The Ace in the Hole – Going Hybrid

There’s been a lot of talk about hybrid authors in the last few years, and I’ve noticed that a number of authors who’ve had real success with their traditionally published works have also chosen that option, as well as writers who are just starting out. A hybrid author, for anyone who’s not familiar with the term, is one who has some books published traditionally — i.e. by a major publisher that only works with agented authors — and also self-publishes some of their work.  (It doesn’t mean a wicked fairy turned the writer into a Toyota Prius.) 😉

It’s certainly always been my plan to pursue traditional publication for all of my novels. Maximizing the exposure as well as the recognition for every book is very important to me.  (It also matters when it comes to things like the chance of being nominated for major awards.)  But around the same time that I started seeing frequent references to the hybrid author concept, I also discovered — from perusing writers’ forums, blogs, and other online resources about writing — that the traditional route to publishing has become even more uncertain.  After all the years of being told by countless people that if you’ve written a really good book, it will definitely sell, it was a big blow to find out that it isn’t necessarily true.  The reality is that no matter how good a book is, it doesn’t guarantee that you’ll find an agent who wants to represent it.  This is because an agent may honestly love your manuscript but decline to take it on if they don’t feel it’s commercially viable enough to sell to the publishers — and the big publishers have become extra cautious for purely economic reasons.

When I learned this, I realized that having the hybrid option out there — and knowing that it has become more respectable and more widely accepted — is the ace in the hole. By that I don’t mean something secret that you’re holding back, but something you can fall back on if things don’t go as planned, especially when you’re undertaking a risky venture. And it’s a backup plan that makes all that uncertainty less nerve-wracking, because it means that if you’re unable to sell a book you really have confidence in — perhaps only because the agents or editors are too worried that it may not have broad commercial appeal — it doesn’t have to be relegated to the proverbial trunk after all. Continue reading