Very interesting post from Livia Blackburne, whose debut traditionally published novel and debut self-published novel both came out at roughly the same time.

Hybrid pub is getting a lot of hype at the moment and it looks like authors will be ignoring it at their peril. But the self-side of the hybrid model, while it might be good for getting some works to market (e.g novellas, cross-genre experiments, etc.), is still expensive and time-consuming. Worse, the cost of getting it “wrong”–releasing a poorly edited work, something with bad cover art, etc.–is damage to an author’s overall brand, not just a money sink for however much they threw into the hole to start with.

I think, over the next year or so, we’ll start seeing more and more agents specialising in hybrid pub models; keeping contact lists of freelance editors and cover artists, for example. If a good agent’s job is career development for her clients (hint: it is), then this stuff can’t be ignored. It also needs to be monetised, and monetised in a way that remains worthwhile to the agent, while not being exploitative to the author.

Of course, that ends up making literary agencies look more and more like small-scale publishing houses; a change I’m sure a lot of agents themselves will baulk at.

The other option, I guess, is that–rather than agents stepping in to fill this hole–the traditional publishers do it. After all, they already have the staff and the distribution chains, and are already experimenting with the sort of low-cost, high-turnover, ebook-first models that emulate self-/indie-pub in everything but brand name. Ironically, the biggest pushback publishers have been getting over this has been from authors themselves, q.v. the dust-ups over things like Hydra and Author Solutions.

It’s expectation management; authors have different perceptions of a company like Random House than they do one like Amazon, making it difficult for the former to cross into the latter’s business model. It’ll change, I think–particularly if and when more new authors start signing with and making good out of the new imprints–but the process will be slow, with a lot of hissing and finger-pointing in the interim.

Edit: So I wrote this post back in January, but it’s only just popped off my queue this morning. In the time between then and now, a) my very own agent has expanded their own “NLA Digital Liaison” platform, and b) I’ve got myself a three book deal with Hydra. So… yeah. Prescient!