H is for Hybrid

The following blog post is shared by permission from the Steve Laube Agency blog.

To state the obvious, the
publishing industry has changed rather dramatically in the last few years.
The possibility for a writer to inexpensively produce their own books (in
e-book form) has shifted the sands. In addition the economic challenges
facing the brick-and-mortar bookstore has reduced the amount of shelf-space
available to launch a new book via traditional methods. It appears to be an
either or choice: go Indie or go Traditional. But there is a third way, the
way of the “hybrid author.”
They hybrid author is one
who chooses to follow both the Traditional and the Indie routes. Thus the
hybrid moniker. They neither one nor the other, they are both. And just like
the hybrid car that is a mix of both gas and electric, the circumstances
dictate which form of transportation their words use to reach the public.
Our agency has a number of
hybrid authors. These authors continue to have flourishing relationships with
their traditional publisher and are receiving new contracts all the time. But
at the same time they have certain books that they publish on their own. They
are very entrepreneurial and work tirelessly self-promoting their Indie books
but also work tirelessly to promote their traditional ones. Some have
extremely modest Indie sales and others are quite pleased with the revenue
their Indie books produce. The range of sales is rather dramatic, everything
from an author who has old less than 60 of their Indie e-books to another who
is in the five figures in Indie ebooks sold. However, each of these hybrid
authors  continues to maintain a presence in the traditional market as
well.
One frequent question is
“Why consider going the Indie route? Other than the lure of money and
control.” The problem with a definitive answer is the danger of my words
being used as a set of “rules” that work equally for every author. I believe
that this is a much more nuanced question that eschews a formula. In my
opinion each author’s situation, skill set, entrepreneurial spirit, finances,
life circumstances, platform, past success, genre in which they write, and
more all go into formulating the right strategy for that person.
And this is where we, as
the literary agent, come in. We ask the hard questions and help form the
right strategy for moving forward. The myth is that an agent is afraid
of losing revenue and therefore intentionally steers the author away from
going Indie and pushes them to the traditional route. I even had one person
at a conference accuse me of being “part of the establishment” and that he
couldn’t trust my advice because it would be colored by self-preservation.
Let me put that to rest with something that I have stated publically, “God
will provide for us financially. We have no agenda influencing our advice
with regard to Indie-decisions. Our mission is to help change the world word
by word. And if we somehow earn a living while doing that…mission
accomplished.” (By the way, some clients pay us a percentage of their Indie
revenue for the services we provide. They have said they want us as a part of
every aspect of their writing career.)
We want the Indie decision
to be the right one at the right time. I will say “Just because you can,
doesn’t mean you should.” To the client who is chomping at the bit to publish
their work in ebook form on their own. Let me explain only one small aspect
of that statement.
A major traditional publisher
is looking for an author with a large platform which they can leverage to
help sell that writer’s books into the trade. The size of that platform can
be proven by an author’s past sales history. Thus every proposal must reveal
past sales numbers. Let’s say your last traditionally published book sold
12,000 copies (paper and ebook combined) and you want to go Indie on your
next one. But your new Indie title sells 3,000 copies. You now have sales
numbers that are not as attractive to a major publisher. And there is one of
the risks. We as the author’s agent and advisor help the writer know the
landscape so they can make an informed decision, one that is based on an
understanding of the total market.
Other issues to consider
are the non-compete clauses in the traditional contract, the danger of
releasing your Indie title too close to the traditional book launch, piracy
protection, effective metadata creation for SEO or discoverability, marketing
and promotion, etc.
But as the traditional
market squeezes ever tighter in the number of titles they produce, the Indie
route become that much more attractive.
It is a great time in our
industry. Opportunities abound.
Meanwhile there is a raging
debate among many author of whether to pursue publication the Traditional way
(where a major publisher pays you up front) or Indie (where the author
absorbs all costs). One or the other, not both. I have already written a
series extolling the benefits of the
Traditional model
. And I want to state unequivocally
that I am not against the Indie route, as long as the writer does it the
right way so as to maximize their sales and render a quality product. I would
also like to state that neither route is superior to the other per se, they
are different ways to achieve the same means…getting your story out there.
Millions of words have been spilled defending one versus the other and many
of those words have been hyperbolic and characterized by ad hominim attacks.
It has been sad to see a wonderful opportunity turned into a divisive and
rancorous contest. But I digress. 
Steve
Laube
, a literary agent and president of The Steve Laube Agency, has
been in the book industry for over 31 years, first as a bookstore manager where
he was awarded the National Store of the Year by CBA. He then spent over a
decade with Bethany House Publishers and was named the Editor of the Year in
2002. He later became an agent and has represented over 700 new books and was
named Agent of the Year by ACFW. His office is in Phoenix, Arizona.