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Piercing the Hype: The Hybrid Author is the New Pottermore

7309646598_43791c3d34[1]If you’ve been following digital publishing news the past few months then you’ve probably heard the term "Hybrid Author". This is a term that is being bandied about by those in and around the legacy publishing industry, and it refers to self-published authors who have chosen (more on this later) to sign a deal with a traditional publisher. Well-known examples of hybrid authors include Amanda Hocking, Hugh Howey, and Sylvia Day.

I have been watching all the attention being given to the topic of so-called hybrid authors, and in spite of the numerous blog posts and the recent conference session at Digital Book 2013 I can’t understand why this is such a fascinating topic.

The tenor of the discussions is that authors should choose to be a hybrid author because it is the best of both world (self and traditional publishing). A hybrid author has the independence to release their own work on their own schedule while still making use of the professional marketing and editorial work that (hopefully) can be had from a traditional publisher.

This is all well and good, but the thing is, I don’t see how a self-published author can choose to sign with a traditional publisher.

Choosing to sign with a traditional publisher is like choosing to win the lottery. It’s great when it happens, but you can’t exactly decide to make it happen.

And yes, the word "choose" is apt. I checked with Jeremy Greenfield, who moderated a session on hybrids authors at DB13 (and is doing the most to promote the term), and he really did think that this was something authors should choose.

And that’s why i don’t understand all the attention being given to this topic. Instead I have come to the conclusion that for 2013 the hybrid author is the much-hyped topic of discussion that is not worth paying attention too.

That’s pretty much what Pottermore was last year, though I think I was the only one to say so.

As you might recall, Pottermore launched in late 2011 with the rare accomplishment of making Amazon dance to their tune. This ebookstore sold Harry Potter ebooks and convinced Amazon to merely support the sale without actually making any money.

This impressive accomplishment had the publishing world abuzz as many speculated that this would be the way to fight back against Amazon, and it even generated a couple conference sessions. But one detail that many seemed to have missed at the time was that no one else had the same advantages as Pottermore:

Unfortunately that idea tends to fall apart when you look at it too closely. Frankly, none of the major publishers are in quite as strong a position as Pottermore.

Pottermore had 2 things going for it when they sat down with Amazon. The Harry Potter ebooks were still hot even 4 years after the series ended, and no one had them anywhere.

Hybrid authors are about as useful of a topic this year as Pottermore was last year. It focuses on a tiny, tiny fraction of all authors (basically the ones that have won the lottery) and pretends that everyone else can make a choice to do so.

P.S. Don’t get me wrong, I think authors should seriously consider this as an option. But I also won’t pretend that authors can choose to make it happen.

image by HighTechDad

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fjtorres May 31, 2013 um 9:00 pm

There is a reason for the hype: it feeds into the idea that big traditional publishers are still indisputable. Even if only for the lottery winners with leverage.
Problem is, the industry isn’t done changing and in the next phase we’ll see indie pbooks getting into bookstores without traditional publisher "escort". (Already starting.)

Moriah Jovan June 1, 2013 um 9:28 am

This isn’t new, this idea you can choose to be published by a traditional publisher. I was pissy about that in 2009, but got boo’d and hissed everywhere I asked the obvious question: Can you call up a publisher and hire them? No? Then you can’t choose.

It’s just now they have to justify their existence and so they’re pushing this "choose" business. Note: They still think ebooks are a flash in the pan.

Nate Hoffelder June 1, 2013 um 9:37 am


But is it just me or is this term getting a lot more attention lately?

Moriah Jovan June 1, 2013 um 12:36 pm

The term itself is getting a lot of press lately. It’s a buzzword, no more, no less.

What I have never been able to determine is if everybody in traditional publishing actually believe the bullshit they spout or if they’re just frantically trying to stay relevant and will grasp any straw they can to do that.

Mick Rooney June 1, 2013 um 10:35 am

Great points Nate, and well made. Bob Mayer makes the claim to coining the term 'Hybrid Author' back in 2011. I agree with your point – if you can’t choose to be a traditionally published authors, then, as night follows day, you can’t simply choose to be a hybrid author. That’s something only a select few authors can become if they decide to later go down the self-publishing route or independently negotiate deals on their digital catalogue.

I’d also add that Pottermore, last year, was held up by some as a kind of ideal boiler-plate example for self-published authors to build a global marketing brand. All very well if you are JK Rowling – most self-published authors aren’t, or won’t ever elevate to those dizzy heights – and you need an inbuilt global readership of millions to even contemplate such a venture. So any indie publishing or marketing experts offering advice to ordinary author mortals on how to 'build your own Pottermore,' give them a wide berth!

Nate Hoffelder June 1, 2013 um 1:40 pm

Ah, so Pottermore was a double dose of hype last year? I missed that. The main impression I got was that Pottermore was a business model that should be emulated, a goal which was even more impossible than trying to copy the marketing success. At least with marketing you could spend a few million bucks and try to copy Pottermore; this wasn’t something you could do with the business model.

Piercing the Hype: The Hybrid Author is the New Pottermore | The Passive Voice | Writers, Writing, Self-Publishing, Disruptive Innovation and the Universe June 1, 2013 um 11:45 am

[…] Link to the rest at The Digital Reader […]

fjtorres June 1, 2013 um 1:34 pm

The only people who can "choose" to be hybrid authors are those that traditional publisher *choose* to exploit. These fall into two categories;
– the above-mentioned lottery winners, who start indie and hit it big enough to get the BPHs drooling at the chance to milk their works. These authors can choose to take the "life changing" bribe, hopefully with full understanding of what they are doing and not just for "validation".
– veteran authors who managed to survive traditionalist publishing and are now migrating to indie publishing, leaving them with a foot in both world.

As the indie publishing evolution continues to spread from ebook to trade paperback to hardcover the number of hybrids is going to decline drastically among the former. The latter will increase but only to the extent that veterans remain shackled by contract to a traditional publisher for part of their backlist.

Hybrids aren’t the next big thing, but rather they are an artifact of the migration away from traditional publishing.

Robert Nagle June 1, 2013 um 1:59 pm

Here is what is happening. Big Publishers don’t want to find things in slush piles. (To be fair, that ended a decade ago?) Instead, they want to see an author brand which has already achieved indie success and a fair degree of marketing savvy. It’s much easier to chase down a rising author you saw online than to wade through submissions which — even if well-written — aren’t proven in the market.

fjtorres June 1, 2013 um 5:13 pm

The problem is that while the Big Publishers think they are indispensable, the value-add they provide is shrinking by the minute while the terms they charge for that remaining value-add aren’t shrinking and are instead generally *increasing*.
By the time the new authors come to the notice of the BPHs, the BPHs are going to be beneath (most of) the authors' notice.
A bit of turnabout headed our way.

Ray Pace June 2, 2013 um 1:55 pm

The fact that we are all reading this on computers and not having had to run to the corner newsstand to search this out should tell you where traditional publishing is headed. Movies once were only to be found at the theater; along came television, video cassettes, dvds and now streaming. Music once was exclusively live; then came wax cylinders, wax discs, vinyl, reel to reel, cassettes, cds, mp3s. The change has also been evident in newspapers; many have bit the dust, while others attempt to stay alive by selling content on the net, just as many magazines are doing. Traditional book publishers may talk a great game, but we’ve recently watched Borders go down the drain while Barnes & Noble is lopping off stores. The old way of delivering books is going the way of record stores and one screen movie houses.

Blogs for self-publishers May 26 – June 1, 2013 — The Book Designer December 21, 2013 um 1:02 am

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