Writers in the Storm

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March 2, 2018

The Advantages of Hybrid Publishing

Debbie Herbert

There’s always plenty of debate (sometimes heated) about whether to indie or traditionally publish. Growing numbers of authors are going hybrid, which is using both platforms to build their readership. When originally broached on writing about this subject I was a bit hesitant. So many authors are firmly entrenched in one of the two camps. What I’ve written here is only MY experiences and opinions. You are perfectly welcome to feel differently. Of course!

I’m going to admit straight up that my Indie sales are nowhere near bestsellers (at this time anyway . . . hope springs eternal). I have four paranormal romance indies that have earned me about $10,000 since I first began publishing them in April 2013. And half of that total came as a result of multi-author box set profits—back in the day when these sets were newer and more profitable. By contrast, I’ve earned far more on my traditional books published by both Harlequin Intrigue and Harlequin Nocturne.

Earnings aside, publishing these indie books has been fun. And the even bigger benefit is that independently publishing has provided me with a crash course education on the book publishing industry. I started out traditionally publishing and had only the barest notion on book categories, keywords and marketing. I have a long way to go, but I’m learning.

I do have writer friends earning an annual six-figure income from their indie books and I am in awe of them. I’ve been able to closely observe the secret of their success which has entailed a thorough study of their targeted sub-genre and then prolifically writing and publishing books using identified tropes that meet reader expectations. It goes without saying, they are also very gifted writers.

In spite of all that, my own preference is traditionally publishing. So far, it’s where I’ve gained the most readers. I still have to market these books, but not nearly as much as I must to try to gain visibility for my indie books. I like having an agent and editors and artists work on the technical end of publishing which frees up more of my time to do what I truly love—putting words on paper.

There’s a growing acceptance with editors and agents for indie publishing as they see how indie sales boost reader interest in traditionally published books. Writing indie books has never been an issue with my agent.

Below, I’ve outlined some of the advantages of each type of publishing.

Traditional Benefits:

  • Validation. Maybe it’s only me, but contracts from traditional publishers means that the “experts” think my writing is “good enough.” For someone with my insecurity, this is huge!
  • Distribution. I love that my mass market paperbacks are readily available in bookstores and places like Walmart and in global markets. I realize successful (VERY successful) Indie authors are increasingly able to distribute their print books to brick and mortar stores. But I’m certainly not there yet.
  • Built-in audience. In the case of my publisher (Harlequin/HarperCollins) they have their own, very popular in-house Book Club where readers can earn rewards for book purchases.
  • A team of professionals, with no upfront cost to me, that handle all aspects of publishing to include editing, book covers, proofreading, etc.
  • Deadlines. For me, there’s just something about a firm deadline, established by an outside company, that motivates me to churn out the words in a timely manner.

Indie Benefits:

  • A monthly paycheck from indie books to supplement traditional publisher advances.
  • Artistic freedom in content and word count. If I want to write a mermaid/space alien/ erotica book, that’s cool. I might not find many readers, but that’s another story . . .
  • Testing a new genre. It’s possible to write another genre you’ve been dying to get a toehold in to test the market waters. You can use your current pen name to see if readers follow you into a new genre, or create a new pen name and start over.
  • Flexibility. Set your own deadlines and jump on hot trends to quickly produce a book or novella. Reverse harem, anyone?
  • Collaboration with other authors. It’s so much fun to work with other authors and form box sets or anthologies or co-author.
  • Higher profits per each book sold.

Hybrid publishing will give you the best of both worlds AND provide a means to keep your name in front of readers as you indie-publish to fill out releases around the often-slow schedule of traditional publishers.

Are you a hybrid author? Are you drawn more to one publishing platform than the other? I’d love to hear your comments!

 *     *     *     *     *

In the true spirit of hybrid publishing, Debbie had TWO book releases this week, both an Indie book and a traditional book. She also had to turn in a new book on Wednesday of same work. Yeah, crazy week!

Indie book: The Lost Dragon

When a dragon shifter's daughter goes missing, he must seek help from the last woman on earth he wants to see again, the witch who spurned him years ago.

Drake Evers, a widower who lives in a remote mountain mansion, is content with life. He spends all his time on various business ventures, acquiring a massive fortune. But once he unexpectedly gains custody of twin sixteen-year-old daughters, his well-ordered world crumbles. When one of the twins goes missing, he'll risk anything to find her—even if it means turning to the witch who spurned him years ago.

Traditional book: Appalachian Abduction

A small-town cop must protect
a beautiful rogue undercover detective.

Trespassing, fleeing a peace officer…hell, she’d aimed a gun at his chest! Officer James Tedder can’t help but admire her fight. And undercover detective Charlotte Helms will never quit. She’s on a personal mission: rescue her best friend’s daughter…and bust the child-trafficking ring that lured her away. When they’re forced to become partners, James must trust Charlotte to have his back. But can he trust her with his heart?


Debbie Herbert, A USA Today and Publisher’s Weekly best-selling author and 2017 RITA finalist, writes paranormal romance novels and suspense books, reflecting her belief that love, like magic, casts its own spell of enchantment. She is traditionally published through Harlequin, as well as Indie published. Married and living in Alabama, she roots for the Crimson Tide football team (Roll Tide!). Debbie enjoys recumbent bicycling and jet skiing with her husband. She has two grown sons and the oldest has autism. Characters with autism frequently land in her works, even when she doesn't plan on it! 

28 comments on “The Advantages of Hybrid Publishing”

  1. A nicely balanced review of the advantages of both. Thank you for your honest opinion! My goal is to become a hybrid author. I have a YA series for my Indy work, but a really great historical mystery slated for (hopefully!) catching an agent's eye and Trad publishing.

  2. I agree, Debbie (at least we agree on something - not like your bad taste in College football teams). Hybrid is the sweet spot! I plan to do more self-publishing, when I have the time!

      1. I still haven't listened to Laura read Days Made of Glass to me. I know that I would love that too. I could listen to her all day. 🙂

  3. I used to be hybrid, with VERY small presses, but after they went out of business or dropped the imprint, I have all my rights back. I went indie and have no desire to go back to searching for an agent, who then has to search for a publisher, who then takes over a year to get a book out. I'm old. I'd be dead by then.

    And, having heard publishers speaking at conferences, unless you're established with them, they put very little money into marketing your books--the difference between a book tour versus sending out emails about a new release. Their estimate (Penguin Putnam Whatever) was 8 books to prove your worth.

    I'm lucky that I'm retired and I'm not putting food on the table or a roof over my head with my royalties. I had 3 amazing years, and most of that money is still in the bank, although I did get a new car and treated myself to a trip to Tiffany. Those making the Big Bucks in indie are working a lot harder than I have any desire to.

    I write because I love it and it sure beats housework. The monthly checks are nice as well, even if they're no longer as big as they used to be.

  4. I hear you, Terry. The trad process is notoriously slow. Like you, I'm retired. If I depended on book sale commissions I'd be one hungry woman. Congratulations on your success and keep enjoying the writing. It sure makes it all worthwhile!

  5. Hybrid has always appealed to me, because I feel like some of my books would gain more traction through traditional channels and others through indie. I have many friends who have nudged me to exclusively self-publish, but for two of the reasons you gave — distribution, collaboration — as well as some others, I still like the idea of traditional for some projects.

    Great breakdown of advantages in each! Thanks, Debbie.

  6. If I were twenty years younger, I'd make the push for big a five deal. But I had an "aha" moment when reading one of Kristine Rusch's blogs on this topic. Corporate publishers want to groom their sure bets for many years of book production. Older authors without a publishing track record are not a good risk. Not complaining, because I get that this is a business. Publishers want younger authors with good platforms and "stories".
    Fortunately, we have options! I have two titles with a small publisher and the rest are indie. I'm very grateful to that publisher for taking a chance with me, but I didn't make any money with those titles until one of my indie books did well. I've come to the conclusion that, for me, chasing a contract with one of the big houses is a kind of "vanity" publishing. But of course, I reserve the right to change my mind. This is a very volatile industry!

    1. Alina,

      This is one of the few times I disagree with KKR. I think there used to be an age stigma with New York publishing, but I don't think there is today. Sadly though, it still doesn't help, because they're not looking long-term. They no longer 'develop careers'. They're looking for the quick, massive hit. The next Rowling. If a 70 year old does that, they're happy. Midlist, with New York (at any age) is an endangered species.

  7. Took me several days to read this because I am trying to polish off the 10th story in a linked story collection. So you think you have challenges? I have one self-published book and hope to find a small publisher this time around. I love speaking in public. I love marketing. So that part is fun. But I prefer to leave the other stuff (cover selection, editing, proofing) to experts who deal with this as their daily bread. I'm certainly no graphic artist and my background is in science - not an English major familiar with FANBOYS etc. etc. And I'm what I prefer to call "mature" or maybe "seasoned" rather than "old." Am I doomed?

  8. Hey, Debbie, so happy for your success. I think I need to be in a box set. LOL. I hope to keep Indie publishing but need more product. I love how you took your older manuscripts and made them saleable.
    P.S. to Laura. Hope you're right on the age thing, but I think you're definitely right on the "we want a massive hit now."

  9. I have published with a publisher and self-published. When my publisher went out of business last year he gave me my rights back and I self-published those titles. My ebook sales outsell my paper book sales. Last fall, I recorded my miracle book series so we'll see how that goes. Self-pub is a lot of work, but it's a lot of fun too.

  10. […] https://writersinthestormblog.com/2018/03/the-advantages-of-hybrid/ “There’s always plenty of debate (sometimes heated) about whether to indie or traditionally publish. Growing numbers of authors are going hybrid, which is using both platforms to build their readership. When originally broached on writing about this subject I was a bit hesitant. So many authors are firmly entrenched in one of the two camps. What I’ve written here is only MY experiences and opinions. You are perfectly welcome to feel differently. Of course!” I’m leaning toward hybrid. […]

  11. Hybrid, though my publishers were more boutique than true traditional, one made me feel like I was just indie--does that still count as hybrid?


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