Guide - Indie vs Hybrid vs Traditional - Content
TRADITIONAL: Generally pay you a very small royalties rate, usually around 5% of your cover price. This amount is rarely negotiable, unless you are extremely popular and influential already.
HYBRID: Generally pay between 10% and 25%. This amount can be negotiable, since the house is usually owner-operated.
INDEPENDENT: You keep everything after costs have been deducted. On Kindle, that's 35-70% of your retail price. Other platforms vary.
TRADITIONAL: May pay you a small advance as a new author, but there is no guarantee. Advances must be paid back through sales. You will not receive any royalties until the advance has been paid back. Some houses may require you to pay back the advance if your book flops.
HYBRID: Very rarely pay any kind of advance, and if they do it's small.
INDEPENDENT: No advance.
TRADITIONAL: Will not market you at all unless you are in their top 5% of earners. You are expected to market your work by yourself, and pay for it out of pocket.
HYBRID: Will often help you with marketing advice, and may even help with the costs. May let you have access to their list of industry contacts, which can be extremely valuable.
INDEPENDENT: You are responsible for 100% of your marketing costs and requirements, but you also get back everything you put in.
d. Creative Freedom
TRADITIONAL: Minimal creative freedom is allowed. They have final say over everything, and may change any aspect of your book, cover, or branding at any time – even if you don't agree.
HYBRID: Generally allow you a bit of creative freedom, though they may occasionally put their foot down if they think you're doing something not in their (or your own) best interests.
INDEPENDENT: Complete creative freedom.
e. Editing, Translation, Cover Art
TRADITIONAL: They will generally pay for the services, but you are expected to reimburse them through sales. You also have no control over the people you work with.
HYBRID: Sometimes pay for the services or have a list of contacts who provide discounted rates for their clients. You have some control over who you're working with, and can generally negotiate an escape from people you clash with.
INDEPENDENT: You pay for everything and have complete control over who you work with – but you're also vulnerable to scam artists because of your inexperience. I recommend joining communities with other independent authors to protect yourself from such scams. Independent authors are generally happy to share their experiences and help one another.
f. Contracts & Copyright
TRADITIONAL: This sounds boring, but is actually extremely important. Don't get excited and sign a contract with a Big Four publisher without having it checked over by a lawyer first. The Big Four are notorious for slipping in clauses that can make life very difficult for you later on. For example, an author friend lost the entire rights to her world by signing a contract without fully understanding it. Now, she cannot publish any other book in that world without going through the publishing house in question – even if they reject the publishing rights to the book. Remember, you automatically hold copyright over a work as the creator of said work, unless you have signed those copyrights over to someone else. Once you sign your rights away, it's very, very hard to get them back.
HYBRID: May occasionally try to slip a fast one on you, but not often. Still, check anything thoroughly before you sign it, to avoid getting yourself in a pickle. When in doubt, ask a copyright lawyer. Don't sign it unless you feel safe.
INDEPENDENT: No contracts. You can publish your work anywhere without risking your copyrights. Of course, that also means you're responsible for defending your copyrights from pirates and such, but at least they're still yours!
TRADITIONAL: The Big Four move at the stately pace of ages. Expect to spend several years finding a publisher to begin with, then at least a year working on the book before they'll even begin the publishing process. Not for the impatient.
HYBRID: Significantly faster than The Big Four, but you are often stuck waiting for other people to do their thing, and because there are more people involved in the process that generally takes longer than doing it yourself.
INDEPENDENT: The pace of progress is almost entirely dictated by you, with the exception of contracted work like editing and cover art production. However, you do need to be able to motivate yourself.
Ms. Dreyer gets asked a lot of questions about publishing by young authors, and she's always happy to share what she knows about the industry. Here are the most common questions, and their answers as per her experience.
Please note, everyone's experiences in the industry will differ, so treat this as a general guide rather than rules to live by!
Questions About Me
What are your disabilities?
I believe in being very open about my own personal challenges, so I'm happy to disclose my disabilities publicly, and even answer questions about them, so long as they're polite!
I have quite a few different disabilities. The main one is Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome Type 3 (Hypermobility), or EDS for short.
EDS is a complex connective tissue disorder that causes my body to produce malformed collagen. Collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body, and it essentially gives shape to our cells. The collagen my body produces is the wrong texture, so it doesn't hold my body together properly. For lack of a better metaphor, my body is a house built upon the sand, and my foundations are rapidly weakening as I get older.
EDS causes many different side-effects, and the way it manifests is different for every person. For example, when you think of a person with EDS you usually think of someone who is rake thin and unable to gain weight no matter how much they eat, but that only covers some people with EDS. Some of us (including myself) rapidly gain weight at a young age and are unable to lose it, as our bodies use the extra fat to stabilise our joints. It's kind of a trade-off. You're either very slim and get frequent painful joint dislocations, or you're very fat and get less dislocations but you get weight-related issues instead.
There are literally hundreds of other potential symptoms, but we'd be here all year if I tried to list them all. So, let me just refer you to the best guide I know of instead, which is here.
In addition to EDS (or perhaps supplemental to, we're never quite sure), I also have Meniere's Disease, Hyperacusis, a prolapsed spinal column, several gastrointestinal complications, and a few other things.
I also have several forms of mental illness, which I am happy to disclose in the name of normalising mental illness. So many of us have mental illness, and it's time for us to get rid of the silly stigmas associated with it. I have Clinical Depression, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and Anxiety, and I have also recently been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and Attention-Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
Are you religious / spiritual?
Not really, no. I identify as agnostic, and my thoughts on the afterlife are summed up by a Shakespeare quote:
"There are more things in heaven and earth, than are dreamt of in your philosophy."
In short, I try to respect everyone's right to believe (or not believe) whatever they choose, but I personally like to leave it a mystery. It's more fun that way!
Are you LGBTQIA or an LGBTQIA Ally?
If you've read The Survivors, then you've probably already picked up on the answer to this one. The answer is, quite simply, yes. I consider myself to be an active and stalwart ally to the community, or at least I try my best.
I also try my best to make sure that all forms of diversity are represented in my work. The diversity of the human experience is a beautiful thing and worth celebrating. We have our issues, but there are so many different ways to just... be human. I love it.
If you're curious about what I, personally, identify as, then I am happy to share. I identify as an aegosexual, aromantic, cisgender woman.
Are you planning to continue the Survivors series?
Maybe one day, but right now I'm very burned out on that series and I'm focusing on other projects. If I do return to the series, it'll be following either a new set of characters in a different location, or maybe the younger generation of characters from the current series. Either way, Sandy's story is over.
How do I write the perfect novel?
The day that you realise the concept of a perfect novel is an industry joke is the day you earn your first Author Merit Badge.
There is no such thing as a perfect novel. That's not to say you shouldn't strive for perfection, of course, but remember that even multi-million dollar traditional authors don't write perfect novels. Why? Because they can't. No one can. Books are art. Like any piece of art, a book is judged in the eye of the beholder. One person's idea of perfection is another person's idea of a flaming pile of trash. So focus on finishing, and don't worry about chasing the elusive concept of perfection. You're a writer, not a Borg drone!
Is my book good enough to publish?
You would not believe how many young authors have asked me this, and it breaks my heart every time. The concept of "good enough" is just as damaging as the concept of "the perfect novel". It does nothing but hurt you and hold you back.
Stop thinking "good enough" and think "ready yet". Is your book ready yet? Maybe not, but it can be! And it will be! All it takes is time, experience, and a really good editor. Stay positive and focus on the future.
If you're struggling with anxiety, then let me suggest a slightly different tactic. Instead of thinking about yourself and your future, try thinking about your readers and how your book is going to make them feel. One day, someone is going to read that book and absolutely love it. If you don't publish it, then they might have to miss out on something that they really love. If you can't finish it for yourself, then finish it for them.
Actually finishing a book is the hardest step in the process towards becoming an author, because you're not just making something truly monumental, but you're also battling your own imposter syndrome, nerves, and even your own patience at times. If this is something you really, really want, then... just write. Everything else comes later.
I have an idea for a story, is it any good?
Fantastic! Write it. I can't tell you if it's good, because stories always sound terrible when you try to summarise them in short format. Any story is a good story if you write it well, so the only way to know for sure whether it's going to be a good story is to write it.
If you end up hating it half way through, no biggie. You can always switch to another project and come back to it. I'm currently working on a project that I started when I was fourteen, and dumped so many years ago because I thought it was too trashy to ever be any good. But in my mid-thirties, something clicked in my head and suddenly the story makes perfect sense and it's going to be brilliant! Sometimes it takes a while for our brain-babies to crown, and that's totally okay. Start a WIP pile, and guard it fiercely, like a dragon on a pile of treasure. Your preciouses!
Will you read my book?
No! Uh-uh, no, no sir, no way. Aside from the fact that I'm practically drowning under a pile of my own projects and probably won't have time, there are legal complications to worry about.
Authors are like sponges, we absorb ideas and concepts and words and phrases from the world around us. Trying to keep our own ideas completely separate from those which belong to other people is a constant battle, and reading other people's unpublished manuscripts just adds to the potential complications that could occur.
I am obviously never going to willingly steal another author's ideas, but I am also extremely forgetful and there is a chance that I may remember an idea but forget the source. In order to minimise the potential that I could accidentally hurt someone, I have a hard and fast rule that I will never read an unpublished manuscript. I'm sure your book is amazing, and that's exactly why I won't read it until it's published.
Will you write a book for me?
If you have an idea for a book but don't want to write it yourself, then you can hire someone to write it for you. That's called ghostwriting. It's quite popular!
Unfortunately, I don't have the energy to offer ghostwriting services, due to my health issues. You can probably find someone on a freelancing website like Fiverr or Upwork, but keep in mind that ghostwriting is an extremely expensive service, so you'll need to have a big budget if you want to hire a ghostwriter.
Can you give me any writing tips?
Yes! Well, sort of. The truth is that everyone's writing technique and method is different, and what works for me may not work for you. But, let me share what works for me anyway, because it never hurts to have ideas.
The best advice I can give you is, "stop listening to advice and learn what's best for you." As a new author, everyone is going to want to give you advice, and a lot of it is going to conflict. Ignore it all and just write. No one knows what's best for you, except you. There is no right or wrong way to write a book - unless you're not writing at all, in which case you are doing it wrong!
My favourite motivational tip is based purely on numbers. Make sure you are writing every day, and set yourself a minimum word count. Maybe schedule it for the same time every day, if sticking to a schedule is what floats your boat. Don't wait until you're in the mood, or you'll never get anything done. Force yourself to do it, and you'll be surprised how easy it becomes.
If you're not confident, set your word count low - say, 250 words. That sounds like a lot, but it's actually not. It's one standard novel page. May 3-4 decent sized paragraphs It's not a lot, but that's where the numbers come in, because it all adds up!
If you write 250 words every day, in 100 days you'll have 25,000 words - that's about the length of a decent novella.
In 200 days, you'll have 50,000 words - that's about the length of a standard romance novel.
In 300 days, you'll have 75,000 words. Now you're getting to the length of a fairly standard fiction novel.
So at that rate, in one year you'll have 91,250 words. That's almost the length of the first Survivors book. And that's just picking away at it at one teeny tiny page per day. That's totally achievable when you break it down, right?
Now, think about doubling it. 500 words per day, or two standard novel pages.
At that rate, you can hit 50,000 words in 100 days.
In 200 days, you're at 100,000 words. That's a little longer than The Hobbit.
By the end of the year, you've written 182,500 words. That's almost the length of The Fellowship of the Ring. That is a huge chunk of words, right?
The mathematical thinking also works the other way. Let's say that you're planning a trilogy approximately the same length as the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Dr. Google says that the combined trilogy is about 480,000 words. So, let's divide that by 365, and you get... 1,315 words per day. So, if you wrote 1,315 words every day, then you could write something the size of the Lord Of The Rings trilogy in a year. That's like a quarter of an essay every day. It's not even that much. I write more critiquing memes on social media.
The key I've found is to not self-edit as you go. Maybe go back and re-read it if you have to make tweaks, but don't go into full editing mode until the manuscript is done. When you're first creating the story, it doesn't matter if your words aren't perfect, because you can always go back and fix them later. Worry about getting them down on paper, then polish them later. You can always edit a story. You can't edit a story that hasn't been written!
Important Links & Need-To-Know Names
One of the hardest parts about going into independent publishing is learning the who's who. So, here's a list!
Please note, some of these are no longer available but I've included them anyway in case you see them mentioned somewhere and get confused.
- Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) - The primary platform where you'll be publishing your eBooks to Kindle, and your paperbacks for distribution via Amazon.
- Amazon's Audiobook Creation Exchange (ACX) - Amazon's took for creating, publishing, and disputing audiobooks.
- Apple Books (Formerly iBooks) - The eBook publishing and distribution app for Apple products. Also does audiobooks.
- Barnes & Noble NOOK - I am admittedly a little vague on the current status of the NOOK platform, as I heard it was being discontinued. It is/was Barnes & Noble's attempt to compete with Kindle. You can still distribute books to the NOOK network.
- CreateSpace (Obsolete) - CreateSpace used to be the platform where you prepared your paperbacks for Amazon, but it was absorbed into KDP a few years ago. You now perform the same tasks through your KDP account.
- Draft2Digital - A distribution network who allow you to publish your eBooks and paperbacks to multiple different platforms at once.
- Google Play - The eBook publishing and distribution app for Android and Windows devices that access the Google Play store.
- IngramSpark - One of the major competitors to Amazon's KDP. IngramSpark has higher start-up costs, but generally has lower per book prices and a stronger distribution network.
- Kobo Writing Life (Rakuten Kobo) - The eBook publishing and distribution app for Kobo devices.
- Lulu - One of the major competitors to Amazon's KDP service, Lulu originally specialised more in print media, but now offers eBook distribution as well. They also offer several more options in style and binding than Amazon's KDP does at the time of writing.
- Smashwords - A distribution network who allow you to publish your eBooks and paperbacks to multiple different platforms at once.
What is an ISBN? Do I need one?
ISBN stands for International Standard Book Number - it's like an ID code for your book. If you are just publishing an eBook on Kindle, then you do not need one. If you are producing a paperback, then you do. You also need an additional ISBN number for each format you're publishing in, so if you're doing a hardback and a paperback then you need two ISBNs.
ISBNs are assigned by a government agency, and cannot be reused to reassigned under any situation. If you decide to cancel a book or make major changes to it, then you'll need a new ISBN.
Most publishing platforms these days offer free ISBNs with their service, but free ISBNs come with a hidden cost: They'll show the platform as your publishing house if someone scans the barcode on your book. This isn't a big deal these days, but if that bothers you then you should consider getting your own ISBNs.
If you want to get your own ISBNs, you'll need to contact the ISBN agency in your country of residence. Every country has different rules and costs, so it's best to speak directly to your local agency for more information. You can view the contact details for all ISBN agencies worldwide here:
Is independent publishing right for me?
That's a good question to ask yourself before you begin. Independent publishing fantastic, but it is NOT the best choice for everyone. It is expensive and demanding, but if done right it can provide a better return-on-investment than a traditional publishing house. The short answer is:
- If your finances are limited or you can't work without external pressure, traditional publishing is best for you.
- If you prefer a combination of freedom and support, and can still afford to spend a bit of cash, hybrid publishing is best for you.
- If you can self-motivate, self-fund, and want to retain creative control, then self-publishing is best for you.
If you'd like a more detailed analysis, see: Indie vs Hybrid vs Traditional.
Do I have to have both a paperback and eBook(s)?
Nope! I would generally recommend always having an eBook, but you don't have to have both unless you want to. If you just want a paperback, that's fine. Just keep in mind that 95% of your sales will come from eBooks, so you're cutting yourself out of a big chunk of the market.
If you just want an eBook but not a paperback, that's fine, too. The great thing about independent publishing is that you are 100% in charge of your own choices, and you can change your mind at any time.
Do I really need an editor?
Short answer? Yes. Everyone needs an editor.
No matter how good you are, you will get close to that manuscript and you'll start to miss things. An editor is a second set of eyes to spot mistakes that you might miss. An extra pair of eyes can make all the difference. While your book doesn't have to be perfect, readers will notice if it's full of mistakes, and that will hurt your long-term success.
Remember, readers talk – and bad reviews never go away.
What kinds of editors are there?
There are some variations, but overall there are four broad categories of editors relevant to authors:
2. Copy Editors
3. Line Editors
4. Developmental Editors
Proofreaders are the most basic entry-level type of editor. They just read your manuscript and point out spelling errors, basic grammar issues, and missing or incorrect punctuation.
Copy Editors are the next level up. In addition to proofreading for spelling, punctuation, and grammar, they'll also identify ongoing issues such as inconsistent language, awkward phrasing, and may sometimes recommend re-writes.
Line Editors are the next level up again. In addition to the services of a Copy Editor, they'll also work with you to improve the clarity of your writing and solidify your style.
Lastly, Developmental Editors are the big kahunas of the editing world. As the name suggests, they actively engage with you on the development of the manuscript, and help you polish up everything from the basics of your spelling and grammar to plot and character development.
What kind of editor should I hire?
Honestly? There's no simple answer to this.
As a general rule, I'd say pick the one that best fits your level of experience and your budget. If you're confident in your abilities, then a proofreader may be all you need. If you really want to grow and have the money to spare, then a developmental editor is an investment that will come back to you many times over in the future.
I personally recommend that if you are a new author, hire a developmental editor for at least one project, because they are worth their weight in gold and they'll give you a sense of confidence that you may not be able to get otherwise. I paid a lot for my developmental editor on The Survivors, and it was worth every cent. The series would not be where it is today without her.
I have other questions, can I contact you?
Absolutely! Please use the contact form below. Just please don't ask me to read your manuscript. Seriously. Please don't. Makes me super uncomfortable and gives me crippling anxiety. Sorry!