Hybrid author: Something old, something new

A printing press in 1568.

A printing press in 1568.

Gutenberg’s press upheaved the business of books, ushering in a new golden age. The shift from rare and expensive knowledge to affordable and commonplace began.

Eventually, publishing houses became gatekeepers, deciding which authors were worthy of ink. The author became a unique and wonderful creature, living on rarefied air and (usually) something addictive.

But change is in the air again. Book stores are closing. Libraries are re-configuring themselves into internet cafes. Authors are having a harder time than ever placing their books with traditional publishing houses. The most powerful of publishing houses, formerly known as “the seven sisters” are now down to three – maybe four – and are constantly merging, shifting and downsizing. (Merrie Destefano, a traditionally published author, writes about how the slow motion crash of Barnes and Nobles affected her, just weeks after the release of her second novel, Feast, from HarperVoyager.)

The catalyst of this change? The e-reader revolution. Digital killed the paperback star.

No one honestly believes the printed book will ever go away. After all, the paperless office was supposed to happen 20-some years ago. But the remaining publishing houses have tightened their belts. Fewer new authors are getting signed, even established authors are getting smaller advances and are being offered less lucrative returns.

On the other hand, with change comes opportunity, for those brave enough to take it.

Those creatures are often called “hybrid authors”.

There are two paths to hybrid authorship. Start by publishing your own book. Maybe you begin with some fanfiction on a website, and you gain a following. You decide to publish your collection in an e-book, which sells well enough to get the attention of a traditional agent or publisher and – suddenly like magic – you are a traditionally published author also.

Or, maybe like my friend Merrie, you’ve gone the traditional route and have had some success. But the outlets have dried  up. The publishing houses aren’t buying your style of story anymore, even though your fans are begging you for more. So, you take matters into your own hands and issue your books yourself.

New, small,  nimble publishing houses are popping up all the time now. The ones that survive have a finger on the pulse of the digital revolution, such as Read The Spirit, the host of this blog and the publisher of my previous two books.

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“There’s no place like publication. There’s no place like publication.”

Another model is the author co-op publishing house such as the newly launched Ruby Slippers Media.

I’m really excited to be a part of Ruby Slippers Media as we launch a co-operative service among authors pooling art, editing and marketing resources to create an economical way to get our books to our audiences.

I can’t wait to share with you how it all pans out!

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