Michelle Cox was one of the many authors who, upon completing her first novel, wasn’t sure the traditional publishing route was right for her. Unsure how to move forward, she set out to find another way.
Discovering a different way to publish
To seek inspiration, Michelle travelled to New York to attend a Writers’ Digest conference. One of the workshops introduced her to something she thought could be perfect for her: hybrid publishing. Sometimes called author-assisted, partnership or co-publishing, hybrid publishing falls between the traditional and independent models with both the author and the publisher making financial contributions and sharing the royalties.
Eager to know more about this emerging area of publishing, Michelle was delighted when her next workshop featured Kristen Harnisch who, after publishing The Vintner’s Daughter with HarperCollins in Canada, decided to publish it with a hybrid publisher – She Writes Press – in the US.
Finding a hybrid publisher
Michelle was inspired by Kristen’s experiences and began researching hybrid publishing when she returned home.
She discovered She Writes Press was founded in 2012 by Kamy Wicoff and Brooke Warner off the back of the success of an online writing community for women writers of the same name. It has been winning awards for some time and scooped 17 medals in the Independent Publisher Book Awards last year.
Encouraged by their success, Michelle was keen to send She Writes Press her novel. Like most hybrid publishers, She Writes Press, has a selection process and unfortunately, at 250,000 words, her book was too long to be considered. However, she had been working on a new novel, A Girl Like You, and discussed this with Brooke Warner.
When A Girl Like You landed on Brooke’s desk, she decided to take it on. Michelle was delighted. She enjoyed the publishing process, finding the team creative and nurturing. Soon, she’d become part of a community.
A Girl Like You is a mystery novel set in 1935. Henrietta von Harmon must care for her antagonistic mother and younger siblings. She’s persuaded to take a job as a dancer in a local hall but, just as she’s beginning to enjoy it, the floor matron turns up dead. Henrietta agrees to go undercover for inspector Clive Howard, plunging her into Chicago’s gritty underworld while juggling her responsibilities.
Things to consider when thinking about hybrid publishing
Hybrid publishing is a controversial area, clouded by reports of negative experiences from authors who, desperate to see their books in print, have walked into bad deals and not got what they paid for. This is a shame because there are some reputable hybrid publishers like She Writes Press, particularly in non-fiction. Research is crucial. Take the time to look into other customers’ experiences, get recommendations from other authors and see who has picked up awards or genuine industry endorsements.
Hybrid publishers generally have a financial interest in the success of authors’ books, being published by them may carry some weight if the lists are selective and authors have a greater opportunity to get involved in the creative process. In addition, authors may retain the rights to their books and may get higher royalties than with traditional publishers. However, authors will have to invest a sum up front, the support team may be leaner and hybrid publishers may not be able to generate the same level of press interest that the big, traditional publishers can. If you’re being asked to pay something up front, be careful. Make sure you know exactly what you’re getting. Check your contracts and seek all the advice you need.
Most of the prestigious literary awards still don’t recognise hybrid publishers which is something I wonder may change in the future as increasing numbers of authors turn to more independent routes to publishing. In the meantime, there are many great awards open specifically to indie and hybrid authors so, if you go down this publishing route, be sure to apply.
The hybrid publishing journey continues
Michelle is hoping her relationship with She Writes Press will be a long one. She came to love the characters and the world she created in A Girl Like You so much that she decided to turn it into a mystery series. And, the second book, A Ring of Truth, is out now.