore. We essentially work as a small press with Kathy’s book; or at least the way small presses are going – accepting self-publishing technology more and more. Funnily enough I had coffee with a small press owner the other day who is sitting on 3000 unsold books right now, and may have to burn them :( He’s thinking of going POD soon…
    Thanks for letting me know about the table – what an eyesore! Should be fixed now, and if you want to see the enlarged version just click on it.
    – Laura