Thursdays with Amanda: How to Become a Hybrid Author

April 10, 2014 | Written by Amanda Luedeke

2014AmandaAmanda Luedeke is a literary agent with MacGregor Literary. Every Thursday, she posts about growing your author platform. You can follow her on Twitter @amandaluedeke or join her Facebook group to stay current with her wheelings and dealings as an agent. Her author marketing book, The Extroverted Writer, is available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

A couple weeks ago, I shared one of my oddities…whenever I hear “hybrid author” I can’t help but think of the movie Underworld. As silly as the post was, I stand by it 100%. The similarities between hybrid authors and the vampire-werewolf hybrid depicted in the movie are shockingly and hilariously real, folks. Real. Real. Real.

And hybrid authors ARE taking over in a weird sense. They may not be the majority (yet), and all of them certainly aren’t millionaires, but they’re happy. And they’re profitable. And that’s a major WIN, folks. A huge win.

So how do they do it? How do you become this mystical creature? This Hybrid Author?

It looks a bit different for everyone, but for authors who have started on the traditional side and are considering making the leap, here are some thoughts…

HOW TRADITIONAL AUTHORS BECOME HYBRIDS

First, you need an author career with some sort of momentum. Maybe you have a couple books that are contracted or maybe you have releases lined up every six months or every year for the next few years? The logistics don’t matter so much as the fact that you are publishing with a traditional publishing house (one that can and does get books into bookstores) and will continue to do so.

When you have this, here’s how you make the switch…

1. Take a look at your contracts. Look specifically at the Non-Compete clause. You don’t want to end up in a situation where your publisher feels as though your self-pubbed books are competing with your traditionally-pubbed books. You will also want to start negotiating this clause going forward to get it where you can comfortably pursue a self-publishing side-career while traditionally publishing. This is where an agent comes in handy.

2. Map out your traditional pub release dates. Check to see how much time you have between releases. There needs to be enough of a cushion between each release so that a) the publisher doesn’t point to the non-compete clause, and b) you can adequately market each book. Again, this is where an agent comes in handy! We know how to finesse things and make them work…and we know how to keep everyone happy.

3. Plan self-pub releases to hit when you have a significant gap between traditional releases. And remember, you want there to be plenty of time BEFORE and AFTER a traditional release during which you’re giving all of your marketing energy to THAT BOOK.

4. Price your self-published books in a way that even if your publisher complains about competing works, you can make the argument that a $2.99 novel off of Amazon is in no way hitting the same market as your $14.99 trade paperback.

5. Consider creating a clear separation in which you use a different pen name and even write in a different genre for your self-published stuff. This can be as simple as going from Author Sally Davis to S.E. Davis. You can create a home for both of your personas on your website so long as they have separate pages and social media accounts.

6. Consider self-publishing only shorter works. This is not only another way to skirt the non-compete clause, but it allows you to more quickly crank out the self-pub content so that you don’t end up with it taking time away from your book deadlines.

7. Market ALL of your books whenever possible. This means listing your traditionally published books in the back of your self-pubbed work. It also means bring both books to events. What you don’t want to do, though, is highlight your self-pubbed books more than you highlight your traditional books. It’s an easy way to make your publisher mad and also to communicate to readers that your self-pubbed books are more important. They aren’t. Your traditional books are more important because they are providing a marketing angle that nothing else can…they are in bookstores!

8. Be classy. Don’t brag about what you’re doing, but don’t keep it a secret either. You can be confident in your hybrid status and yet remain a loud voice for traditional publishing. The last thing you want to do is bite the hand that feeds. Unless you don’t want that hand anymore. To which I say be careful about going all King Joffrey on Ned Stark.

9. Be professional. DO NOT THROW BOOKS ONTO THE INTERNET WITHOUT PAYING FOR THEM TO BE EDITED, PROOFED, AND DESIGNED. It’s a major career risk to do this, and it will end your self-publishing career before it gets a chance to get off the ground.

10. Be smart. The most successful hybrid authors are the ones treating it like a business. Fact is, if you slap up some content and wait around for sales, you’re going to be sorely disappointed. Self-publishing is hard work. It’s harder than traditional publishing, because you’re doing everything yourself. So don’t be flippant about it. And if it’s not for you, that’s okay. 

Having an agent really comes in handy if you’re thinking about making this leap. Your agent can help you navigate your publishing relationships while also giving you advice on when and how and what to self-publish. So if this is something you’re considering, the first thing to do is call up your agent and run the idea by them. They may try to talk you out of it! And you’ll need to hear them out, because they may have a great reason as to why this won’t work for you. But I think many agents these days are open to letting authors explore the possibilities. So give them a call and see what they say!

Do you have plans to go Hybrid? Or maybe you’ve already taken the leap? Tell me about it?

 

Posted in Self-Publishing, Uncategorized

5 Comments to “Thursdays with Amanda: How to Become a Hybrid Author”

  1. Robin Patchen:

    Great thoughts on this today. What about people who are published but don’t have any books under contract. Is self-publishing a good idea for them? Or should they focus on getting traditional publisher first?

    • Amanda Luedeke:

      If you don’t have any books under contract, then I assume the rights have reverted back to you? In this case, it’s a great idea to get those reverted rights up as ebooks!

  2. HI Amanda,

    great post. I have a question about hybrid authors and agents. I know agents receive 15% of royalties on traditionally published books. But do agents also receive 15% royalties on self-published books from the authors they represent? Or can an author say to the agent, “okay, on this book, I want you to fully represent me, but on this book I’d prefer to just self-publish and not have your represent me? How does this work? Thanks, Joel Comiskey

    • Amanda Luedeke:

      It depends on the agent, Joel. Some don’t want anything to do with self-publishing authors. Others try to work something out. And others are willing to release those projects back to the author. At MacLit, we solve the dilemma by helping our authors self-publish (we format and manage the book, among other things) and that way we can feel confident about taking 15%. There are guidelines that the AAR has mapped out about what agents can and can’t do when it comes to collecting earnings on self-published projects. You should check those out.

      The best situation is when both the author and agent are understanding of the other’s need to make money. That way, not everything becomes a self-published project, nor is everything created strictly for traditional publishing.

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