Mastodon The Writing Desk: Guest Post ~ Hybrid publishing, by Ben Coles at Promontory Press

24 August 2014

Guest Post ~ Hybrid publishing, by Ben Coles at Promontory Press

Hybrid publishing is a new movement in the world of books which is trying to fix some of the broken aspects of the traditional publishing world. Still very much traditional in most of its form, hybrid publishing maintains the same quality control and widespread sales and distribution the industry expects, but by adopting a more entrepreneurial model the hybrid publisher can be much more open to new authors. Ultimately, publishing is a business, and if the publisher doesn’t make money selling books, it can’t survive. What this means for a new, unknown author is that it is very hard to convince a publisher to take a financial risk on producing their book.

It’s always been tough to get picked up as a new author, but these days the publishing world has become so risk-averse that an unknown author has almost zero chance of convincing a publisher to take a big financial risk on them, no matter how good their book is. In the hybrid model, the author and publisher both make an investment in the book, sharing the financial risk and splitting the revenues much more evenly. The hybrid publisher only makes money if the book sells, and therefore the goals of author and publisher are completely aligned.

This is the critical difference between a hybrid publisher and a vanity press. A vanity press (or self-publisher) makes all its money on the fees the author pays up front – selling the book is irrelevant to their business model. The money an author pays a hybrid publisher, however, is only a portion of the costs that the hybrid publisher takes on to produce, sell and market the book. The hybrid publisher MUST sell a lot of copies of the book in order to turn a profit. The author’s investment reduces that initial risk, but doesn’t eliminate it. In the hybrid model, both publisher and author make money only by selling books.

At Promontory Press, we’re always looking for new authors who have something significant to say. We meet authors at every stage of their writing, but the earlier in the process we meet the better. If the author comes to us with an idea or an early draft, we as a team can assess both the quality of writing and the market potential of the book, giving the author a clear sense of what will be required to get the book ready both for publication and for the essential marketing support that every author has to give their book.
Our decision to offer a contract to the author is based on several key factors, all of which all discussed openly with the author:
  1. The market potential of the book – do we think that the audience for this particular book is large enough and accessible enough to earn a big enough return for both Promontory and the author?
  2. The quality of writing – what skill level does the author bring and how much work will be required to get the manuscript ready?
  3. The mindset of the author – does the author want to maintain 100% control, is the author willing to get involved in marketing, will the author commit financial resources to supporting their book? 
At Promontory each one of our authors is part of a close-knit team, and if the author isn’t willing to be a team player then it’s probably best if they seek another avenue to publication. When we do take a manuscript on, our team of experts gets fully involved. Every book is fully edited for content, style and structure long before we address the details of proof-reading. Every book has a cover and title designed with the full input of our marketing department.

Every book is printed to the highest quality, on recycled paper wherever possible, and while we rarely used POD, we still keep our inventories lean. Every book is personally pitched by our sales team to the national buyers at all the major American and Canadian bookstores and wholesalers (Barnes & Noble, Chapters-Indigo, Baker & Taylor, etc.)  as well as to the independent bookstores. And finally, every book has a custom marketing plan that is implemented by our marketing team with the author as a trained member.

If an aspiring author is considering the hybrid model of publishing, here are some key questions to consider:
  1. Am I willing to have my book changed if the professionals advise it?
  2. Am I willing to get actively involved in marketing if I’m trained on how to do so?
  3. Am I willing to make a financial investment in my book if I know what the potential returns and timelines are? 
If the answer to all three of these is yes, hybrid might be a good fit. If the answer is yes to the first two but no to the third, traditional publishing might be the best bet. Conversely, if the answer is no to the first question and yes to the others, self-publishing might be the ideal route. Each author needs to honestly consider his or her own strengths and weaknesses, and decide which path is the best fit. In every case, however, bringing a highly-developed writing skill and a marketable idea are the keys to success – no model of publishing will ever change that.

Bennett R. Coles
Publisher, Promontory Press
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About the Author

Bennett R. Coles lives in Victoria, Canada with his lovely wife, two boisterous sons, and one demanding cat. He served 15 years as a officer in the Royal Canadian Navy and worked in international business while he built his career as an author and, somehow, a publisher. You can learn about his first two books at, although you won't be able to read a copy of either until they are re-released by Titan Books of London in 2015. Follow him on Twitter @PromontoryPress and Google+  +Promontory Press 

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