I didn’t know we had a term for this now. In hybrid publishing authors subsidize their book (which I suspect often means “pay for the production of”) while the publisher is responsible for producing, distributing, and selling professional-quality books. Authors get some payback on their investment via a higher royalty rate, usually around 50%. In academic publishing we’ve been doing subsidized publishing for aeons thinking of it as grant-assisted publishing, and a hundred years ago profit sharing contracts between authors and publishers were not uncommon. But the self-publishing business seems to have necessitated the invention of this hybrid category. Publishers Weekly gives us a report on a recent Independent Book Publishers Association meeting about hybrid publishing among other topics. The story was relayed by Book Business Insight.

The IBPA produced a set of guidelines earlier this year listing the functions which “define” a hybrid publisher. To be a hybrid publisher you must:

  1. Define a mission and vision for your publishing program
  2. Vet submissions
  3. Publish under your own imprint using your ISBNs
  4. Publish to industry standards
  5. Ensure editorial, design and production quality
  6. Pursue and manage a range of publishing rights
  7. Provide distribution services
  8. Demonstrate respectable sales
  9. Pay a higher-than-standard royalty

Elucidation of item 4 is provided by their Industry Standards Checklist for a Professionally Published Book, all of which seem perfectly sensible.

Nature abhors a vacuum; humans appear to abhor organizational disorder. The disorganization of self publishing has clearly upset many, and we can now see them shaking out the chaotic variety into ordered layers:

  • the really basic self-published book (family histories, wedding albums etc.);
  • the sort of vanity self publishing where sales are not important;
  • “profit seeking” self-publishing, usually ebooks but also print-on-demand;
  • then a layer of “professional” service providers;
  • the hybrid publishers discussed here;
  • indie publishers who finance the publication of books whose authors wish to avoid the traditional sector;
  • small traditional publishers;
  • other traditional publishers;
  • large publishing conglomerates.

Of course, any traditional publisher may perfectly legitimately agree to accept an author subsidy without having to reclassify themselves as hybrid. The borders are porous.

Terminology too: this link to Blackwell’s in the UK shows, I think, that the borderline between hybrid, indie and small traditional falls slightly north (or is it south) of the US one. Before the digital revolution upended everything, we all would refer to small publishers who were not owned by a larger group as independent, thus often indie, publishers. The recent colonization of this term by the self-publishing world has necessitated a tactical nomenclatural withdrawal, at least in the USA.