Industry Standards for Hybrid Publishing

No excuses!(1)

I’m a member of ALLi (Alliance of Independent Authors) and am setting up my membership for IBPA (Independent Book Publishers Association), so I am always interested to see what the two organizations are doing. I was thrilled last month when IBPA put out a list for hybrid publisher standards. The publishing industry has been needing something like this to create a means by which authors can evaluate hybrid publishers before signing contracts.

For those not familiar with hybrid publishing, it is a model by which the author and publisher share the financial risk of publishing. Ideally, a hybrid publisher should have a more author-centric attitude than a traditional publisher, and the author should be more involved in the publishing process and decision-making.

The problem with hybrid publishing has long been the fine line between hybrid publishing and vanity publishing. A vanity publisher is someone authors pay to publish them. Vanity publishers, however, will accept anything. They are not selective about what they put out. Vanity publishing is often looked down upon by traditional publishers and traditional authors, but I believe it has its place. If someone wants to indie publish but doesn’t want to do all the work, they can hire someone to do it for them. It’ll cost, and they may not make their money back, but it’s their prerogative.

Hybrid publishing, on the other hand, is a nice middle between indie publishing and traditional publishing. Traditional publishers are incredibly selective about what they accept because the traditional publishing model is expensive – there’s the cost of editing, design, production, warehousing, distribution, and marketing. A hybrid publisher should still be selective, but by having the author involved in the financial risk (say, paying for the marketing), the small publisher may be able to accept a work it wants while not placing itself in as great a risk as it would otherwise.

I personally think hybrid publishing is a great model because the author is more involved, and smaller publishers have a greater chance of success. However, I hate seeing a vanity publisher portray itself as a hybrid publisher. That happened to me when I shopped my first work. That’s where IBPA’s standards come into play. Authors can evaluate a company to see if it is a reputable source. According to IBPA standards, a hybrid publisher must meet nine criteria:

  1. Have a mission
  2. Vet submissions
  3. Publish under its own imprint/ISBN
  4. Publish to industry standards
  5. Ensure editorial, design, and production quality
  6. Pursue a range of publishing rights
  7. Provide distribution services
  8. Demonstrate respectable sales
  9. Pay authors a higher-than-standard royalty rate

You can see the criteria detailed here.

Also, ALLi is great at playing watchdog and has a list of companies they mark as reputable or not-so-reputable. You can find that information here. (Btw, the “hybrid” publisher who offered me a contract is on the list with a “watchdog advisory.”)

For those of you shopping your work, a hybrid publisher may be worth considering, but certainly vet them through IBPA’s criteria and check them out on ALLi’s watchdog advisory list.

Thoughts about hybrid publishing and the selection criteria listed above?

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