Ever wondered what agents think about hybrid authors? Ever been too afraid to ask, thinking the very idea of hybrid publishing an insult to the traditional side of the business? Well, fear no longer, because most agents I know fully support the hybrid author model. And it’s because of one reason…
Agents are happy when their authors are happy, and authors are happy when they’re making money. Being a hybrid author allows writers the opportunity to actually EARN DOLLARS doing this writing thing. So therefore agents, for the most part, are pro-hybrid authors.
Don’t get me wrong. Authors who try self-publishing aren’t guaranteed success or a boost in their finances. It can be a costly thing to get going and maintain, and if the sales aren’t there, it can leave the author frustrated. But when it works—and it does work for many authors—we agents get a kick out of seeing our authors succeed in such a difficult industry.
Before we go further, let’s define “hybrid author.” This is an author who simultaneously publishes with a traditional house and pursues self-publication through Amazon or CreateSpace or Smashwords or the like. It’s an author who is both on the indie side, and the traditional side.
So aside from the possibility that an author just won’t be able to get their indie books off the ground, what are some other downsides when it comes to how hybrid publishing may affect the author-agent relationship?
In other words, what are some things that agents don’t like about the hybrid model?
1. When our authors decide to completely abandon traditional publishing.
Look, I totally understand that monetarily, an author may be making more on the self-pub side. BUT I cannot express how very valuable it is to have the occasional book with a publisher, in stores, in libraries, and so on.
Being on the traditional side is like having a giant billboard. An author’s name gets in-store visibility, plus it benefits from being able to more easily enter contests, gain industry reviews, and earn that type of notoriety. Plus, by having a publisher’s marketing team work on your book, they’re essentially helping to promote your entire brand, as folks will type your name into Amazon and find your traditional books alongside your self-pub books. This feeds your career and therefore your self-pub sales. So pulling the plug on such a great cyclical model means risking a dip in sales and buzz.
2. When authors expect us to provide the same service on their self-pub projects that we do on their trad-pub stuff.
Typically, we don’t make a dime on the self-pub side. Furthermore, the projects that are taken directly to self-pub are projects that we then won’t be able to sell to a publisher. While we understand the give and take of such a model, what we don’t like is when our authors treat us as though we were the agent on those self-pub projects. In these instances, I find authors will rely on me to provide the same level of service to their self-pub careers that I provide to their trad-pub careers.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy to answer some questions and give general direction, but I can’t be editing manuscripts, offering feedback, and brainstorming strategies on projects that will never make me money. It just isn’t smart business on my end, and I need my hybrid authors to understand that.
3. When authors compare the trad process with the self-pub process as though they should be identical.
They aren’t identical! And they never will be! And because of that, authors right now are able to run a hybrid operation that is the best of both worlds. But once you have an author who feels as though one side is grossly better than the other and who starts to compare the two and complain about this or that not being fair or right, you’re on a bad path.
In these instances I’ve found that no amount of pep talk or facts or advice will pull the author out of this mindset. They’re on a collision course that will drastically change their career to be solely a self-pub model. There’s nothing wrong with that if it’s the right choice. But for many, they really benefit from having some traditional contacts and support. So comparing both markets as though they should be the same can be dangerous.
4. When authors ignore advice.
While I try to stay out of my authors’ self-pub operations, there are times when they ask me for my thoughts on their projects or plans.
I’m quite familiar with self-publishing (I’ve done it myself and have helped numerous authors upload dozens and dozens of books), so I have a respectable opinion on the matter…which is probably why I don’t appreciate it when my authors achieve a bit of self-pub success and then think that I don’t know what I’m talking about when I flag a book cover as being “unclear” or a title as being “unsearchable” or a pricing strategy as being too expensive.
Believe me, I wouldn’t be providing my opinion on something that provides me no direct monetary gain unless I really thought that my input was helpful and important.
5. When authors join an “anti-traditional publishing community.”
There are lots of communities and blogs online that seem to solely exist to tear down traditional publishing while simultaneously puffing up the indie market. Everyone is privy to their own opinion, but I am definitely bothered when I have an author join these ranks even though he/she is in the midst of a traditional book deal! It lacks tact and is a slap in the face to the editors and professionals working on the book at the traditional house.
So there you have it! I’m a huge fan of hybrid publishing (check out the series I did on it) but there are definitely pitfalls to avoid if you want to explore your options while keeping your agent diligently working hard on your behalf.
So, what do you think? Which direction do you want to take your career? How did you choose?
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