Hybrid-Indie Publishing versus Traditional Publishing

Updated: Aug 28, 2020

Over the years I've had authors tell me they think the best plan of action is to self-publish their book and hope to eventually have it noticed by a traditional publisher. Some authors have floated this idea after publishing with INDIEGO. The following is a realistic description of what would happen if an author unpublished their book with INDIEGO and republished it with any other publisher. This would all be true even if the author self-published the book the first time instead of publishing with INDIEGO PUBLISHING, a true hybrid-indie publisher.

I present this here because this is the very crux of the publishing conundrum today, and is what so many authors struggle to understand.

1) As soon as the author decides to sign a contract with a new publisher, the author will need to notify me of their intent to end their publishing agreement with INDIEGO. This is because every other publisher--indie, hybrid, or traditional--will require the author to confirm that their book is *not* under contract with any other publisher. Thirty days from the day an author notifies me in writing, I will code their book as Out of Print with Bowker (for the ISBNs) and Ingram (wholesale distribution). Their book will remain visible on Amazon and other sites, but no one will be able to buy that version, and the notation Out of Print will be under the title.

2) The new publisher will require the following changes: new cover design, new interior book design, new book description -- and usually the author does not have much creative input in that process. So, if the author really loves every design aspect of their book, they need to be prepared for the reality that their book will be changed thoroughly and completely by the new publisher. No publisher keeps the same book cover and interior design as the previously published version because they want to put their own unique stamp on the book .

3) The new publisher will probably want to do their own in-house edit of the entire book. Most traditional publishers pare books down to the smallest size possible (typically a trim size of 5.5 x 8.5 for novels and creative nonfiction instead of 6 x 9) to gain more profit on sales, since smaller books cost less to print than large books. Publishers don't necessarily do this with famous authors like Michelle Obama and Stephen King because they know those books will earn millions of dollars in sales, but they do tend to do this with lesser known authors' books. Bottom line, for any reason the publisher chooses, their own editors will go through the book and change it as they see fit, even though the author and I worked very closely to get their book exactly the way they want it, and my editing is superb. Traditional publishers will not give the author the final say in this process.

4) Since the KDP paperback and ebook versions are published with ISBNS issued to INDIEGO, once I code those versions as out of print, neither version will be available for sale. But that's not all; the benefit of having your own KDP account to track sales and have royalties paid directly to you will end if you choose to republish with a traditional publisher or even a larger hybrid publisher. Here's why:

5) Traditional publishers do not allow their authors to upload the paperback or ebook to their own KDP account. They upload all versions of the book through their own distribution process so that all royalties are paid to them, and then they send your royalty percentage to you. Most traditional publishers pay authors about 8-10% of the royalties and keep the rest for themselves. Other large hybrid publishers keep 50% of your retail royalties on average. So, really think about this: you will no longer be able to manage your book on Amazon through your KDP dashboard, and royalties from Amazon sales will no longer be paid directly to you.

6) On the topic of Amazon, once your book is republished with its new cover design and book description, it will have its own book page on Amazon, but all current reviews of your book will not automatically map over to the new version. They'll still be visible on Amazon, but people will have to click on the original Out of Print edition to see those reviews. You will have to rebuild reviews of the newly published edition from the ground up. That will be a hard slog and will involve writing pleading emails to friends, family members, acebook connections, etc., asking them to repost their reviews, but Amazon will delete their reviews unless they can prove that they're a verified purchaser of the new edition.

7) If you are offered a book deal that comes with a monetary advance, please understand the ramifications of that: It's an advance *against* sales, not free money. This means that if your book does not earn enough to repay the publisher the advance amount in the form of royalties within a set period of time (usually only a few years), they will expect you to repay that amount. This is what most authors do not understand. It isn't free money. It must be repaid, and the way that advance is repaid is through royalties. If your book never earns enough in sales to repay that amount, the publisher will send you an invoice and expect you to pay it. (Yes, this actually happens.) This also means that for the first few years after the book is republished, you will probably not see a penny in royalties because all of that money will go toward paying back the advance amount they gave you as part of the book deal.

Think of it like this: suppose they give you an advance of $5,000. Now, grab a calculator and add up the total amount you have earned in royalties since the day you first published your book with INDIEGO. I'm guessing you've probably earned about $1200-$1500 thus far in KDP royalties. Imagine how long it would take you to earn $5,000 in royalties in a few years after the publisher keeps their 85% cut and sends you your 15% cut. (Again, this was based on a specific book with a specific author who published with INDIEGO and is still an INDIEGO author.)

Maybe you're tantalized by the hope/promise that your book will appear in bookstores everywhere. Book marketers love to dangle that bait because they know it hooks authors every time. But let's consider some realities, especially now that Covid-19 has changed our world: many small and indie bookstores have closed or are struggling financially, and even large bookstores such as Barnes and Noble only have but so much floor and shelf space to fill, and they notoriously refuse to stock books by relatively unknown authors. Even if you sign on with a traditional publisher, the harsh reality is that your book will probably never appear in bookstores anywhere. Besides, it is already on the biggest bookstore in the universe known as the internet. :-)

To summarize, as you can see from all that I've described above, you will lose all creative control over your book, and the traditional publisher will not let you sign an open-ended agreement like INDIEGO's. If you sign a publishing agreement with a traditional publisher and accept a monetary advance, that will probably be an ironclad contract that is nearly impossible to break free from.

Whatever decision you make is yours because it is your book, but I wanted to inform you of these facts and realities in case a book marketer (who I hope isn't charging you a fortune while making empty promises) doesn't paint a realistic picture of all that is involved when you sign on with a traditional publisher. In light of all this, I hope you can see why I choose to operate under the hybrid-indie publishing model: it offers the perfect balance between the benefits of traditional publishing (worldwide wholesale distribution through Ingram) and creative control, ownership, and 100% of retail royalties for you, the author, which is exactly as it should be.

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