Earlier today, the ever-delightful Lindsay Ellis came out with a video about her process of getting her book (which we’re eager to read!) picked up for publication that shed some light on what goes into a book deal. While I’ll outline it very briefly below, it’s well worth watching the video in full to hear Lindsay’s take on the process.
In short, publishing with a larger house boils down to the following set of steps:
- Write your book
- Query agents
- Get represented
- Polish your book
- Pitch to publishers
- Send out excerpts to those who request them
- Send out manuscripts to those who request them
- Get accepted and published
There’s been a lot written on the publication process for the big houses. It helps, of course, that the industry has long since settled into a sort of standard procedure over time, the better to streamline the process across both a wide variety of fiction publishers and fiction writers.
For larger houses, the benefit is that it is easier for a publisher to treat a book as an investment. After all, they have to put the money into the author’s advance and the marketing of the product, but they also have the market share required in order to turn a profit on such an investment. They can get lots of copies of lots of different stories to lots of people very easily. Their role, then, is to both shape and follow market forces in order to maximize profit.
It’s not a bad system. After all, a lot of great writing has come out of The Big Five. They have teams of people working to read the market and help pull together a shifting portfolio of the best stuff they can get their hands on.
However, that does leave a lot of works unpublished. As Lindsay says, while some of those works may be great writing, they may just not be broadly marketable at the time, something that gets caught either by the agent or the publisher in the list above.
The alternatives listed in her video are to go with a smaller house, go with an independent publisher, go with self-publishing, or to trunk your novel. All of these have their ups and downs, but as an independent publisher, I’d like to tackle the role that Hybrid plays.
Beyond simply being the second-choice you turn to when you don’t want to trunk your less broadly marketable work — and there’s certainly no harm in that — independent publishers serve an important role of being able to accept and sell material aimed for a narrower market.
For instance, we have decided to focus our efforts primarily on publishing LGBTQIA+ fiction. We have an interest and some expertise in the area, and are willing to take on projects that might not appeal to a wider market as long as they fit within that niche. In fact, in many cases, we would be delighted specifically in stuff that does not appeal to a wider market. Publishing for a smaller market, whether it be queer readers or furries or whatever, may mean that your profits and comparative reach are diminished, but it also means that your readers will better appreciate what you do put out, as they might not find it elsewhere.
Larger publishing houses do a lot of really great work. They try to find the best work they can to get in front of readers who would really enjoy it. Independent publishers also have a role to play, however, and we’ll always do our best to do the same within our narrower purview.