Hybrid Writers vs. Hybrid Publishers

I want to talk about some confusing terms. Intentionally confusing. Hybrid writers vs. hybrid publishers.

Hybrid Writers

In the 2000s when self publishing came into its own, some writers who had been traditionally published found that switching to self publishing could be very lucrative. Some stuck with traditional publishing new work, but self published their back lists. Some started in self publishing and then chose to publish traditionally later.

These writers who chose to traditionally publish some work and self publish other work became known as hybrid writers. Hybrid writers use traditional publishing to build a large, wide audience, and then maximize their income via self publishing.

Being a hybrid writer is, by and large, a good choice. Not surprisingly, when asked about their publishing goals, writers commonly say “I want to hybrid publish.”

And that’s where the confusion starts to creep in.

Hybrid Publishers

Hybrid publishing is a publishing model where the writer “shares” publishing expenses with the publisher. It is also called partner publishing and contribution-based publishing. In exchange for chipping in on the upfront costs, the writer gets higher-than-industry-standard royalties.

Sounds great, right?

Unfortunately, in the vast majority of cases, the amount the writer has to chip in is WAY overpriced. These companies sometimes charge more than the straight up vanity publishers. In my opinion, the upfront cost for hybrid publishing makes even the “reputable” companies nothing more than high-end vanity publishing.

Intentional confusion

It’s easy to see where writers can get confused and misled. Being a hybrid writer is a good thing; hybrid publishers are, more often than not, pay-to-play vanity publishers.

So frustrating, you might say. Why didn’t the hybrid publishers simply choose a different name?

Because they WANT to mislead writers who don’t know better. They only benefit from the confusion.

Hybrid Writers vs. Hybrid Publishers

Types of Publishing — Vanity Publishing

There are three kinds of publishing: traditional (or trade) publishing, self publishing, and vanity publishing.


In the past there were only two kinds of publishing, traditional and vanity, and they were easy to tell apart. Traditional publishers paid the authors. Authors paid the vanity publishers.

Today vanity publishers hide behind different labels that make them harder to recognize.

Vanity publishing masquerading as self publishing service companies

Many vanity publishers masquerade as “self publishing companies.” If you search for self publishing on Google, nearly EVERY company that comes up is a vanity publisher.

These companies make their money by selling expensive packages of services to people who want to self publish. There are legitimate self publishing companies who offer these services and do so in a complete legitimate way. Where vanity publishers tip their hats is that they not only charge for upfront services but ALSO take royalties on the back end.

A legitimate self publishing service company will NEVER take royalties.

Vanity publishing masquerading as traditional publishing companies

Other vanity publishers masquerade as traditional publishers. There are many versions of this vanity publish scam:

  • Some claim to accept only a percentage of what’s submitted to them (which is true — 100% is a percentage).
  • They claim that you pay no upfront costs and instead receive royalties, just like a traditional publisher. But you’ll find they require you (or push you very hard) to buy lots of copies of your priced-too-high-to-sell book.
  • Some claim you pay no money up front, but “no money” comes as a refund after your book has sold a certain number of copies — a number of copies your book will never sell.

Hybrid publishing companies

A hybrid publisher is…ugh, I’m just going to say it…a high-end vanity publishing company. I don’t like them. I’m sorry.

What is hybrid publishing? This is a really good article.

Bottom line, though: Writers pay money to be published. They pay a LOT of money. I have yet to see a hybrid publishing model that doesn’t WAY overcharge. Even if the final product is of reasonable quality, and even if the books have decent distribution, the hybrid publisher is still making money on both the front end and the back end.

I am not a fan.

How to recognize a vanity publisher

Avoid vanity publishers. Completely.

To determine whether a company is a vanity publisher:

  • Search for the company’s name and “scam.” Vanity publishers almost always have a LOT of complaints from unhappy authors.
  • Check the “Bewares, Recommendations & Background Check” board on Absolute Write.
  • Look at their website. Are they marketing to writers or to readers? If they’re marketing to writers, it’s a vanity publisher.
  • Do they call themselves a publisher, but ask you to pay money upfront? Vanity publisher.
  • Do they charge no money but require you to buy a lot of books on the back end? Vanity publisher.
  • Did they reach out to you directly? Vanity publisher.

Other resources

Want more information on vanity publishers, why they are a TERRIBLE choice, and how to recognize them? There are some amazing resources on the web. Start with these by Reedsy.com and Writers Beware:

Determine if a company is a vanity publisher BEFORE you reach out to them in any way. Once you reach out, they will woo you like the scam artists they are. Their promises will inflame your dreams of being published, and it will be very difficult to say no. They are masters of convincing you that they are not vanity publishers and this is your best chance for publication.

Truly, if a company is a vanity publisher, run. You won’t be an exception. You’ll be a victim.

Vanity publishing is a scam. Run away!

Important Definitions of the Types of Publishing

Basic, but critical definitions related to the types of publishing:

  • Traditional publishing — provides all services with no upfront charge, is paid entirely through royalties from sales, has distribution to bookstores and other benefits that you couldn’t do as a self publisher.
  • Small press — doesn’t charge up front, publishes you but can’t do anything that you can’t do yourself.
  • Vanity publisher — charges you up front for services (like cover and editing), ALSO takes royalties, publishes you but can’t do anything you can’t do for yourself.
  • Self publishing — the writer is responsible for all tasks performed by the traditional publisher.
  • Self publishing service company — charges you for services – you pick package or individual services – and doesn’t take royalties or “publish” you.
It's critical to understand the types of publishing or you could get taken advantage of.