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The Origin of “Hybrid” Author which has led to . . .

cyborg1Hybrid publishing, hybrid agents, Labradoodles, and the end of humanity as we know it as the cyborgs take over.

All I see now is people blogging about hybrid this and that, particularly hybrid authors. I just googled “earliest mention hybrid author publishing” and everything is coming up 2013/2014/2015. I first mentioned hybrid in connection with publishing on 11/30/2010 in a blog about: Agents: Human, Machine or Borg?  I first mentioned the hybrid author on 6/12/2011: Indie vs. Trads: The Elephant in the Room.

What I’m pointing out is that at Cool Gus we’ve been three years ahead of cognitive functioning in publishing. We’ve been in existence going on six years. Three years is an important number as you’ll see shortly.

I emailed my business partner, Jen Talty, a week ago, after a series of blogs and articles discussed the possibility of some big name traditional authors considering indie publishing as an option to complement their successful trad careers.  Since we have some bestselling authors working with us– and have done this for years– this is an area we have some experience in. My wife also works with several NYT bestselling authors as a story editor.

Here’s the deal– it’s a three year learning curve to truly master anything– including indie publishing. So if one wants to go hybrid from trad, you’ll be doing okay in 2018; and spend a lot of time learning a new skill set. Or use the expertise that already exists. Or go for some fly by night start up that gives boilerplate, except understand that eBooks are organic, not static like print; a different beast. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg as you’re looking at a very different marketplace in digital. It generally takes from 45 minutes to an hour for us to discuss with an author about what indie publishing entails in order to explain it. Think how long it would take a traditional publisher to explain how their business works? And many trad authors, don’t even understand all the pieces and parts in their own publishers. They just trust that it does work. That same kind of trust has to exist in a concierge publisher that facilitates traditional authors going hybrid.

I recently got an email from an author who said her agent had referred her to an alternative “publisher” if she wanted to go hybrid. This “publisher” had the following option: they get referrals from agents; they charge the authors upfront fees for cover, editing, formatting, etc. They pay low royalties, which first go to the agent who gets 15%. Thus the publishers takes a percentage on the back end even after the upfront fees. That’s three hits financially for the author. It makes no sense, but this business is running and working with agents, and through them, authors who don’t know any better. Our belief is revenue flows from publisher to author; never the other way. Or else what is the point in making a mutual commitment for the future?

When I try to explain to a trad author how they can sell 3 times less copies and still make more money they look at me like I’m a cyborg. The biggest thing, though, is the creative freedom of indie publishing. Our authors get the final say on every aspect of their career and their books. More on this in another blog, but we’re seeing more and more authors getting disgruntled with the lack of control they have. Unlike some, I don’t believe people in trad publishing are ‘evil’ or ‘dumb’. No one goes into publishing with the idea of becoming rich. We all are in this because we love books and I think that’s why some of the rhetoric could probably be toned down and even the title of my blog from years ago shouldn’t have “vs” in it. I’ve worked with many sharp agents, editors and publishers in the business. But, the playing field is changing.

Juking the statesYes, I know, eBooks have “leveled off”. Uh-huh. Except no one is counting Cool Gus’ eBooks sales. Or most indie eBook sales, which are an increasing portion of the market. So to quote The Wire, as I often do, people are “juking the stats”. Understandable. And the stats are getting juked all around with partial snapshots presented as the full reality. Regardless, the biggest thing we believe in is that every author is a unique entity, and thus every one has different needs in a publishing partnership.

Actually, most people are not deliberately changing the stats, we just don’t have the real numbers and the ones being touted make most people in publishing feel comfortable, as if they’ve weathered a storm that’s passing by– eBook sales leveling, indie bookstores opening. We all want to feel comfortable, but one thing over 25 years in this business and a decade in Special Operations have taught me is that the moment one gets comfortable, is the moment it’s over. Yes, indie bookstores are opening, but Barnes and Noble is shuttering store after store. And for the midlist author, who needs that massive rack space from B&N, that’s a very troubling indicator. Authors who are racked in airports, Target, Costco, etc, are doing okay. But if you’re not . . .

And even if you are one of those racked everywhere, you’ve still got great choices. Actually, a name-brand author is the one who would benefit most from hybrid publishing, as they have built in discoverability. I remember a publicist at Random House telling me they put most of their marketing push behind their bestsellers; but not behind midlist and new authors. In essence, becoming a top selling author happens in a way no one can really predict. But here’s a key issue: does the marketing push, once an author is a bestseller make that much difference (other than co-op money)? Or does the author’s brand already make that difference? And if that’s true, then . . .



I think it’s time we start looking at the reality of the marketplace for authors, divorced from the spin on either side. Divorced from what publishers think, what agents think, what ardent proponents of either side think, but in terms of each individual author’s career needs, path and dog preference.

I believe hybrid is a great path, which means I don’t believe it’s an either/or for an author between going indie or going trad. Go for the best of both worlds. But it has to be the best of both worlds. I do think for a new author, going the agent/trad publisher route is probably the best path, despite what others may say. There are many advantages to traditional publishers, especially for a newbie. But in the opposite direction, for a traditional author to go hybrid also requires the advantages a knowledgeable concierge publisher can offer (okay, trademarking that one).

So in a series of blogs here, as best I can in between finishing a book, feeding Cool Gus and Sassy Becca, and saving the world from the rise of the machines, we’re going to discuss the pluses and minuses of both worlds and that nebulous world in between everyone has now called hybrid.

Guest Blogger Natalie C. Markey: Mastering the Writer’s Balancing Act

Please welcome Natalie C. Markey to Write It Forward!

As the landscape continues to change in publishing one thing remains clear, the work for the writer only grows. With the reality of social media and online communities, not only do writers need to write and write well but they also must network and market themselves. The truth is, there is more to a writing career then just writing and balancing that routine can become mind-boggling.

No matter what style or genre of writing an author does, time is always a challenge. At Who Dares Wins Publishing, a variety of authors are represented from best selling fiction and non-fiction titles. All of these titles took time. Lots of it. Every writer has their story beyond the words of their pages. It’s that “thing” getting in your way from meeting a deadline or a daily writing goal.

How do you do it all? I’m a freelance journalist with contract assignments. I’m a published non-fiction author of ‘Caring for Your Special Needs Dog’ working on my second book and I’m writing fiction work as well. I’m preparing to teach my first Write It Forward online workshop next month, Writing Moms: How to do it all without losing your mind. That’s right. The writing and other tasks associated with my business are just one part of my life. I’m a mother to a beautiful 14-month-old little girl, who “helps” me work from my at-home-office each day. Some days she is more help then others.

So, what is my trick? How do I stay sane and get anything done? First of all, I’ve accepted that just like any balancing act, there are good days and bad days. Have you ever balanced? Yes I mean literally balanced on one leg. I was a dancer until I had to quit after two knee surgeries. Some days my pirouettes (that would be a turn on the ball of your foot for non-dance people) were better then others. Not every day can be a great day.  That’s not a bad thing.  Accept it. I use the energy from my very productive days to push me through the more challenging days.

In reality, no one can master time management. It is a true balancing act. The best solution is to know what works for you. That is what I will teach next month in, Writing Moms. I cannot tell you what is the best way to manage your writing schedule around your family life. I can tell you what I do but everyone if different. I will share self-study techniques that I used to indentify the best plan for me. Over the month of October we will discuss the techniques, strategies and work from that experimenting by trial and error. It will be interactive and fun.

Whatever you write, whatever your situation is, time will always try to be your obstacle. However, I’m a firm believe that if you want something then you will find a way to achieve it. It’s not easy being a writing mom but I wouldn’t change a thing. And it builds character! I use to work in New York City on the Ave. of Americas and now I write, many times late into the night with a burp rag hanging from my shoulder. You can do anything!

Learn more/sign-up for Writing Moms: How to do it all without losing your mind

Natalie C. Markey is a freelance journalist of ten years. She is the author of ‘Caring for Your Special Needs Dog.’  In addition to multiple freelance contracts, she continues to write non-fiction as well as fiction. Markey speaks professionally about dogs from an owner’s perspective as well as tackling the major writing issue, how to have it all as a writer and a mother.  Markey is a graduate from Baylor University with a double BA in Journalism/Public Relations and Communication Specialist. She has worked for a NYC PR firm, been the youngest Business Development Director for a National advertising firm, served as the Creative Services Director for the fastest growing CBS affiliate in Texas and served as the Texas Spokesperson for the D.A.R.E. program.  A native Texan, Markey currently lives in an Arkansas forest with her supportive husband, daughter and dog, Oscar.

Write It Forward!


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