This blog was featured on 06/10/2019
Independent Publishing: Congratulations She Writes Press!

I’m proud to share that my publisher, She Writes Press, was recently selected by the Next Generation Indie Book Awards as the 2019 Indie Publisher of the Year. This is a huge honor and I’m proud to be a She Writes Press author.


If your search for a traditional publisher isn’t panning out the way you’d hoped, you might want to consider independent publishing. 


Some authors today don’t even shop their manuscripts to traditional publishers. This was my choice for my award-winning memoir, Raw: My Journey from Anxiety to Joy. I discuss my reasons in my January 22, 2017, post, “She Writes Press, Yes!


Many authors today choose independent publishing for a variety of reasons: to maintain ownership of their work, to earn higher royalties, to have greater creative control over their projects, to be part of a community of writers, to engage in a collaborative process, or to expedite their publishing process. 


At the end of the day, what’s important is producing a professionally published book. Most readers don’t know or care how a book is published, unless they stumble over unedited text, typos, amateurish design work, and other common pitfalls of self-publishing.


One viable option is to go with a hybrid press, such as She Writes Press. 


Hybrid publishing is a model in which authors pay up-front costs in exchange for a significantly higher percentage of royalties. It’s called partnership publishing because the publisher brings their professional experience to the table, while the author retains “authority” and ownership over his or her work.


Hybrid presses are different from hybrid authors. A hybrid author may have one or more books published traditionally, and others published independently, either self-published or with a hybrid press. 


Not all hybrid presses are created equal. Some companies claiming to be hybrid publishers are, in fact, just printers, offering zero editorial guidance, quality control, or distribution. 


In February 2018, the Independent Book Publisher’s Association (IBPA) published a list of nine criteria defining what it means to be a professional hybrid publisher. The criteria requires that hybrid publishers behave just like traditional publishers except when it comes to business model. IBPA says, “although hybrid publishing companies are author-subsidized, they are different from other author-subsidized models in that hybrid publishers adhere to professional publishing standards. Regardless of who pays for editorial, design, and production fees, it is always the publisher that bears responsibility for producing, distributing, and ultimately selling professional-quality books.” Here is IBPA’s Hybrid Publisher Criteria:


• Define a mission and vision for its publishing program.

• Vet submissions.

• Publish under its own imprint(s) and ISBNs.

• Publish to industry standards

• Ensure editorial, design, and production quality.

• Pursue and manage a range of publishing rights.

• Provide distribution services.

• Demonstrate respectable sales.

• Pay authors a higher-than-standard royalty.


If you’re considering a hybrid publisher, look at their body of work. If possible, hold their books in your hands. How do they feel? Do their books look and feel like you’d want yours to look and feel? Speak to authors who have published on that press. Ask questions about their experience. Did they receive everything their publisher promised? Was it a satisfying partnership? What did their publisher bring to the collaboration? Did they provide distribution? Many don’t. If that’s the case, did the author have a plan in place for how to sell books? It’s good to think about this even if you have a traditional publishing deal, because these days, unless you’re a big-name author, the brunt of the sales work will fall on your shoulders. 


Whichever publishing path you choose, you will learn a lot along the way. It helps to understand, especially if you’re a first-time author, that you’ll be on a huge learning curve, and although you may feel pressure to go fast, it can help to slow down. Most agents will tell you their best advice is “don’t rush.” Your work needs to be polished to stand out. The same is true for publishing. Put your best foot forward no matter how you publish.


Another indie path to publication is to self-publish.  Since you don’t know what you don’t know, learn as much as you can about what it takes to create a book.  There’s more to it than meets the eye. Start with the writing. Hire a great editor. I can’t tell you how many self-published books I pick up that are written by earnest, hardworking people with compelling stories to tell, or important information to impart, but their books are filled with verbal clutter, redundancies, narrative inconsistencies, spelling errors, and typos. I’ll slog through a chapter or two if I know the author, and then give up. It’s too much work. So hire a developmental editor to help you with your story, a copyeditor to correct grammar, and a proofreader to catch small errors or typos. After you’ve done that you can give your manuscript to fellow author or English teacher friends to comb through one last time to catch any lingering  typos. Many sets of eyes are needed for this. 


Book design is also essential. Don’t believe that old adage that you can’t judge a book by its cover. You can, and readers do. Book and cover design is an art. And your cover is what gets your book into readers’ hands. It’ll be worth your while to hire a designer for the cover and interior of your book. Together you can make decisions about paper, fonts, spacing, gutters, artwork and photos, and more. 


You’ll also write descriptive copy and cover copy, solicit blurbs, obtain permissions, apply for an ISBN number, and a lot more. 


Self-publishing can be costly. Many authors today are launching crowd-funding campaigns to support their writing projects. Artists in other fields have been producing independent work for decades. Your project is worth investing in. Give your publishing process the same care and attention you gave your writing. Your manuscript will benefit and so will you—not to mention your readers. 


Indie authors: what say you? What have you gotten out of independent publishing? 



This post is excerpted from the publishing section of my forthcoming book: Where Do You Hang Your Hammock: How to Find Freedom and Peace of Mind While Your Write, Publish and Promote Your Book.

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