hybrid vs traditional publisher

How to Tell a Hybrid Publisher from a Major Publisher

With major publishers adding new imprints so frequently, staying up to date with “Who’s on first?” can be a challenge. For example, currently Penguin Random House has 22 different imprints with books on the bestsellers list in 2021: Ballantine, Bantam, Berkley, Clarkson Potter, Crown, Del Rey, Delacorte, Dell, Dial, Doubleday, Dutton, Knopf, One World, Penguin Books, Penguin Press, Putnam, Random House, Riverhead, Rodale, TarcherPerigree, Viking, Viking/Dorman. And that’s just a “starter list” of all their imprints.

I could go on by listing all the different imprints of the “Big Five” publishers, but you get the point.

So a frequent question from my book coaching clients centers around this: “Is [fill-in-the-blank with unfamiliar-publisher] a hybrid publisher or a traditional publisher?”

Generally, I’ve advised them to avoid hybrid publishers, which tend to prey on novice authors. So the clients tend to be wary of hybrid hype—but often confused by their websites.

So if you too have become flustered by a hybrid publisher’s hype, read on:


5 Ways to Tell Hybrid Publishers from Traditional Publishers


  • Hybrids have to advertise their services. Traditional publishers have aspiring authors beating down their door to get their attention. Unfortunately, they still turn down 99 percent of unsolicited proposals. If you come through an agent, of course, your changes are MUCH better.


  • You pay hybrids for their services; they don’t pay you. Traditional publishers send you royalty checks for the privilege of producing and publishing your book. Hybrid publishers charge you a fee to produce your book. Some hybrids have no vetting process at all, meaning they accept any book from any author willing to pay for their services. In an effort to upgrade their reputation, a few of the better hybrids do vet incoming manuscripts—and of course offer to sell editing services to help weak writers turn their manuscripts into a publishable book.


  • Hybrids promise they have the same “access” to distribution channels as the major traditional publishers. Access does not mean attention. Nor does access to the distribution channels mean that buyers from the major outlets like Amazon, Barnes and Noble, BAM, Kobo, or wherever will order and stock the book.


  • Hybrids boast that their books are sold “around the world” online and in stores. NO traditional publisher would ever make such an outlandish claim. “All stores” do not cater to the type of books all publishers produce.


  • Their website copy and marketing brochures make grandiose claims. An example from one website: “We also have a dedicated team member managing corporate sales and a team of savvy marketing professionals who will ensure your book gets noticed throughout the world.” Traditional publishers would never dare promise such worldwide exposure for every book. Their marketing efforts center on reaching appropriate buyers for select books.

So What’s the Bottom-Line in Working With a Hybrid Publisher?

After repeatedly having traditional publishers reject their work and fearing a long process in catching the attention of an agent to market their book, aspiring authors, understandably, may be enticed by the promises from a hybrid publisher.

  • Often, internal design and book covers done by hybrids match the quality of traditionally published books.
  • Hybrid publishers may point to one or two bestselling authors on their list (bestselling no doubt because the authors already have a large built-in platform and name recognition).
  • Hybrids many mention that their books are distributed by a well-known traditional publisher. They actually may have such a distribution “arrangement” in place. But that arrangement may simply mean those books are in the back of that traditional publisher’s catalog or in their fulfillment system in case anyone orders them.

Keep Your Big-Picture Goal in Mind

There’s nothing inherently “wrong” with working with a reputable hybrid publisher—if that aligns with your goal of simply getting a book in print without spending your own time to do the production work.

A quality hybrid publisher typically works well when an author:

  • Doesn’t want or need to establish or expand credibility with clients, prospects, or other readers.
  • Has no time to oversee the production of his/her book, and “money is no object” in paying the hybrid to handle the production.
  • Already has a major platform to sell books through his/her own efforts.

Just keep in mind that a hybrid publisher will charge you typically 2-5 times what you’d spend if you self-published—acting as “general contractor” and hiring your own subs to edit, design the interior, create a cover, proofread, format, and so forth.

If your goal is credibility in your career and for other big-ticket services or products, having a traditional publisher select and publish your book sets you apart from the crowd.

If credibility and visibility are NOT priority goals, then self-publishing can work for you—and is typically far better than using the services of a hybrid publisher.

Are you ready to take the next step to achieving your publishing goals? Sign up for Dianna’s Booher Book Camp. Learn more at BooherBookCamp.com

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