“Hybrid” is a word that gets thrown around a lot in publishing these days, and it can mean a number of things. From day one, Fuse has embraced the entrepreneurial aspect of hybrid authorship, namely authors who publish through both traditional and self-publishing avenues in a coordinated career growth effort. This can be approached in several ways, and every author’s case is different. It’s best if you have an agent who can manage this and guide you through the process with a keen eye on the market, but you don’t need an agent to be a hybrid author.
It’s important to note that not everyone is fit to be a hybrid author—the majority of our clients aren’t—but it’s helpful to know what’s available to you, and some folks can really benefit from this approach.
Before you consider going hybrid, it also helps to know the pros and cons of each option. Self-publishing is unmatched in speed and flexibility. If you want it done quickly, and you want it done your way, self-publishing is the way to go. Traditional publishing is this huge machine that is notoriously slow and difficult to move, but in that lies its strength. Rather than starting at square one by yourself, each task involved in publishing a book is done by a professional at a professional level. Often times, dozens of people will have a hand in making your book a success.
Our approach to managing a hybrid career involves taking advantage of the strengths of both. This tends to work best when you have a main focus that you can build on at will, adding branches to your already solid trunk.
For example, let’s look at NYT bestseller Steena Holmes. Steena broke out with the wildly successful self-published women’s fiction novel, FINDING EMMA. The book was picked up by a major publisher that helped her reach thousands of new readers, and they released several of her books in a similar vein, helping to build her brand. Steena produces a lot of material, and not all of it fits that mold. That’s where the hybrid approach comes in. To support her line of traditionally published novels, she writes novellas and short stories. The letters mentioned in FINDING EMMA gave rise to the ebook DEAR JACK. The protagonist’s conflicted sister in THE MEMORY CHILD, who could easily have her own book, does in the novella THE MEMORY JOURNAL. In addition to shining light on that strong, but very secondary character, it augments the experience of reading the original book, which had an unreliable narrator. Simply due to their respective formats, neither of these would be of adequate value to a traditional publisher of women’s fiction. But they could still help her career.
Using self-publishing in this way allows Steena to recognize a desire in her readership and work quickly to satisfy it in between her annual releases with her publisher. It helps build reader loyalty, gives her more creative freedom, and provides another revenue stream that pays more frequently than most publishers. Steena has also used self-publishing to explore multiple genres under pen names and collaborate with other writers. It fits her skill set and allows her a more complete, more satisfying career while she maintains her traditional track.
For me as an agent, self-publishing moves the conversation from, “That’s impossible” or “That isn’t an agent’s job” to “Let’s see if we can work this out.” It’s empowering for me and for the author, and I like to treat it as more of a career management tool than an end in itself. When you’re prepared to use all the tools at your disposal, you can get some serious work done. That’s central to my approach as an agent and why I work so well with those like Steena.