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Hail to the hybrid author

HybridAuthorsWhen I started writing romantic fiction in 2009, self-publishing was called vanity publishing. It was something only the desperate did. Or those who’d been suckered by some slimy, snake-oil publisher. It was something RWA warned us against: paying to get published.

We should be getting paid for our work.

What a difference four years makes. Sure, RWA still urges writers to get paid for their hard work, but now they’re helping us figure out how, even if we want to do it by self-publishing.

At last year’s conference in Anaheim, there were a handful of self-publishing workshops, but it was still something that many of us considered a last resort, or something only those who wrote “weird” cross-genre-hard-to-categorize books did.

This year was a whole different story. The self-publishing track in Atlanta was teeming with best selling self-pubbed authors like Bella Andre, Barbara Freethy, and Courtney Milan sharing their secrets to success, along with the pitfalls. I even gave a workshop on formatting e-books via Scrivener. Many of the workshops were packed-to-bursting, standing-room-only affairs.

Four years after I started with a dream to get plucked out of the slush pile by New York, I joined the frenzy of writers angling to learn everything we could about how to make it on our own, how to take control of our writing careers.

I’m not saying self-publishing is the only way to go. There are many for whom the validation of New York—and seeing their book on a shelf at Target or Barnes & Noble—is a the most important thing. And that’s okay too. In fact, many of us would like to try both.

One of the terms I heard a lot at this year’s conference was “hybrid author”. A hybrid author is one who’s published in more than one way, some combination of self-published and traditionally or e-first/e-only pubbed. The beauty with self-publishing is that it doesn’t rule out a traditional contract down the road. And if you self-publish well, it might even bring New York to your door with a print contract.

On the other side, many traditionally published authors are leveraging their print audiences by self-publishing. They might not sell as many books, but their royalties are higher. I heard over and over from hybrid authors that they were making more from their self-published titles than their traditional ones.

I think for many of us, hybrid is the future.

Original photo by: By Mariordo Mario Roberto Duran Ortiz (Own work) CC-BY-SA-3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons