Friday, April 19, 2013

The Platform Debate for Emerging Hybrid Authors by Jennifer Hudson Taylor

Lately, I've seen lots of posts on the emerging trend of more writers becoming self-published and traditionally published authors turning to a combination of self-publishing and traditional as new Hybrid Authors. There are excellent reasons that have been given for pursing both avenues of publication.

If you follow Digital Book World, they are a wealth of information for anyone interested in self-publishing ebooks. Lots of agents and editors have written blog posts defending traditional publication. A few weeks ago, I wrote an article listing advantages and disadvantages to self-publishing on Midlist Authors Avoiding the Sinking Sand. But what about Hybrid Publishing? What are the advantages of doing both?

Some of these authors have arrived to the Hybrid status by doing well on their own as self-published and catching the eye of a publisher that later offered them a traditional publishing contract. Others have gone in the opposite direction and worked hard to become traditionally published. Later these traditional authors released old books as ebooks when they earned back the rights to their backlist or came up with a unique idea that a traditional publisher didn't want to risk investing in and the author decided to self-publish it.

Regardless of how these authors arrived to Hybrid status, it is safe to say that many are finding this third option a successful route with less of the stigma that was once associated with it. As time marches on and a new generation of authors, editors, agents and publishers are raised up in the digital culture without the "personal experience" of how things once were in print only, I would venture to say that the old stigma on these Hybrid Authors may blend in so much that it disappears altogether.

Why do I say this? Because history does repeat itself. We have seen similar circumstances in various business industries, cultures, inventions, and technologies. What the older generations continue to resist and refuse to adapt, new generations will carry forward and perfect.

I am NOT saying that the stigma of poorly developed stories, lack of good grammar and editing will miraculously disappear or that all self-published books are like this, but what I AM saying is that Hybrid Authors have proven themselves in the traditional market. Unlike self-published only authors who have not proven themselves in the traditional market, Hybrid Authors have this validation and are branding themselves in a new light.

The key to their success will be the same as it is with traditionally published midlist authors: Platform, Distribution & Sales. 

If Hybrid Authors can be successful at building their platform and marketing their books to promote sales--they will be successful either way--but keep in mind that everyone's measure of success is different. For instance, I'm not used to living on a medical doctor's income, so my definition of success in relation to what I can live on may be less than a medical doctor who transitions into being an author. It's the same with a school teacher vs a corporate attorney.

What about you? Do you think you could build your platform and market your books enough to be self-published, an Hybrid Author, or a midlist author? Do you think the stigma of self-publication will go away or is already diminishing? How much does marketing and platform pay a role?

Other Sources:
Expanding Options for Publishing: The New Hybrid Author
New York Times Article on Authors Going Indie Fails to Mention Main Consideration in Publishing
Why Big-Time Authors Jump Ship
5 Surprises About Self-Publishing
How Can I Make More Money Via Traditional or Self-Pub?


Heather Day Gilbert said...

Excellent thoughts, Jennifer. My friends and I have discussed how hybrid authors and agencies are going to be the wave of the future. I've seen many trad. pubbed authors go the self-pubbing route, because what they're writing is slightly out of the ever-narrowing CBA publishers' boxes. This is where attention to detail pays off for the author--if you can hire an excellent editor and cover artist, your book will probably get noticed. So the cream of self-pubbed books will rise to the top. I totally agree--self-pubbing doesn't have the stigma that it once did, and I think each author has to weigh the options carefully. Self-pubbing does give authors more freedom in so many ways--you don't have to adhere to stringent word count standards, or write in a trendy genre/time period. You can literally "write your passion" and get it out there to readers in a very timely fashion. I'm still pursuing trad. pubbing, but I have loads of respect for my friends who've put the time in to self-pub their books.

Becky Doughty said...

Jennifer - Wonderful post. Glad to see agents are looking at this new season as a good thing. Hybrid authors are finding great success, and why wouldn't they? It really opens things up for some excellent work that's been passed over by traditional houses, even from favorite authors out there who are pulling old stuff out of the closet and beefing up their bookshelves on Amazon and the likes. I think this is a fantastic way for authors to be able to make a little more money - the average midlist traditionally-published author only makes $30,000 - $40,000, according to statistics - and for an agent willing to support the author who does well with self-publishing, I think it can only be a win-win situation for both the agent and the author!

I'm very encouraged by this post today.

Jennifer Hudson Taylor said...

Heather, With all the changes taking place in the publishing industry, I'm trying to keep an open-mind. Actually, that salary range might be a little high for most midlist authors in the CBA. They must supplement their income with additional freelance writing and speaking engagements. It's why I still work a full-time job in addition to writing my novels.

Jennifer Hudson Taylor said...

Becky, I'm not an agent, but a publicist and author, but I do believe that many agents see this era as a positive in the publishing industry.

Mary L. Ball said...

Enjoyed the post. I've always believed that the Hybrid author's will rise above. They have the experience and the knowledge of what it takes- more so than someone who just decides to self-publish.

Mary L. Ball
Escape to Big Fork Lake

Warren Baldwin said...

Jennifer, some helpful information here. But, two terms I'm not quite familiar with you might help me with:
1) Midlist author
2) Hybrid author

Self-published I'm aware of, since of done that.

Are these terms explained in osme of the other articles you list at the end of hte article?


Jennifer Hudson Taylor said...

Warren, These terms might be explained in some of the other articles I referenced.

Hybrid Author - Both self-published and traditionally published.

Midlist Author - Ranges from debut authors to authors who rarely make the best sellers list.

Julie Coleman said...

"I am NOT saying that the stigma of poorly developed stories, lack of good grammar and editing will miraculously disappear or that all self-published books are like this,"

So glad you clarified that. The problem with self-publishing is the lack of filters the text must go through before being printed. I've very rarely read a self-published book that didn't need further editing work. Authors are reluctant to slash words... I know, I am one of them!!... but getting several pairs of professional eyes is vital to producing a tight manuscript.

Diana said...

Julie, That is exactly the problem. Otherwise it is a viable option for the right author. :-)
Thanks Jennifer. As always, a great, informative, thought provoking post.