A hybrid press or hybrid publisher is a publishing house that operates with a different revenue model than traditional publishing, while keeping the rest of the practices of publishing the same. The revenue source of a traditional publisher is through the sale of books (and other related materials) that they publish, while the revenue of hybrid publishers comes from both book sales and fees charged for the execution of their publishing services. To be a hybrid publisher, a company must uphold longstanding publishing industry standards and best practices.
The traditional publishing model assumes no financial risk for the author. The publisher pays an advance to the author to publish their work, then proceeds to prepare that work for publishing. The publisher pays for all the editorial including the authors advance, production, marketing, sales, distribution, and wholesale costs and does not begin to recoup their investment in the book until the book is on the market and begins to sell. The hybrid publisher follows this same model except the author is the one to assume the financial risk for their book. Rather than paying an author an advance, the hybrid publisher charges the author a fee for their publishing services. The author stills receives royalties on their book sales, as with the traditional method, but they must pay the fee for publishers services to get their book to market. Another qualification of the hybrid model is that the royalties for authors who elect to publish with the hybrid method should be higher than with the traditional publishing standard. In some cases the publisher also bears a portion of the cost for production, printing, or other publishing-related services—such as marketing or sales, since both the author and publisher share in the profits.
All the functions of a traditional press including evaluating submissions, editorial reviews (including substantive, developmental and stylistic editing), copywriting, design, proofreading, and print production are all part of the services that a hybrid publisher must also offer.
As hybrid publishing has become more popular over the years, the definition has become more clear, especially with standards put forward by the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA) in 2018 for hybrid publishers to follow. The IBPA lists the following nine standards that should be followed by hybrid publishers:
- Hybrid publishers must set forth a vision to follow for their company.
- Submissions must be reviewed and vetted to not be classified as a vanity press.
- The publisher must publish as its own defined imprint and request its own ISBNs.
- Hybrid publishers must meet the standards and best practices set out by the publishing industry.
- The quality of the production (design and printing) and editorial services must be up to industry standards.
- The hybrid publisher must manage the rights of the works they publish as well as any subsequent rights that are acquired and work to find additional rights to sell for their authors.
- Hybrid publishers must manage distribution services or hire a distributor for their authors' works.
- Hybrid publishers need to report reputable sales on the titles they publish.
- Authors who sign with hybrid publishers must be paid a higher royalty than that of standard traditional publisher rates (see Royalty payment).
Hybrid publishers often have their own specialties, such as Page Two Strategies, which is a publisher that primarily focuses on non-fiction books in the business category. Hybrid publishers also often find success working with authors who have established audience bases such as an author who has become an expert in their field and wants to publish a book about their practice, garnering them more credibility.
Hybrid publishers are not a new phenomenon and have developed alongside the traditional publishing model. As traditional publishers face higher competition than ever with more difficulty determining which books will sell and which won't, some have turned to creative ways of publishing to subsidize their business models. Experimenting with author funded projects has been around for as long as modern publishing has, with books from the 19th century using the vanity press model.
Hybrid publishing has also evolved with the introduction of print on demand (POD) services, allowing publishers to produce smaller print runs, and get creative with how they produce and distribute their books. Subcategories of the hybrid model continue to emerge as the industry evolves. One such subcategory is the crowdfunding model used by publishers like Unbound who, after a book is acquired, help their authors to crowdfund their books to cover costs, while still maintaining their role as hybrid publisher, supplying quality publishing services to their authors.
Vanity presses vs. the hybrid model
A key differentiating factor between the hybrid model and vanity presses is that hybrid publishers usually still curate the books that they publish to particular categories, genres or quality standards. Vanity presses on the other hand are typically less selective. This can make it easier for authors to get published through a vanity press but they may also be associated with less credibility than publishing with a hybrid publisher who is required to adhere to the standards listed above.
The hybrid model is a more credible model than vanity presses—not only because of the curatorial function, but because the publisher has a stake in the book's success. They share in the profit, so it is in their interest to sell, distribute, and market it effectively. Vanity presses are more closely related to the self publishing model since they do not take a cut of the books sales. Once publishing services are completed, they are usually no longer involved in the process. The hybrid model has ties to both traditional publishing and self publishing, but uses the best practices of both models.
Self publishing vs. the hybrid model
Hybrid publishing is an alternative to self publishing where authors publish their book on their own without any help or contract out specific services such as editing or cover design. Hybrid publishing allows authors to find high quality publishing services within one company so they don't have to act as general contractors, hiring all the services they need separately. Though as with traditional publishers, not every publisher is the same. Some offer full service marketing capabilities while other do not market an authors book. It is up to the author to look at each publisher before deciding which method to use. As mentioned above, the hybrid model is more than just the publishing services offered by the vanity model. Unlike both vanity presses and self publishing methods, they should be involved throughout the whole publishing process.
Self publishing affords the author freedom in exactly how they decide to get their book to market. Hybrid publishing may restrict some of this creative freedom in the same way that traditional publishers operate, doing what they believe is best for the book and the market rather than the author leading the editorial and design decisions. Each hybrid publisher is different and vary by how much creative freedom they give authors, and other criteria.
Academic hybrid publishing
Hybrid models can be applied to more specific areas of publishing such as academic publishing. Traditional academic publishing is funded by the readers of the journal that publish the work, through reader and institution subscriptions and payments—whereas in open access journals, the author usually pays. For journals to attract both authors who can and cannot pay to make their work public, some adopt a hybrid model to use both payments from readers and authors to fund the publishing of scholarly works. These hybrid academic publishers let authors who have been acquired, choose whether to go with the reader funded, or author funded model. If reader funded, the scholarly work is available to only readers willing to pay; if author funded, the work is available openly for free.
- Forefront Books
- Stratton Press Inc
- Greenleaf Book Group
- Page Two Strategies
- Figure 1 Publishing
- 3rd Coast Books
- TCK Publishing
- Dudley Court Press
- Union Square Publishing
- Barlow Books
- Plum Bay Publishing
- JAMIA (academic hybrid publisher, Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association)
- Rebel Press
- Unbound (publisher)
- Vanity press
- Small press
- Independent Book Publishers Association
- Open access
- Academic publishing
- Kindle Direct Publishing
- print on demand
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