intro by Anastasia Koutalianos; piece by Bennett Coles, CEO/publisher of Influence Hybrid Publishing Group (IHPG)
Continuing on with our self-publishing series, Bennett Coles speaks to a new approach for authors and publishers alike: hybrid publishing. Unlike the traditional model, authors must pay around $8000 to get signed on; however, with shared risk comes great rewards including more cash in writers’ pockets. Tit for tat in the world of books, or the new way forward? Share your thoughts.
Hybrid publishing is a new movement in the world of books developed to try and fix some of the broken aspects of the traditional publishing world. Still very much traditional in most of its form, hybrid publishing maintains the same quality control, widespread sales and distribution the industry expects, but by adopting a more entrepreneurial model, the hybrid publisher can be much more open to new authors. In the traditional model, an unknown author has almost zero chance of convincing a publisher to take a big financial risk on them, no matter how good their book is. In the hybrid model, the author and publisher both make an investment in the book by sharing the financial risk and splitting the revenues much more evenly. The hybrid publisher only makes money if the book sells; therefore, the goals of author and publisher are completely aligned.
At IHPG, we are always looking for new authors who have something significant to say. We meet authors at every stage of their writing, but the earlier in the process we meet, the better. If the author comes to us with an idea or an early draft, we as a team can assess both the quality of writing and the market potential of the book. This gives the author a clear sense of what will be required to get the book ready both for publication and for the essential marketing support that every author has to give their book. Most authors start their relationship with IHPG by attending an intensive two-day workshop (for a fee) where we all get to know each other and get to delve deeply into the book project. By the end of it most authors know whether they want to take the IHPG road to publication or not; likewise, we know whether the author has the potential to work with us.
Our decision to offer a contract to the author is based on several key factors, all of which are discussed openly with the author. One is the market potential of the book – do we think that the audience for this particular book is large enough and accessible enough to earn a big enough return for both IHPG and the author? Another factor is the quality of writing. What skill level does the author bring and how much work will be required to get the manuscript ready? A third factor is the mindset of the author. Does the author want to maintain 100% control, is the author willing to get involved in marketing and will the author commit financial resources to supporting their book? This third factor is the hardest to judge in a two-day workshop, and before we sign up any new author we discuss these questions in detail. At IHPG each one of our authors is part of a close-knit team, and if the author isn’t willing to be a team player then the author should probably seek another avenue to publication.
When we do take a manuscript on our team of experts gets involved. Every book is edited for content, style and structure long before we address the details of proofreading. Every book has a cover and title designed with the full input of our marketing department. Every book is printed to the highest quality, on recycled paper wherever possible, and while we rarely used print-on-demand we still keep our inventories lean. Every book is personally pitched by our sales team to the national buyers at Indigo, Barnes & Noble and various non-traditional sellers, as well as to the independent bookstores. And finally, every book has a custom marketing plan that is implemented by our marketing team with the author as a trained member.
If an aspiring author is considering the hybrid model of publishing, here are some key questions to consider. Am I willing to have my book changed if the professionals advise it? Am I willing to get actively involved in marketing if I’m trained on how to do so? Am I willing to make a financial investment in my book if I know what the potential returns and timelines are? If the answer to all three of these is yes, hybrid publishing might be a good fit. If the answer is yes to the first two, but no to the third, traditional publishing might be the best bet. Conversely, if the answer is no to the first question and yes to the others, self-publishing might be the ideal route. Each author needs to honestly consider his or her own strengths and weaknesses and decide which path is the best fit. In every case, however, bringing highly-developed writing skills and a marketable idea are the keys to success, no model of publishing will ever change that.
For more on hybrid publishing, visit IHPG’s website.
Bennett Coles is an author and CEO/publisher at IHPG. His first published novel, Virtues of War, won the 2013 Cygnus Award for military science fiction, and he recently signed a three-book deal with Titan Books of London and New York. In addition to 25 years of writing and editing, Ben served 15 years as an officer in the Royal Canadian Navy prior to starting his own publishing company.