In my last post, “The New Era of Publishing,” Kelly Hayes-Raitt asked me to elaborate on partnership publishing, specifically “what factors authors should consider when choosing a partner.” This post is a response to that request—and a further articulation of what this “in-between” publishing space actually looks like.
Partnership publishing is just one of many terms springing up to describe something that’s between self-publishing and traditional publishing. Partnership publishing is different from co-publishing, because co-publishing suggests that the publisher pays some percentage of the cost of editorial or production, generally for a larger share of the royalties on the tail end. Another term you might hear bandied about is hybrid publishing, and to me, partnership publishing (and therefore She Writes Press) is a subcategory of hybrid publishing. Hybrid models vary and might include an author who hires a coach or consultant to manage their process, start to finish. Hybrid publishing can also include co-publishing, even at a traditional house with a nontraditional model. Other creative company models include Booktrope, where a team—which includes the author, editor, designer, and marketing manager—shares a percentage of the author’s royalties in exchange for working on the project for no up-front fees; and Inkshares, a company I got the chance to explore this weekend at AWP, where the authors use crowdfunding to finance their production and printing (at a minimum), and more if they so choose. These models are both clever, creating alternate ways for authors to publish (one using no-cost labor and the other using crowdfunding). I think our model is more stable, but I applaud these and other companies for entering the space and coming up with new and exciting ways for authors to get published.
In a recent Forbes.com article on the topic of hybrid publishing, She Writes Press was compared to Author Solutions. Because we are a “pay-per-service” model, we can’t say that we are not a subsidy press, but not all subsidy presses are partnership publishers, and not all “pay-per-service” models should be allowed, in my opinion, to call themselves publishing houses. Author Solutions is not a partnership publisher; Turning Stone Press, a company I like and respect--and that has a model similar to ours--is.
It does drive me a wee bit batty when She Writes Press gets compared to Author Solutions, because Author Solutions we are not. Author Solutions owns a bunch of imprints, including its own, like iUniverse, Xlibris, and others, but it also runs the self-publishing arms of major companies, like Hay House’s Balboa, Thomas Nelson’s Westbow, and Simon & Schuster’s Archway. These companies might call themselves publishers, but they’re actually self-publishing companies, and therefore not hybrid but simply on the self-publishing side of the spectrum. Here’s what distinguishes She Writes Press from the Author Solutions imprints.
I do have a bone to pick with Author Solutions, mostly because they aren’t transparent. And while I truly admire Hay House, Simon & Schuster, and Thomas Nelson as companies, and know people who work for all three houses, I also know that their self-publishing arms are not high on their radar, other than as a means to bring in money. To me, this kind of mill publishing is not partnering with a publisher. If a press has a mission, the books should uphold that mission, and be held to a standard that the publisher and the press stand behind. I stand 100% behind every single book She Writes Press has published, and if you’re an author wanting to partner with a press, you should know this to be true of your publisher and your team.
Partnership publishing, therefore, is about a publisher, a team, and a mission—and that drives the sense of community and satisfaction. Not all of our books have performed to our authors’ expectations, but every author we’ve published to date is proud of her book. We have the most kick-ass authors around, and they’ve been amazing and patient and diligent in their trailblazing efforts to shape and form She Writes Press and to raise awareness about what we’re doing. The next thing we must tackle (and more blog posts are to come on this!) is ending the discrimination against author-subsidized books, which get barred from many traditional review outlets and awards opportunities. We are already making great progress on this front. But I argue that author subsidization as a measure of a book’s worth is elitist, archaic, and unfair. In conversation with other artists, the comparison to the film and music industries often comes up. And this weekend, when this topic came up, as it always does when I talk and travel, Kamy Wicoff said once again, rightly so, “Can you imagine a musician or a producer being stigmatized for their work because they dared to put up funds to get their work produced?” No, and publishing will change too. Mark my words. We’re making little but important strides.
And now to answer Kelly’s question about what factors authors should consider when choosing a partner. Here are several good places to start:
I want to thank Kelly for prompting this post. It’s always helpful for me to better define this for myself. This space is changing rapidly, and it’s an exciting time to be an author, and a publisher too.
Partnership tree courtesy of BigStockPhoto.com.
As you comment and edit, I'm going to post more info here about other partnership publishers and resources. Thanks for contributing!
Beta Books is a "pre-publisher." This is a cooperative of freelance editors, illustrators, book designers, etc. ready to help would-be authors get to the stage of sending out ARCs (Advance Reading Copies), not just manuscripts. The author negotiates independently with any or several of the freelancers. Beta Books is not a publisher, it's a resource.