Publishing Bias

ColGray

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I went to an event last week where three members of a local writing group were all talking about their debuts-- all of them memoirs, all of them very different in topic and structure and focus. Overall, it was really cool and interesting. The panel progressed from each discussing and reading a bit from their book, to how they met and formed their group to the publishing process and that's when my bias kicked in. Hard.

One author was agented and published through an imprint of a large publisher. One published through an independent literary press related to the subject matter of her memoir. The third hybrid published where she fronted a significant 5-figure sum--after being rejected by 130+ agents and editors without a single full manuscript request.

That was the red flag for me and where I noticed my bias taking over. I found that I was thinking of the panel as two published authors and someone who was pretending they had a ready manuscript and a well written, interesting story. But I know that isn't fair. I know that isn't fair -- aside from it being memoir, it was a medical memoir from a non-famous person, focused on an uncomfortable topic. It's the opposite of a commercially viable manuscript and publishing is a business, so, yeah, I get why everyone passed on it. I know all of that, and yet my stupid lizard brain is going, FRAUD. FAKE.

Have others run into that-- either at panels or with their own work? How have you gotten over it?
 
I don't have anything against self-publishing. It can be done for free of course. The bit about fronting a five-figure sum does sound warning bells. I suppose there must be folks out there who made money after doing that. I have not heard of any though.
 
I think that part is really common with hybrid -- and she had physical copies of her book (which is much of the cost AFAICT?)
 
The third hybrid published where she fronted a significant 5-figure sum

I'm sorry, but I don't quite get what this means. Do you mean that she had made tens of thousands through self-publishing?
 
Now, I am almost interested to know what the memoir was about.
Just because no-one wanted to publish it doesn’t always mean that it doesn’t deserve an audience.
I work with people that write some very niche academic texts, where [in the past] print runs were often in the hundreds. Now those works tend to end up on author’s websites. If they are picked up for print, it is usually with the help of a charity or foundation paying for it and often as a part of a large activity.
 
I'm sorry, but I don't quite get what this means. Do you mean that she had made tens of thousands through self-publishing?
No. I think there are vanity publishers out there who will take your money and produce books for an up front fee. They will probably include some kind of marketing package (whereby they are supposed to promote the authors work through a supposedly extensive network). Honestly, I've always assumed this sort of thing (called hybrid publishing?) to be a scam.
 
The third hybrid published where she fronted a significant 5-figure sum
You mean they spent £10,000+ to publish the book themselves? If you self-publish an ebook and a physical book, it's not really hydrid publishing, is it, just self-publishing?
 
No. I think there are vanity publishers out there who will take your money and produce books for an up front fee. They will probably include some kind of marketing package (whereby they are supposed to promote the authors work through a supposedly extensive network). Honestly, I've always assumed this sort of thing (called hybrid publishing?) to be a scam.
Exactly -- seems like, as with most things, there are legit and predatory versions of this. I've heard arguments that it helps small publishers put more books in the market by defraying some cost risk, but, vanity projects seem like a core business of the model. This particular publisher seems like they produce a lot of small market memoirs?

The non-vanity model is something like, You submit a work, they choose to accept it and determine costs to publish it and then you split the up front costs 50/50 with the publisher. The author then markets and sells the book and they keep money from direct sales. Once (if) enough books are sold to break even, the author and publisher split proceeds 50/50.

Though it seems like that is one version of the non-vanity version of hybrid publishing, so I'm assuming the number of actual models is roughly equal to the number of hybrid publishers.
 
You mean they spent £10,000+ to publish the book themselves? If you self-publish an ebook and a physical book, it's not really hydrid publishing, is it, just self-publishing?
My understanding is they had an editor and copy editor at the publisher and they did a bunch of work on the MS prior to publication? But, again, anyone can find and hire those people directly so... It is a head scratcher.
 
The more I hear about hybrid publishers the less I like about them! I suppose having some type of publishing name behind your work may give you a better chance at being in a bookstore, literary journal, etc. but even then I don't think the hybrid publisher really helps out.

To answer your question though to try and avoid biases I would try to ignore the fact that one was published through an imprint, another through an indie publisher, and the last through hybrid and listen to what they have to say as an author. It sounds like you did make an effort and there is plenty of good and bad writing advice out there regardless of publishing success. But that is what I try to do in my work life as well. Ignore the titles and resume and listen to what the person has to say.

Of course, the big word in that is 'try'. And of course it doesn't always work because sometimes the topic being discussed needs some form of previous success for a good discussion. I.e. how to get published.
 
Also from stories I have heard from writing groups is it is very hard to make your money back from a hybrid publisher and they don't really do anything you can't do you yourself for much cheaper.
 
Also from stories I have heard from writing groups is it is very hard to make your money back from a hybrid publisher and they don't really do anything you can't do you yourself for much cheaper.

Hybrid publishing means you self-publish some of your work while also selling rights to a traditional publisher. It could be with the same book, or you may self-pub some books and trad pub others. Either way, it's hybrid because you are both self and trad publishing your work.

Going self-publishing with a vanity press isn't hybrid publishing, it's just vanity publishing. There's no such thing as a "hybrid publisher", but it sounds like some vanity publishers have cottoned on to the "hydrid publishing" buzzword and are misrepresenting it.
 
I think your difficulty, @ColGray , is perhaps more about averages than perception. On average, a self-published book is going to be rubbish. The internet has gifted us that. I realise I'm presenting that as a "fact," but most people in the biz would agree. But a few percent of those self-published books are going to be good, if not great. It's the crap average that's causing the perception.
 
I think your difficulty, @ColGray , is perhaps more about averages than perception. On average, a self-published book is going to be rubbish. The internet has gifted us that. I realise I'm presenting that as a "fact," but most people in the biz would agree. But a few percent of those self-published books are going to be good, if not great. It's the crap average that's causing the perception.
I think that's exactly right, yeah. I just have a knee-jerk reaction to self-pub, and an even bigger negative reaction when i hear someone paid a publisher after querying and being rejected. It might be good. It might be great. But there's an increasingly lower chance with each data point she revealed and a bigger implicit bias mountain to overcome.

I think there's also a component of her story being a medical memoir-- having lived through and written a Medical / Trauma Memoir (Traumoir?), it is a genre I just cannot subject myself to, despite there being phenomenal books in the genre (e.g.: When Breath Becomes Air, Year of Magical Thinking, etc.)
 

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