Authors and readers alike are finding that this new reality tough to weather, but so are publishers. Hybrid is no exception.
When I talk about Hybrid, I often use ‘we’ language. “We are working to pull together an anthology” is something I might say, but in reality, Hybrid is largely just me. Just Madison Scott-Clary sitting in front of her laptop with hundreds of thousands of words in front of her.
This extends beyond just the mechanics of running a publishing house, however. Not only is Hybrid essentially me in terms of work, but it is essentially me in terms of finances. This was a fine state of affairs, though. I worked as a software developer at a few places doing what they could to make the world better, and while those salaries may have been low as compared to some of the larger firms out there, they were still enough for me to both get by and to run a publishing company out of my home on my downtime.
And then came COVID-19.
No industry has been safe from the spread of this pandemic, and while some have taken off in their own ways — I hear that Netflix is doing alright — others have suffered.
The world of software engineering is a strange one in that it is sort of a meta-industry, a layer of work being applied to tasks that might otherwise apply to other industries. Rarely does one create software for the sake of creating software, after all. One creates software to manage books, say, or to aid in teaching. As those industries started to feel the effects of the virus, so too did software.
From there, as the economy slowed and contracts dried up, so to did the funding of those software companies, and many, like myself, found themselves without jobs. It doesn’t matter that much, after all, if you can work from home if your employer isn’t taking in enough to pay their employees.
And so there I was, early February, suddenly without work.
My previous job was a contract position working for a small company focused on secure communication, and even as I was starting to burn out and aiming to ramp up Hybrid, they were looking to end my contract in turn. It was a mutually agreed upon decision at the worst possible of times.
All of my applications and opportunities dried up. Companies at which I applied would have a dashboard of visible applications, and one by one, I watched them move from ‘pending’ to ‘archived’.
At the same time, my own funds began drying up. Working as an international contractor, one must save money to pay taxes as an individual, since the company itself won’t pay taxes via a W-2. I eventually had to break into that account to get by, using it to pay for rent, utilities, and food. The worst, though was paying for health insurance. Since my husband and I are on COBRA (individual insurance that one continues after leaving an employer-sponsored plan), my monthly payments for health insurance are $1,700. While the state of Washington opened up a Special Enrollment Period for the health insurance exchange in response to the crisis, that enrollment period was only applicable for those who were without insurance. Stopping COBRA was not a valid way to get on a cheaper plan.
Enter unemployment. Normally, in Washington, there is a segment of unemployment insurance that will cover those who are starting a new business, the Self-Employment Assistance Program. SEAP involves filing for unemployment while starting a new business. Instead of applying for jobs weekly, you are required to attend in-person classes and talk over your business plan. Unfortunately, as the pandemic worsened, those classes and meetings were canceled.
My current best option for unemployment (which, per my claims so far, would be enough to cover Hybrid operations) are to cease being an employee at Hybrid and instead be an volunteer editor. Nothing will change, as I do not receive any money from the corporation, but one may work as a volunteer for a public good organization — which I believe an LGBTQIA+ press to be — and still file for unemployment insurance.
So here I am. No income, no unemployment yet, and dwindling savings.
What it means for authors
Hybrid has six active anthologies, one of which has authors under contract. Here is what will happen to those.
- Small Loves: A Queer Microfiction anthology — I have borrowed money enough to pay authors for their works, and those payments will be sent out soon. I will not have enough money to source the cover I was hoping to source for the book, but will come up with one myself. My new assistant editor Vincenzo Pasquarella has helped edit most of those stories while I’ve been job hunting, and those edits will be heading out soon.
- Acethetic — The reading period has ended for Acethetic without word to the authors, for which I apologize. I am mostly done with the reading and will have decisions soon. However, contracts (and thus payment) will be delayed in being sent out after that decision has been made until there is a clearer path forward for funding.
- Genderful — The deadline for Genderful submissions passed last night, so submissions are now closed and the reading period has begun. I will still be reading and making decisions here, but as with Acethetic, contracts and payment will be delayed.
- The Future//Tense Trilogy — These three anthologies are now on hold for the time being. Submissions will remain open and submission closing dates will remain as they are, but there is no guaranteed reading period. If Hybrid decides that these anthologies will be canceled, an announcement will be made.
All individual authors under contract will receive additional emails with further information.
Our submissions for small work collections are now closed until further notice.
What it means for readers
All of our books will remain on sale and are ready to ship immediately. Our store remains open for both physical and digital publications. All physical books are stored in a clean location and wiped down before being sent. They will arrive wrapped in plastic wrap (a step we had already started taking in order to provide recyclable shipping materials, which unfortunately are not waterproof) as an extra barrier. All books are shipped using USPS, which has excelled at providing safe and healthy handling of mail.
What it means for Hybrid Ink
Hybrid is designed to be easy and inexpensive to run. We will not be going anywhere. However, we will be slowing down. Even with Vincenzo’s amazing help, the current state of the world is such that only so much can be done in a day.
Please stay safe out there. Stay healthy and sane as best you are able. Support small businesses and independent creators throughout this crisis, as they — we — are struggling to get by in a system already not designed to accommodate us.
And keep reading!
All my best,
Madison Scott-Clary (she/her)
Hybrid Ink, LLC Editor-in-Chief