My memoir My Beautiful Psychosis has been offered three publishing deals. But why am I not jumping up and down with glee? Because they are, what is known in the industry as, hybrid publishing deals. But what does this mean?
You’ve heard of traditional publishing, where the writer gets an advance and receives royalties if the book makes a profit. A traditional publisher pays the author only 10% in royalties but they shoulder 100% of the financial risk. You’ve heard of self publishing, where the author pays, does all the work and gets all the profits. But there is also a middle ground, somewhere between the two. Hybrid publishers use the words ‘contributory contract‘, ‘inclusive contract‘ or ‘contribution-based contract.’ This is when the author pays the publisher and receives higher royalties than a traditional publisher but significantly less than if they had self published. So how much does a hybrid publishing deal cost the author? And how much does it pay in royalties?
The publishing deals that I have got vary but they swing in roundabouts. Austin Macauley Publishers are asking £2300 to produce a Paperback, an eBook, a Book Trailer and an Author Website. In return they will pay 25% royalties on Paperbacks and 40% on eBooks. They have offices in London, New York, Sharjah, Toronto and Sydney. The implication is that there would be book sales in all of these territories but that is doubtful as they supply to your local bookshops first and then take it from there. Olympia Publishers want £2700 to produce a Paperback and an eBook but no mention of a website or trailer. They pay out less in royalties on the Paperback (20%) but more on the eBook – 50%. Pegasus Publishing are asking £2400 and pay out 25% royalties for the paperback, 50% for the eBook and 50% for the audiobook. The cheapest one is Austin Macauley’s but are any of these deals really worth it?
As I see it, the main benefit of signing a hybrid deal is that my book would be distributed to bookshops. But will it? What actually happens is that hybrid publishers make the books available for bookshops to order, which is a very different thing. There is no guarantee that the bookstores will actually place an order for my book. So if it doesn’t get into bookshops, is it a rubbish deal?
With self publishing, I can make it available on Amazon (and elsewhere online) as an eBook, Paperback and Audiobook. This would cost me nothing – or nothing more than I have already spent on an editor and an artist for the cover. Amazon pays out 70% in royalties, which is a deal that no publisher can better. I would effectively be losing about 35% of the royalties if I go with a hybrid. And I would have to pay more for that privilege. So is there any reason I should sign with any of them?
Maybe going with a hybrid publisher would help me sell more copies. With them behind me, promoting, marketing and publicising my book, My Beautiful Psychosis may reach a wider audience than I could reach by myself. However, many authors have complained that the hybrid publishers did nothing to promote them. This is quite normal as traditional publishers don’t do anything either. So I don’t actually know if my book would sell more copies via a hybrid publisher but my guess is that it wouldn’t.
Criticise Amazon all you like but when it comes to self publishing it is the environmental option. Amazon prints Paperbacks as and when they are ordered. This is called Print On Demand. If you order my book through Amazon in Paperback, the digital file is sent to your nearest depot and printed, before being delivered to your door. This Print On Demand process means there is no need to pay up front for 2000 books to be type set and printed in the traditional way. Every year, millions of unsold books are pulped, dumped into landfill or dissolved into a milky liquid and turned into recycled paper. This doesn’t happen with Print On Demand. Every book that is printed has been ordered and paid for by the customer. Zero waste paperwise. Zero waste moneywise.
Publishers receive several hundred submissions every month and this kind of hybrid deal is offered to only 10% of authors, or so I’m told by one of the hybrid publishers. Having three deals on the table lets me know that My Beautiful Psychosis is considered, by the publishing industry, good enough for publication. However these hybrid publishers don’t think it will make them enough money to take the financial risk. Hay House rejected my book outright, not because it wasn’t good enough but because I didn’t have a big enough author platform. What they needed was for me to have 20,000 followers and 1,000 people engaging with my online content on a regular basis. They need to know that there are enough people waiting to buy my book. It makes business sense if they’re giving the author money up front.
Hybrid deals are tempting because the royalties are better than the traditional publishing route. But if I self publish, I can get a whole lot more for a whole lot less. These hybrid publishers were all advertising online for authors to submit their work. They make no mention of ‘hybrid’ in their ads. So it makes me think these hybrid deals are exploitative. Writers are paying to get published but the publisher is still taking most of the profits.
My advice is to self publish if you’re willing to do the work: formatting; cover design; back cover blurb. But if you need help with all that then pay a hybrid publisher. I decided to self publish but I got a deal with Aeon Books in the end. My Beautiful Psychosis is available for purchase on 10th October, World Mental Health Day.