1.19.2015

5 Reasons Why I Hybrid Author

So many writers out there are making so much ado about whether to self-publish or traditionally publish. They form sides, they bicker about who has it better or worse. I'm not gonna rehash all that, because frankly, Chuck Wendig has done a hell of a job over at his blog covering the bases of why there should be no debate, and how there are pluses and minus to doing it both ways.

I'm going to assume you the author are coming here with your brain filled with all that information. Maybe you're unsure how to traverse this freakishly fecund publishing landscape. Maybe you're interested in why others have made the choices they have. Maybe you're just looking for simple validation. Or MAYBE you should be writing your book, but you feel like engaging in shop talk. Either way, you're welcome to stand next to my virtual watercooler while I talk at you!

To begin, I consider myself a hybrid author. I have an agent and traditionally published books, but I also independently produce short stories and novellas. I love this arrangement for more than 10 reasons, but right now I'm only going to do 5:

1. Cake or Pie? The Correct Answer is "Yes."

Sometimes you go to a dinner party and there are multiple desserts, but you don't want to look like a cow, so you have to pick one dainty slice of something while you look longingly at the other things. Publishing doesn't have to be that way, and honestly if you're entering the industry in 2015, it behooves you to not limit yourself. In fact, instead of a stuffy dinner party, publishing these days is like visiting your favorite Vegas buffet. Load your plate, man! Experiment, learn, have fun. Get more of what works and toss out what doesn't. Being a hybrid author is like . . . CHERPUMPLE!

Sweet Sexual Jesus
2. Because Maybe You Won't Be A Whiny Fucking Diva So Much.

Taking a little time to act as your own publisher is a great crash course in learning, at least a little bit, what a larger publisher goes through to make sure your pampered ass gets to call yourself a "published author." When you're in DIY mode, you're responsible for the editing, cover, formatting, interior design, promotion, and distribution of your sweet little darling. What you soon discover is it's a lot of hard work.  It's also expensive and takes time to get it right. You might also find you hate it, but hey, sometimes you have to do a little of what you hate, because you're a fucking grownup.

This is the stuff a traditional publisher goes through, only it usually costs them more money because they're doing the same thing for a whole roster of authors as well as trying to manage a full staff and a bunch of other drama. So hopefully, if you have a good bit of experience with independently producing and decide to start submitting your work to other publishers, hopefully you'll be doing so with healthy expectations for what meticulous, expensive, slow, and often frustrating work it is on the other side of things. And you'll understand that their decisions aren't personal, and maybe you should chill the fuck out a little and let the professionals do their jobs. And while you're waiting for them to do that, maybe work on another project. Which brings me to . . .

3. You Do Your Thing, Mr. Publisher. I'll Just Be Over Here Making More Awesome Shit.

So traditional publishing is often pretty slow, right? It takes weeks or months for an agent to respond to you, even after they've requested a full manuscript. And then, if you're lucky to get an offer, it can take many more months for that agent to sell your book. And then, if your agent is lucky enough to entice an editor to buy your book, it takes even more weeks or months to draw up the contracts, and still more months (sometimes up to a year or 18 months!) for that book to come out. That's a LOT of time to fill. So what are you gonna do, twiddle your damn thumbs and cry into your margaritas?

Of course not. You should be working on your next book for said agent or editor, sure, but why not get some short stories out there too? Or maybe you have this really cool experimental idea that you'd like to tinker with and release as an ebook. Something to get your name out there a little more and perhaps get them interested in the book your publisher will be releasing soon? Not only that, but you can get a little extra money coming in month to month instead of having to wait for advance payments and residuals. Because in case you weren't aware, almost no traditional publisher pays you monthly. But when you publish yourself, you can count on a little direct deposit action at the end of every month. It could be tiny, but it could also be pretty substantial too. And you don't have to give up 15% of it to your agent either! It's like bonus play money for your hookers and blow fund!

4. One Hand Washes The Other If You Get Both Hands Dirty

It goes something like this. Before I traditionally published a novel, I self-published a lot of short stories on Amazon, Smashwords, and other sites. During one successful spate of giveaways, my short story "Dust" fell into the hands of one Vincent Hobbes. Vincent Hobbes is the founder of Hobbes End Publishing. He reached out to me and we formed a great rapport, and he offered to place two more of my shorts in one of their anthologies. Later they published two of my novels, and those novels have done pretty damn well. People who discovered those novels eventually discovered my author-published short work, while the people who were with me from the beginning with my author-published stuff also read my traditionally published novels and reviewed them and recommended them too.

When my novel KUDZU eventually comes out, the new readers who discover me will have a whole backlist of stuff to enjoy, both indie and traditionally published, long form and short form. Some of that money will come directly to me, some will come via my publisher. Either way, I profit.

Furthermore, I met other small independent publishers through my dealings with Hobbes End, and they've also published some of my work. Those publishing credits as well as my years of working to build my name through my short fiction gave me the industry experience and the established audience that likely helped me land an agent and also get some pro-paying sales in other markets. Being able to come to a publisher with even a small audience in your pack pocket makes it a little bit easier for them to part with their money.

Long story short: IT ALL STARTED WITH SELF-PUBLISHING, however my publishers probably did more to push my name out into the world than I ever could have done on my own. It was a purely symbiotic thing. There are other ways to skin this cat, but the point is if you're not at least considering taking both avenues, you could be missing out on some very cool opportunities.

You missed a spot.

5. Be A Little More Future-Proof

We have no idea where this crazy publishing ride is taking us. News reports every day that major bookstore chains aren't doing so hot. We already lost Borders. What happens if Barnes & Noble officially goes tits up? While no one can predict exactly how those dominoes will fall, it's safe to say that the drastic loss of shelf space in the bookseller market will have a tremendously negative impact on the publishing industry for awhile. Even if B&N holds tight, other catastrophes could be awaiting you. What if your publisher is the one to go tits up instead, or they sell out to another imprint and your book winds up trapped in contractual limbo while the dust settles? It happens all the time. The publishing business is brutal and cannibalistic as shit.

BUT if you have a healthy backlist of independently published work established, you at least won't be totally out of the marketplace while other people get their ducks in a row. Having a working knowledge of e-publishing is in many ways instrumental to insuring that your art has a chance to find a home and endure no matter how the winds happen to be blowing in the industry at large. Whether you sell through Amazon or direct through portals like Payhip, there are myriad ways to make your works available to the reading public today.

TL:DR -- Don't sell yourself short. Never have we authors had so many options laid out before us. If you're serious about getting your words before the eyes of readers, your best bet is DO IT ALL.

And that, folks, is why I hybrid.


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