Rise of the Hybrid Author

To Self Publish or Not

Not long ago, literary agents sold books to publishers, publishers sold books to booksellers, and booksellers sold books to the reading public. But as the book publishing industry continues to consolidate and contract, mid-list authors find it increasingly difficult to land contracts with their previous publisher. Enter the new hybrid author.

While the definition of hybrid author remains fluid, the term generally means a traditionally published author who occasionally self-publishes when the project is served best by taking full ownership.

When To Go Hybrid
First, make sure you have a platform to sell your books. Successful hybrid authors know their readers, have access to their reader’s contact information via newsletters, emails, fan mail, and usually have an extensive social media reach. If, as an author, you are doing the bulk of the marketing and moving the majority of the books, hybrid may be a good option for you. Here are three publishing options for hybrid authors.

Traditional Publisher

  • Large advance (any figure over $1000)
  • Heavily invested in bookstore distribution
  • Submits your work to prestigious review outlets
  • Physical location with salaried employees
  • Prints books offset press and stores them in distribution centers
  • Pay royalties on a quarter or semi-annual basis

Advantages of a Traditional Publisher
Traditional publishing remains the gold standard. Often you receive an advance, validation or your work (the house is paying you to write), and the prestige of reviews, bookstore distribution, and hope that your book will become a best seller. While the number of slots continues to dwindle, remaining loyal to a house (and waiting longer for a contract) may pay dividends later.

Small Press

  • None or a very small advance ($50 to $200)
  • Very little bookstore and library exposure
  • Few salaried employees
  • Virtual staff
  • Ability to adjust or adapt a title after its release
  • Agile marketing
  • Treat imprints as consumer brands
  • Use print–on-demand
  • Heavily promotes ebooks
  • Higher royalty percentages than with traditional houses

Advantages of a Small Press
Small press publishing gives debut and mid-list authors the chance to write and sell more books – provided their titles sell a reasonable number of copies. With a lower overhead, a small press doesn’t need to sell as many copies to recoup its investment. Many mid-list authors find that a small press is the best option since the author does not pay for the book’s production yet still retains some input in the book’s title, cover, and marketing.

Self Publishing

You pay for the production of your book, marketing services, and / or may be required to purchase a certain number of books.

According to Bowker, the number of self-published titles in 2013 “increased to more than 458,564, up 17 percent over 2012 and 437 percent over 2008.” Bowker’s data is based on ISBNs issued. It’s widely acknowledged that self-published authors frequently avoid buying an ISBN, so the number of titles is certainly larger.

Advantages of a Self Publishing
Self-publishing give authors the most control over their books. Authors can often buy books for much lower than what a small press might offer. This is important if you are a speaker and expect to move most of your books at the back of the room. Many self-pub firms offer extensive marketing for a fee. With self-pub, you risk your money but have more control and receive a greater share of the profits. Below are several self publishing firms.

(Note: The listing of these links does not represent our endorsement of these companies. We define self publishing as any firm that requires you to spend money in order to have your book published.)

Look for eBook Sales to Remain Flat in 2015

The stunning increases in ebook sales from 2012 to 2014 led many to wonder if print books were about to become obsolete. Some predicted e-books would soon represent 50% to 70% of all book sales. Then late in the first quarter of 2014, growth rates slowed. After years of double – and triple-digit increases, ebooks remain at around 30% of revenues for the publishers who report their sales through the Association of American Publishers.

Rise of the Machine
With first-generation dedicated e-readers, consumers could only do one thing – read. But with tablets and phones, the distractions of email, social media updates, and video on demand, pull casual readers away from ebooks, thus dampening sales.

An estimated 80 percent of 18 to 24 year olds own a smartphone.

The growth in smartphone and tablet use offers more eReading opportunities but also more distractions.

Apple Owns the Tablet / Smartphone Market
In tablets, Apple continues to dominate the U.S. market with about 80 million users. Consider:

  • A third of tablet owners use them for reading.
  • Tablet owners are the source of 42% of ebook purchases.
  • An estimated 21 million people read books on their phones but account foronly 7% of ebook purchases.

So Where Do eBooks Go in 2015
The biggest threat to new authors and new titles is the glut of high-quality low-cost ebooks.

The quality ebooks – especially self-published ebooks – has dramatically increased competition.

A decade ago, publishers constrained book supply by publishing a limited number of new titles each year. Not anymore. With the introduction of ebooks, every author can be found on Amazon. This rapid growth in the supply of ebooks has eclipsed demand. This means most new ebooks will sell substantially fewer copies than previous new releases.

Where Does eBook Pricing Go in 2015
Down. During the first years of the ebook revolution, large publishers refused to discount their ebooks. Most tried to sell in the $14.95 to $19.95 range. Meanwhile, small publishers and self-published authors were happy to earn royalty rates of 70% and budget-conscious consumers loved the low prices.

FREE and 99 cent ebooks allowed unknown authors to gain new readers and establish careers. No more.

In the last year, large publishers have stepped up their price-cutting and begun offering temporary promotions on titles from big-name authors. In 2015 these temporary promotions will give way to permanent lower prices on backlist titles from big names and more aggressive discounting on recently released titles.

Will Free work in 2015
As the market becomes flooded with free ebooks, FREE will lose influence. With the glut of FREE, high-quality books, good isn’t good enough anymore. To reach readers, an author must deliver an emotionally satisfying read. This holds true for both fiction and non-fiction. If readers aren’t giving your book four or five star reviews and using words in their reviews like, “wow,” “fantastic” and “amazing,” your book probably won’t stick and sell long term. Books that resonate with readers turn consumers into evangelists.

Print Is Back

Print Is BackWhile ebook sales plateaued in 2014, print books staged a comeback. According to Nielsen BookScan, print sales rose 2.4% in 2014, with total units topping 635 million. The 2014 figures provide evidence that print books are selling better than they have since sales of e-books took off in 2010 and Borders closed its doors in 2011.

  • Trade Paperback increased 4.3%
  • Hardcover increased 3%
  •  Mass Market Paperback declined -10.3
  • Audio remained flat at 0.2
  • The mystery and romance categories had the largest market shares at 32% and 36%

 

The Revival of Bookstores
After several solid years, independents are beginning to add locations and taking back some of the physical bookshelf space they lost during the Great Recession and the ebook explosion. Some are focusing on underserved towns where Borders once flourished. Other stores are creating reading environments by partnering with local restaurants and coffee shop in order to increase foot traffic. Used bookstores fill a void by offering popular titles and discounted prices. For the author, local bookstores remain a bright spot and many will find their local bookstore eager to host an author event.

Print and ebook Live On

Declines in print revenues will slow over the next five years and, in the long term, the market will plateau, with printed books still seen as desirable to own. PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC)

 

As the economy continues to improve, consumers have demonstrated a willingness to spend money on print books. That said, the struggles at Barnes and Noble and bankruptcy proceedings at Family Christian Books might continue to drive consumers towards online sales and independent bookstores.