I spent this past week in beautiful San Miguel de Allende, a city that earned itself the title of Best City in the World in Conde Nast this year. There's no question about it: San Miguel is a special town. I got invited last year to present on a panel called Women Write Their Lives, moderated by the gracious and passionate Amy Ferris. I owe her a debt of gratitude for introducing me to the San Miguel de Allende Writers Conference—and, by extension, the town.
In today's post I want to share about the first panel I sat on, called The New Era of Publishing, moderated by change agent April Eberhardt. My fellow panelists were Betsy Graziani Fasbinder, author of Fire & Water, and Stephanie Bennett Vogt, author of Your Spacious Self. If you have an hour, it's worth listening to.
Even though I live this stuff, it's helpful to hear (over and over again, if you have to) about the different publishing paths. They've changed so much, even in the last three or four years.
April kicked off the panel with a definition of the five types of publishing that exist, acknowledging that arguably there are others (and I think there are). These are:
1. Traditional publishing
2. Partnership publishing
3. Hybrid publishing
4. Assisted publishing
5. True DIY (do-it-yourself) self-publishing
We all know what traditional is. It's publishing as we've known it, and it continues to be (though increasingly less so) most authors' dream. This is the path where the Powers That Be deign you the good and rightful owner of the keys to the kingdom. And, as April says right at the top of the hour, it's a fairy tale.
Next is partnership. Now this is what She Writes Press is doing. We are a partnership publisher. Lumped into partnership publishing is "subsidy publishing," and though we are a subsidy press, because the author pays for our services, we are very different from, for instance, the Author Solutions imprints (which include Simon & Schuster's Archway, Hay House's Balboa, Thomas Nelson's Westbow, and countless others like Author House, Xlibris, and iUniverse). We're different because we are mission-driven, there's a publisher at the helm of our company, we are curated, and we have traditional distribution. But at the end of the day, partnership publishing is about partnership. You just have to be careful and make sure to choose a good (and ethical) partner.
When it comes to hybrid publishing, April introduces the idea of the hybrid author, those authors who are doing some traditional and some alternative publishing. There are big-name authors who are walking this line: Stephen King, Hugh Howey, and David Mamet to name a few. The idea behind hybrid is that the author chooses, but in order to choose you must first be deemed worthy, as it were, of being "allowed" to publish traditionally. For me, the hybrid publishing route is actually qualified as a publisher who co-publishes with you. The primary difference between a hybrid relationship and a partnership relationship has to do with the creative negotiations. Whereas partnership publishing is a package of services, hybrid publishing is generally (in my experience) when a traditional house takes on an author and then negotiates with that author to pay for part of the production of their own book, or for a guaranteed buy-in. Many traditional publishers are doing this, or have done it for years, without really talking about it—which is both interesting and slightly controversial now that partnership and subsidy publishing are on the rise. I've argued recently that author subsidization cannot be the sole measure by which we determine a book's worth (since self-published books are barred from both traditional reviews and many contests). So for me hybrid represents an in-between but legitimized space where traditional publishers are doing partnership publishing. For others it represents authors' freedom to move about the publishing world as they see fit—picking self-publishing for some projects and traditional for others. But like I said, to get to a place where you can choose you must first be invited into the inner circle.
Assisted self-publishing is a cool category, and I've done a lot of work in this space too. This is when a coach or an agent (or just a knowledgeable team) takes you through the process of self-publishing. Many coaches are getting into this now, because there is so much to know. And like I say all the time, you don't know what you don't know—and this could not be more true in book publishing. It's a complicated industry, even though it's relatively easy to produce books. There's a steep learning curve, so why reinvent the wheel? In my opinion, assisted self-publishing makes way more sense than DIY, unless you're a die-hard maverick who's looking to make publishing part of your business strategy and future goals.
Finally, DIY self-publishing is when you truly do it yourself. The line between assisted and DIY self-publishing is probably somewhat blurry, in that those authors who DIY well will invariably have an educated team behind them. DIY self-publishers are publishers. They establish their own imprints, hire out their own editors and designers, and oversee every part of the process. I suppose this makes it somewhat different from assisted self-publishing as well, because with assisted self-publishing those agents and coaches often play the role of manager—responsible for signing off on the final edits, cover designs, proofs, etc. In order to DIY well, again, you must know something about publishing. You must know the Chicago Manual of Style and good design. Most authors do not DIY well, but those who do wear an extra badge of honor because there truly are so many places where you can go wrong.
It's good to know what's out there simply to stay on top of your own options. Just today I spoke with a woman who told me she was interested in publishing with She Writes Press, but her editors said she didn't need to work with a press like SWP. All she had to do was find an agent who would sell her work. Easier said than done—and I can't tell you how many authors I've worked with over the years who were elated to get an agent, only to discover that the agent couldn't sell their work. Listen to the recording below to hear Betsy's take on this. It's a story that's all too common—and her attitude about the whole experience is oh so refreshing.
Traditional is still there as an end goal for most writers, and that's cool, and great, and exciting—when it works. And that only happens for a select few. For the rest of you, though, the alternative options that are popping up fast and furious are both a wonderful opportunity and a potential minefield. As an author advocate, I always preach the same message: Get published, no matter what, and go into every endeavor with your eyes wide open.
LISTEN TO OUR PANEL HERE: April Eberhardt, Betsy Graziani Fasbinder, Stephanie Bennett Vogt, and Brooke Warner
New Era technology image courtesy of BigStockPhoto.com