3 Essential Questions to Ask a Hybrid Publisher

3 Essential Questions to Ask a Hybrid Publisher

What the heck is a hybrid publisher, anyway? And how do you know if you’ve found a good one?

At its best, hybrid publishing offers many of the benefits of being published by a traditional publisher — including access to market (i.e. brick-and-mortar bookstores), high quality editing and design — as well as the benefits of self-publishing, such as higher royalties, ownership of rights and creative control. I founded LifeTree on this model because I wanted to offer authors the opportunity to have the best of both worlds. But not every company that calls itself a hybrid publisher delivers on all these criteria.

Because hybrid publishing is a relatively new and emerging model, different firms use the label in slightly different ways, which understandably leads to a lot of confusion among authors about what it is, how it works, and who it’s for. If you’re wondering whether hybrid publishing is right for you, you’ve probably Googled it and discovered some inconsistency in the services offered, which can be a frustrating experience.

It’s hard to shop around for something if you don’t know what you’re looking for. So how can you tell a quality hybrid publisher from a time-waster? When speaking to J.S. Leonard on his Bleeding Ink podcast, I mentioned that there are three essential questions to ask. Now I’ll also give you the best answer you can hear for each of the three, as well as the worst answer.

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1. How is your distribution handled?

Best answer: “We are distributed to the book trade, which means that we have a national (or international) team of sales reps who will actively sell your book into stores. We supply these reps with a full set of sales materials relating to your book, including cover art, a sell sheet, excerpts from the text, and sometimes Advance Reader Copies (ARCs), which are also referred to as ‘bound galleys’. Each season, we meet with our distributor to present our upcoming titles to the sales team. In turn, the reps meet with buyers at Barnes and Noble, Amazon, airport stores, specialty retailers, libraries, and all other sorts of booksellers. Through our distributor, retailers sometimes offer us the opportunity to participate in ‘co-op’ arrangements, in which your book is given special placement in the store such as the front table, in exchange for a fee. We also handle warehousing, shipping, order fulfillment, and the processing of returns, as well as calculation and payout of royalties.”

Worst answer: “Your book is available to order in any local bookstore.” Some hybrid publishers and self-publishing companies claim to offer “worldwide distribution,” when really what they mean is that your book is listed in the catalogue of a book wholesaler such as Ingram. This means that, although a customer could technically walk into a store and order your book, they will never find it on the shelf there: no sales reps are presenting it to retailers, so no retailers are stocking it. This is not true trade distribution.

2. Do you do developmental editing?

Best answer: “We sure do! In fact, we consider developmental editing the most important part of the book creation process. This is editing at the bird’s-eye level, in which we examine fundamental aspects of the book such as its topic focus, structure and tone. What are its core messages, and are they clearly expressed? Have new ideas been introduced in the right sequence so that each one builds on what has come before? Is anything missing from the book, and does anything need to be taken out? Is the book geared to appeal to its target market? These are critical questions to resolve before the manuscript can be revised and copyedited. Our editors are industry-seasoned book publishing professionals who will bring sound, informed guidance to your collaborative relationship.”

Worst answer: “We will copyedit your book to make sure it is free from typos and grammatical errors.” Many vanity publishers and self-publishing companies tout their copyediting services to authors, who may be unfamiliar with the  various levels of editing. Yes, copyediting is essential to any book – but only once the deeper developmental work has been done. Otherwise, you’re icing a half-baked cake.

3. Who owns the rights to my book?

This one’s a bit more complicated, because it depends on whether or not the hybrid publisher jointly invests in the book’s production with you, or whether you have put up all the money. If you’re the sole financial backer of your book, then you should own all the publishing rights, now and forever (as you would under LifeTree’s model). If your hybrid publisher is jointly investing with you, then there are a number of different ways the deal might be structured, but be wary of any hybrid publisher who insists on acquiring your rights without making a financial investment in the book.

Of course, there’s much more to know about hybrid publishing. I covered a lot of it in my conversation with J.S Leonard, when he interviewed me for his Bleeding Ink podcast. Click here to listen to it.

This article was originally published on the LifeTree Media blog.

maggie langrick
Founder and Publisher, LifeTree Media
 
Maggie Langrick is the President and Publisher at LifeTree Media, a publishing company specializing in nonfiction books and ebooks that help, heal and inspire. Before founding LifeTree in 2013, Maggie was Arts and Life editor for the Vancouver Sun newspaper. In June 2016 she was shortlisted for the Tom Fairley Award for Editorial Excellence, Canada's only national peer-reviewed editing prize, for her work on Shell, by Michelle Stewart. She is the author of the forthcoming book Bold, Deep and High: How to Write Your Best Book. Maggie calls herself "an optimistic cheerleader for the human race", and thrives on a balanced diet of yoga and ribald humour.
       

How to turn fear into fuel for your writing.

How to turn fear into fuel for your writing.

Writing is scary. It means exposure – putting ourselves out there to be judged, criticized, mocked, ignored, enjoyed, learned from and admired. And it’s not only what we have to say that makes us anxious; we also worry about how we say it. We are afraid that our ideas aren’t original enough. That someone else has already done it better. That our style is bland. That our jokes are lame. Really, there is so much to fear about writing, it’s practically a miracle that anyone has ever managed to publish anything.

TS Eliot quote

It helps to know that none of us is immune. I’m scared. You’re scared. The truth about being human is that we are all scared all the time. Hopefully not of everything, but certainly of something. Fear is uncomfortable. We would generally rather do almost anything else except the thing that brings it on.

And so we procrastinate. We over-research. We get sucked into a Facebook wormhole. We make a snack. We re-read old notes. We suddenly feel incredibly sleepy and we wonder if we’re coming down with something. We wait for that magic moment when the fear will go away and we will know with absolute certainty that we are safe and beyond reproach. We wait to be sure that the whole world is waiting to receive our words with open arms. Yeah, that’s when we’ll finally write that book. Until then, lemme just text my sister about this weekend.

In truth, there’s no way to banish fear, and we wouldn’t want to if we could. The secret to dealing with fear is not to try to get rid of it, but to understand it for what it is and then use it.1

Fear is what happens when the body detects that it is about to gain valuable experience. Fear is preparation for growth. Fear is a compass that tells us where we need to go next. Fear is a message from the person we are destined to become, calling us to move forward.

Over the years, I have trained myself to eat fear for breakfast, by which I mean that I digest it and use it as fuel. In fact, I have developed quite a taste for it. These days, whenever I have to do something that makes me nervous, I get really excited because I know it means I am about to do something amazing.

So do that amazing thing. Write just one page, or twenty. But do it right now, and do it again tomorrow. Don’t wait for the fear to go away, because it won’t. It might dissipate for a bit, but it will come back. That’s ok. Fear will not make you a bad writer or turn your readers off. It is not an indication that you are unloveable or that you lack talent or insight. It doesn’t have the power to determine any of those things. The only negative effect that fear can have on your writing is to stop it from happening.

As author Susan Jeffers said in her 1986 classic self-help book, the secret is simply to Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway. (With a title that good, who needs to read the whole book?) I often wonder how long she sat with her book idea, afraid to start. Afraid to finish. Afraid to submit the manuscript. Afraid to read the reviews. With each milestone comes a new fear. But the good news is that with the conquering of each fear comes a new milestone.

This post was inspired by the excellent Maria Popova over at Brainpickings.org. Check out her piece on 5 Timeless Books on Fear and the Creative Process.

maggie langrick
Founder and Publisher, LifeTree Media
 
Maggie Langrick is the President and Publisher at LifeTree Media, a publishing company specializing in nonfiction books and ebooks that help, heal and inspire. Before founding LifeTree in 2013, Maggie was Arts and Life editor for the Vancouver Sun newspaper. In June 2016 she was shortlisted for the Tom Fairley Award for Editorial Excellence, Canada's only national peer-reviewed editing prize, for her work on Shell, by Michelle Stewart. She is the author of the forthcoming book Bold, Deep and High: How to Write Your Best Book. Maggie calls herself "an optimistic cheerleader for the human race", and thrives on a balanced diet of yoga and ribald humour.
       

Big dreams begin with baby steps.

Big dreams begin with baby steps.

When your dreams are huge (as the best dreams are), it can be hard to clearly see the path you need to follow to reach them.

They might seem far away and out of reach, like a mountain peak from which you are separated by a deep and twisting valley. You know exactly where you are going and you know you need to navigate through the valley in order to get there.

It’s easy to feel on top of our plans when the sky is clear and we are enjoying a birds eye view of the landscape before us. “Hey, I’ll just head down that slope, bear left at the big boulder, and pop out of the woods right at the river’s narrowest point. Easy.”

But life, like long journeys, is full of switchbacks and unexpected obstacles: swamps, cliffs and rivers to cross that you didn’t even know existed when you first set out. Even if you have a pretty good sense of the direction you need to go in, many of the steps along the way will be unclear, especially if you are venturing into territory that’s new to you. We can prepare for our journeys, but we can’t anticipate every obstacle in advance. And that’s a good thing! If we knew the perils that await us along the way, we might never put our boots on.

So how do we keep moving in the right direction when we’re lost in the fog and the mountaintop is hard to keep in sight? How do we turn the detours into shortcuts?

This is how: You tune into your inner GPS and just do the next right thing. And then the next.

When you realize your map is missing a section, forget about fretting over the master plan. Look down at your feet and focus right there: the very next step. Make the call you’ve been putting off. Finish writing that proposal. Book that class. Knock on that door. Keep moving forward.

Baby steps will get you up the mountain – as long as you keep taking them.

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maggie langrick
Founder and Publisher, LifeTree Media
 
Maggie Langrick is the President and Publisher at LifeTree Media, a publishing company specializing in nonfiction books and ebooks that help, heal and inspire. Before founding LifeTree in 2013, Maggie was Arts and Life editor for the Vancouver Sun newspaper. In June 2016 she was shortlisted for the Tom Fairley Award for Editorial Excellence, Canada's only national peer-reviewed editing prize, for her work on Shell, by Michelle Stewart. She is the author of the forthcoming book Bold, Deep and High: How to Write Your Best Book. Maggie calls herself "an optimistic cheerleader for the human race", and thrives on a balanced diet of yoga and ribald humour.
       

What sprinters can learn from plodders

What sprinters can learn from plodders

Wow. Three weeks have passed since my last post. Where did the time go?

It has been too easy to push my book writing project to one side. After the initial buzz I got from sharing my outline wore off, I turned my attention elsewhere. I thought, I’ve got lots of time, and lots of other things calling out for my attention. There is urgent client work to complete, special projects to push forward on (Paris and I are creating an online course in how to build your author platform – watch for it in May!) and, as always, the unstemmable flow of admin hassles.

Before I knew it, three weeks had elapsed.

I got waylaid not because I am too busy to do this project (I am, but that’s no excuse). It wasn’t because I haven’t got the ideas or the energy or the discipline to see it through. I got waylaid for one reason: because I hadn’t yet set dedicated time aside for the book or established a writing schedule. The first push came so easily and with such a big bang, surely this thing will coast on its own momentum, right?

The fact is, there is never enough free time in your schedule to effortlessly squeeze in the writing of an entire book. And if there were, it would probably be filled with snorkeling.

Some tasks, such as taking out the trash, demand that we return to them regularly, whether we’re “inspired” to deal with them or not. But my book, being a creative project that lives in the “big dreams” drawer, just didn’t intrude upon my other activities.

Nor should I expect it to. Our biggest dreams never come banging on the door like bill collectors. They are not going to email us weekly to remind us of our appointment with our highest calling. They are not interested in nagging us or fighting for space in our Google Calendar with the dentist. Like wild horses, they aren’t going to break themselves.

Instead, they slip into our midnight hours and disturb our sleep. They entice us to play hookey from our “real work”, nibbling at our attention while we are sensibly trying to focus on more pragmatic tasks. But what they won’t do is book a session with us through our assistant.

There’s only one solution: We need to make space for them, invite them in and fully attend to them. If we don’t do this, they will disrupt our lives like mischievous wraiths, always felt but never seen. Your book project will tease and torment you endlessly, but it will not demand that you sit down at the table with it. That’s your job. That’s my job.

That means creating a writing plan, and sticking to it, no matter what.

Now, what kind of plan will work for me and my book? That depends on whether I am a sprinter or a plodder. Some people will find themselves at the midpoint on this spectrum, but most of us have a dominant style in our creative pursuits, favouring either bursts of activity or a more methodical approach.

Plodders will find it relatively easy to set themselves a writing schedule. If you are a plodder, you love routine. It feeds you. It focuses you. It calms and energizes you. It puts you into The Zone. You will find a window in your week, insert “write book” into the slot, and then dutifully show up at the appointed hour. (You will face other challenges once you get there, but that’s a topic for another day.)

I am primarily a sprinter. That means I love to work in bursts of energy. Like a tornado, my creative energy can get very high very fast. It can be destructive to other things in its path. It is laser focused. It draws other things into it. And when it is over, it is over. It might whip up again the next day, or not at all for weeks or even months. And that’s the problem with sprinters. By the time the tornado comes back again, the landscape may have shifted so drastically, it can be very hard to pick up where we left off.

There are three rules for sprinters who want to successfully complete a large creative project that will take many sessions to see through:

1. Do as much as you can while the tornado is swirling.

When you feel that warm wind stirring, run outside into it and let it lift you up. Do not close the door on it for the afternoon and assume you can jump into it at a more convenient hour – in too many cases, you will find that the wind has died down while you were sensibly sticking to your plans. If this means canceling dinner with friends, do it. If it means skipping your workout, do it. You can get a hell of a lot done when you’re gripped by a creative fever. Yes, it’s manic. No, it’s not balanced. It doesn’t matter, because believe me, it won’t last forever. When the wind dies down, you will take your friend out for a nice dinner and thank her for her understanding. You will work out with twice as much joyful energy, fuelled by your sense of accomplishment.

2. Learn to create your own weather.

In drought-stricken regions, meteorologists use cloud seeding to encourage heavy skies to let loose their rain. Notice what was happening right before your last creative burst. Were you walking in nature, or doing yoga? Had you been reading a particularly inspiring book or blog, or listening to Wagner? Sometimes it’s quite possible to recreate that seemingly spontaneous state by understanding and harnessing your own creative triggers.

3. Embrace your inner plodder.

Most importantly, sprinters need to take a note from the plodders. You can coax your fickle creative tornado out to play more often simply by making space for it. Move with the muse when she strikes, but don’t only wait for her to come calling. Set a date with her, and she will show up, even if sometimes she’s a little lower in energy during those sessions.

This last point is crucial. It’s good to respect your natural rhythms, but even better not to be a slave to them. Even sprinters can use routines. I do it all the time. Feed dog, make coffee, take shower; morning accomplished. But I broke that routine this morning to make a date with this tornado of a process, the writing of these words. And I’ll do it again next Tuesday morning: 90 minutes of writing, no matter what. Sometimes it will be a blog post, sometimes a part of a chapter. Sometimes, like today, it will be a bit of both.

The dog, the shower and the coffee will still get attended to. And now that my muse knows I’m making time for her, she’s more likely to come calling on me too.

Are you a sprinter or a plodder? And what kind of writing plan works best for you? Let me know in the comments below!

maggie langrick
Founder and Publisher, LifeTree Media
 
Maggie Langrick is the President and Publisher at LifeTree Media, a publishing company specializing in nonfiction books and ebooks that help, heal and inspire. Before founding LifeTree in 2013, Maggie was Arts and Life editor for the Vancouver Sun newspaper. In June 2016 she was shortlisted for the Tom Fairley Award for Editorial Excellence, Canada's only national peer-reviewed editing prize, for her work on Shell, by Michelle Stewart. She is the author of the forthcoming book Bold, Deep and High: How to Write Your Best Book. Maggie calls herself "an optimistic cheerleader for the human race", and thrives on a balanced diet of yoga and ribald humour.
       

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