Everything You Need To Know About Hybrid Publishing

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In theory, hybrid publishing is straightforward: it’s a cross between traditional publishing and self-publishing. In reality, navigating a rowboat full of clowns through a tempest might be easier than understanding the hybrid publishing circus. It can be a smart way to get your work out there, though, which is why so many authors are going that route, so let’s take a look at whether hybrid publishing is a fit for you.

Types of hybrid publishers

Publishing is all about risk. Different types of publishers distribute risk in different ways for different rewards. It’s like investing in the stock market, only you have control over the quality of your book and therefore more influence over the risk factors. Here are the rough categories of hybrid publisher:

Partnership publishing

Partnership companies typically have authors pay for the publishing process. If you are new to this game, you should know: it ain’t cheap. In exchange, they give authors higher royalties than traditional publishing and greater support than self-publishing. They typically handle the publishing process from start to finish, including design, print, distribution, and some marketing. (If you’re hoping to publish a book and avoid having to do any marketing yourself, fughettaboutit. In today’s world, to be an author is to be a marketer.)

Hybrid publishing is malleable, but it’s a valid option for many authors.Click To Tweet

Agent-assisted publishing

This is a little closer to self-publishing than most partnership models. Most of the time, the author pays, but some agents will cover or subsidize initial expenses and deduct expenses from the author’s earnings. The author retains rights, but the agent will take a percentage of sales for a predetermined amount of time.

À la carte publishing

There are several hybrid publishers that don’t fit any mold but their own. They may offer pay-per-service choices. They may offer funding after you’ve crowd-sourced the marketing process and secured a minimum number of pre-sales, for example, or maybe you pay for cover art but not marketing. They might offer print-on-demand services instead of traditional distribution (i.e., lots and lots of your books go to booksellers all over the world regardless of popular demand). Some handle all the marketing; others outsource to publicists; others have you outsource to a publicist.

This option offers flexibility but a lack of surety. You’re beating your own path, after all, and there may be lions in the grass.

Vanity press

If you went to the zoo, borrowed a monkey, put it in front of a computer for an hour, and submitted the results, a vanity press would publish it. They’ll accept anything (for money) and they don’t do you any marketing, formatting, or distribution favors in return. Some vanity presses have slick marketing and appear legit, but you’re basically paying for print-outs. Don’t get suckered in!

If your publisher doesn’t gain from your success, why would they help you get it?Click To Tweet

Pros and cons of hybrid publishing



Using a traditional publisher, authors might expect royalties in the 10-15% range. If this seems low, bear in mind they fronted several thousand dollars for the publication of your book with no guaranteed return. Depending on the hybrid model, you might see up to 80% royalties as you cut away what your publisher has to do on your behalf.

You have more ‘say’

If you go with a traditional publisher, they often reserve the right to edit things into or out of your book. They might pick a cover you hate or recommendations from sources you wouldn’t have chosen – working with a traditional publisher means, in many ways, taking on a partner, and they’re going to have their own input (the kind that’s backed up by having all the money).

With hybrid publishing, you trade funding for influence, but on an issue-by-issue basis.Click To Tweet

Actually getting published

Publishing costs a lot of money. If books don’t sell, that money doesn’t come back. That’s why publishers are so choosy. Look at some of the stuff they’ve rejected. Hybrid publishers displace some or all of the risk by having authors pay some or all of the cost. This means it’s easier to get your book out there. But don’t be so eager that you dive into the deep end with a vanity publisher. Good hybrids still vet what they accept. Your reputation is on the line.

More forgiving contracts

Publishers just may have you sign over your firstborn child if you’re not a) reading the fine print and b) able to translate the fine print. You not only give over your rights to your book – come what may – you may also inadvertently agree to not publish anything else for a long while  so as to avoid creating ‘competition’ in the market for your book. Ridiculous? Yes. Also real.

You can avoid such contracts if you take a course in legalese or hire some legal assistance. Alternatively, you can contract a hybrid company that is much more likely to let you retain the rights to your work.

Pick and choose

You might not want or need all the perks of a traditional publisher while still not being ready to hack it alone. À la carte hybrids give you access to what you want – editing, cover art, printing, publishing, marketing, industry contacts, release publicity, distribution – without having to sign up for anything you don’t.


Traditional publishing can take over and leave you feeling trampled. Self-publishing can be a lonely and exhausting venture. With hybrid publishing, you have somebody else who believes in your book and is working on your team. That boost can be just the thing some authors need to see the process through to the end.



Watch out for companies that take authors’ money and run. You can investigate a hybrid’s reputation via reviews and social media, and by perusing manuscripts they’ve published.


You’ll assume some risk in exchange for services. Period. If you have good reason to believe your book is a winner, consider the liabilities associated with each model:

  • Traditional publishing: slim chance of acceptance, and if they do accept, they run the show.
  • Hybrid publishing: you pay big money and might not get your investment back. You still have some work to do on your own.
  • Self-publishing: cheap, but you’re totally on your own. You have to figure out all your own marketing and you may not have access to distributors or booksellers.

Distribution and marketing

It’s true that hybrids will probably do a better job at this than you could do on your own. They have industry contacts and pre-existing relationships with bookstores. It’s also true that traditional publishers will do a better job at this than hybrids.

Standalone hybrid publishers are a relatively recent phenomenon, so their reputations and resources aren’t as strong. They are growing, no doubt about it, but think about it from the perspective of the bookseller: books are an increasingly tough market. You have to sell books or die (R.I.P. Borders). You want books from publishers that have a solid reputation, right? So the up-and-comings are gaining ground bit by bit, but they’re not all the way there yet.

Dos and Don’ts


Get an editor

Whoever you submit to, have your work edited (by somebody else) first. No matter how good a writer you are, you need those extra eyes. Submitting a polished piece increases your chances of acceptance immeasurably. This isn’t a shameless plug: you already know we’ll edit your book for you. But if you can’t afford editing services, I strongly encourage you to beg a favor from someone and have your book edited before you submit it to a traditional publisher/hybrid/agent/Amazon’s Book Baby. There’s a big difference between a piece that’s in pretty good shape and a piece that’s ready for a publisher.


Don’t let the anxiety of trying to get published or the euphoria of a possible offer blind you. Any company you’re considering working with, research them to death. Read what they’ve published. Check out reviews and websites and social media. Compare their prices and services to other similar companies. Ask a lot of questions.

Before you sign up with a hybrid publisher, research them to death.Click To Tweet

In fact, compile your questions first so you don’t forget anything, and watch for evasive answers. Find out success rates, what kind of distribution they offer, if they also help with online publishing, how long their contracts last, if they support foreign editions, and who retains rights. Use this article as a guide, and remember that it’s not acceptable for them not to know the answers. Go in knowing what you’re looking for and overturn every stone. Don’t settle for anything less. You worked too hard on your book to see it fail for lack of research.


Sign anything you don’t understand

Never, ever, ever sign something you don’t 100% understand. If you’re in any doubt, hire someone with the expertise to make things crystal clear.

Pay before you know what you’re getting

See ‘research’ above.

Publishing the hybrid way

It’s important to go into the publishing process with eyes wide open and antennae up and running. It’s a brutal, brutal world. If you’ve learned anything about it in your own journey, share with your fellow authors below. As Anne Frank said, ‘No one has ever become poor by giving.’

For more great advice on this subject, check out Traditional vs Self-Publishing – The Fundamentals You Need To Know and What Literary Agents Do (And Don’t Do) For Authors.


12 thoughts on “Everything You Need To Know About Hybrid Publishing”

  1. Great article and advice. What about amazon.com’s CreateSpace and Kindle Direct Publishing? Are these hybrid publishing?

    1. Rebecca Langley

      Hi, Jim.

      Great question! CreateSpace and Kindle Direct are marketed as self-publishing routes, but they do have a hybrid quality. There’s a pre-existing distribution platform and an automated interface that guides author’s through the process and provides a lot of support, but not personalized support. Does that answer your question?

      Best wishes,
      Rebecca Langley

  2. thanks for the info, I’ve published 3 book 1 with standard publishing and 2 with self publishing the self publishing was as slow as honey in the winter and your right the world is a hard place. At times I’ve thought of not writing any more because of the cost of it all.

    1. Rebecca Langley

      Hi, S F.

      Thanks for chiming in. As you know, we strive to provide you with great resources here and always love to see authors ‘succeed’ in the publishing world, but at the end of it all: write for you. Write because you love it, because it gives you a voice, because language is the manifestation of our souls in the world around us. Write because, as Enid Bagnold said, ‘…it’s the answer to everything. … It’s the streaming reason for living. To note, to pin down, to build up, to create, to be astonished at nothing, to cherish the oddities, to let nothing go down the drain, to make something, to make a great flower out of life, even if it’s a cactus.’

      Best wishes,
      Rebecca Langley

  3. Rebecca Langley

    I mean that when you work with some hybrid publishing companies, there is a person that works directly with you, offering support that you – specifically – need. Amazon’s self-publishing routes come with a lot of support (tips, video resources, etc.), but it’s not the same as working one-on-one with a live agent.

  4. Thanks a whole heap of lots for your down-to-earth advice.
    I am at the ‘Editing, Proofreading, seeking Reviews’ stage of my first book, a collection of Short Stories. I have chosen the Self-Publishing route.
    Straight-forward and eye-opening pointers like this are what provide me the foresight, along with wisdom, knowledge and understanding, to face the challenges ahead.
    To my fellow Authors: Seek, or better yet, create unique marketing strategies. You already have the ingredient needed for that – your imagination.
    For example: To achieve my ‘Editing, Proofreading and Reviews’, I will be distributing the manuscript and a red-ink pen to over 50 persons, which includes 2 Book Clubs, Librarians and local writers. Each individual will receive a free copy of my book in exchange for their services.
    Thanks once again for your contribution to my ‘Writer’ development and God Bless

    1. Rebecca Langley

      Hi, Gregory.

      Thanks so much for your feedback. I aim for practical, actionable advice and I’m always happy when people find what they need here!

      Thank you also for sharing your great advice about creative marketing tactics, and congratulations on the progress you’re making on your first book! Very exciting.

      Best wishes,
      Rebecca Langley

  5. Excellent advice. It’s scary for new writers to know which path to choose. I self published 5 years ago and worked extremely hard at it. I spent a year writing and even travelled abroad to research. Hard work pays off. When I had sold thousands of copies keeping 100% royalty I partnered with a publisher which opened up even more distribution channels.
    I’d done most of the work for him and proved my worth. How can that not be an attractive incentive?
    My motto is to do it the way you want, but do it well.

    1. Rebecca Langley

      Hi, Carla.

      Thanks for adding your voice to the conversation, and congratulations on your success! Your advice is great. I am a big proponent of researching, making one’s own decision, and then taking full ownership of that decision in order to, as you say, “do it well.” There’s no one right answer.

      Best wishes,
      Rebecca Langley

  6. Excellent article. I have finished the triple editing process for a book holding a collection of short stories and am looking for a hybrid publisher that provides quality work for reasonable cost. Any ideas?

    1. Rebecca Langley

      Hi, Michael. Thanks for your kind words and congratulations on finishing your collection of short stories! That must feel good.

      Unfortunately, we don’t have experience working with hybrid publishers so aren’t able to vouch for the quality of individual companies. Organizations such as The Alliance of Independent Authors offer vetting services to their members. That might be a good place to start.

      Best wishes,
      Rebecca Langley

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