The publishing industry today could be described not so much as a landscape, but as an earthquake in process, as companies and writers continue to scramble to find solid ground. The latest craze? The “hybrid” or “collaborative” publisher.
Unlike vanity presses and self-publishing companies before them, they are not just book mills that print any manuscript that comes in. Their submission processes require queries and samples, and it appears from their book lists they publish only titles they believe have literary merit and marketability.
But they are similar to self-publishing companies in that they charge for every service associated with publishing a book, from editing to cover design to publicity, and their agreements restrict authors from using outside sources for those jobs.
They are remarkably up front about their process and costs. One such hybrid I checked out recently calls the writer/publisher agreement a shared investment, with each side putting up a substantial amount. They boldly tell authors (on the home page, no less) that the amount averages $8,000. They do not, however, note whether the company’s half of the contribution is in cash or in-kind services. Do they spend $800 to pay an editor, or do they edit the book themselves and say that service was worth $800? (An in kind contribution, as any businessperson knows, can be assigned any value).
Apart from the more restrictive acceptance rates, I don’t see how this business model differs from not-so-good, old-fashioned vanity presses.
But then, I see even “traditional” book industry pros employing some of the same practices. I know several authors whose works were accepted by agents, who were then told they had to work with an outside editor to improve the ms, and then had to pay, yes, thousands of dollars for the privilege.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but agents and publishers are supposed to provide those services for FREE, and recoup the expense on the revenues they make from successful books, not place yet another financial burden on the backs of writers.
For the record, The Los Angeles Review, where I’m the Book Review Editor, has determined they are still self-publishing ventures, since writers must pay to have their works published. Such publishers and their authors seeking book reviews must query and provide brief excerpts through Submittable before we will consider them.
Oh, and apologies to David Foster Wallace…
 Yes, I know, a simile run amok.
 Also known in the business world as bullshit.
 I’m not. Trust me.
 Writers, who, by the way, often cannot bear that cost because they have put their art ahead of blind adherence to financial gain, and therefore work part-time or in low-paying jobs so as to be able to focus on their writing.
 …for all these footnotes. RIP, bro.