Self-Publishing vs. Hybrid Publishing: What’s the Difference?
Advantages of hybrid publishing; 6 most important questions to ask when considering hybrid publishing; pros/cons of self-publishing; FAQs; additional resources
Hybrid Publishing or Traditional Self-Publishing-Which is Right for You

Self-Publishing vs. Hybrid Publishing: What’s the Difference?

Updated March 27, 2024

Self-publishing has been around since the dawn of the printing press. But it took the internet—and Amazon—to create the range of publishing opportunities that gave birth to so many ways to publish.

This article talks about one of the more innovative yet misunderstood methods of publishing to arise in the past several years: hybrid publishing. We’ll cover the pros and cons of hybrid versus self-publishing.

(By the way, don’t confuse hybrid publishing with hybrid authors. Hybrid authors are authors who both self-publish and traditionally publish.)

Simply put, hybrid publishing is a form of self-publishing, one where the author pays a publisher to publish their book.

Before delving into the advantages and disadvantages of each of these two options, it’s essential to have a clear understanding of how self-publishing and hybrid publishing work.


You maintain complete ownership and control over the entire publishing process, including the imprint name under which the book or books are published.

Hybrid publishing

Like “standard” self-publishing, you pay to publish your book. But in this case, you are paying an established publisher to manage the complete publication of your work.

Please note that there are no rules surrounding who can call themselves a hybrid publisher, so authors must do their homework to determine if a hybrid publisher is legitimate, and if they are a good fit for their book. For more information on this subject, please review our article: How to Evaluate the Best Hybrid Publishers: Criteria, Red Flags, Options.

Pros and cons: self-publishing

Advantages of self-publishing

  1. Full ownership and control: Self-published authors retain complete ownership of their rights and royalties. They have the final say on all aspects of the publication of their book, including editing, cover design, formatting, distribution, and marketing.
  2. Customizability: Self-publishing provides authors with the freedom to customize every aspect of their book, ensuring it aligns with their vision.
  3. Faster time to market: Because the author is in total control of their publishing timeline, self-publishing allows authors to bring their books to market much more quickly, sometimes even within weeks.
  4. Highest royalties: Self-published authors earn the highest royalties that a retailer or wholesaler pays. In traditional and hybrid publishing, the publisher keeps a portion of the profits. In self-publishing, that profit goes to the author.
  5. Any subject: Your book is not subject to any selection criteria, other than that which may be illegal or against a retailer’s rules. There are no sales requirements; you can even create and share your book privately without making it available to the public for purchase.

Disadvantages of self-publishing

  1. Lack of validation: The name of the publisher may be important to some readers, booksellers, reviewers, and influencers. In fact, this can go hand-in-hand with securing distribution representation.
  2. Distribution: If your book has broad appeal, it may benefit from proactive distribution that reaches trade buyers representing bookstores, gift stores, schools, and/or libraries. Any author can make their print book available to these trade buyers, but proactive distribution involves marketing to them using salespeople, catalogs, and mailers, and attending tradeshows and events to actively promote your book.

Pros and cons: hybrid publishing

Advantages of hybrid publishing

  1. Professional support: The best hybrid publishers are led by highly experienced publishing professionals. They’ve surrounded themselves with other industry professionals and have standing relationships with people such as reviewers, other authors (for blurbs), booksellers, and influencers, which they can tap for the benefit of your book.
  2. Editorial direction: A reputable hybrid publisher accepts only those books that they feel have commercial potential, and then they help shape those books to fill that vision. They can do this because of their publishing experience.
  3. Credibility and distribution: Established hybrid publishers have distribution channels and industry connections that can contribute to increased credibility for the author and broader, proactive distribution for your book.

Disadvantages of hybrid publishing

  1. Variable quality: The quality of services provided by hybrid publishers can vary widely. Some have a reputation for excellent support, while others may not deliver on promises or even stay in business.
  2. Publishing costs: As with the quality of a hybrid publisher, what you pay them can vary widely, and you probably won’t have control over costs or be able to pick and choose or substitute a service they provide with one provided by someone you select.
  3. Editorial control: You may need to relinquish control over your writing, or at least share in the control. A reputable hybrid publisher is selective, and they achieve this by exercising some level of control over the writing of the books they publish.
  4. Printing costs: To take advantage of proactive distribution, a key benefit of hybrid publishing, you need to invest in a print run, or printing in bulk. This is a several-thousand-dollar outlay not included in the publishing costs, and there is no guarantee of selling all of the books.
  5. Royalty splits: In addition to the requirement that you pay publishing costs and potentially printing costs to the hybrid publisher, the publisher will also retain a share of your book’s profits.

A word of caution: hybrid publishers vs. vanity publishers

A legitimate hybrid publisher should have clear editorial standards, a defined mission, a selective acceptance process, and most importantly, a reputation for commercial success. For this they can demand terms similar to traditional publishers.

Vanity publishers work in a similar way—publishing under their imprint name, retaining a share of profits, and managing the publication of a book—but they are not selective and do not have a reputation for commercial success.

Examples of these presses include Balboa Press, Outskirts Press, Dorrance, and the imprints or partner imprints managed by Author Solutions (not to be confused with AuthorImprints!).

Avoid publishers that accept every submission, as this can indicate a lack of discernment. A selective hybrid publisher means they care about improving the odds of their books’ success.

The 6 most important questions to ask yourself when considering hybrid publishing

This leaves us with the question as to when hybrid publishing is the right choice compared to self-publishing, because either way, you are still paying to publish.

  1. Are you willing to relinquish editorial control? Depending on the hybrid publisher and the terms of your agreement, you may be giving up certain rights, or you may at least have less say over editorial decisions or even editing.
  2. Does your book have broad appeal? The broader the market for the book, the more helpful it is to have it available in brick-and-mortar stores “everywhere.” Just keep in mind that most books are now sold online—more than half of all print books, most audiobooks, and obviously all eBooks. The percentage of print books sold online is even higher for self-published books.
  3. Do you have a printing budget? Books are sold on consignment to bookstores (and Amazon, for that matter, via their Advantage program). Be prepared to accept the risk of investing thousands of dollars to print hundreds or thousands of your book for distribution.
  4. Are you willing to accept lower profits? Trading a portion of royalties may be a sound investment to get distribution services unavailable on your own and be associated with a well-known publishing imprint.
  5. How easy will it be—or is it even possible—to control changes in support of marketing? Examples include changing prices; putting a book on sale; updating the book’s keywords, categories, and description; ordering author copies for an event; and changing or modifying the cover.
  6. Are you planning to publish more than one book? Subsequent books generally cost less to publish. In these cases, updates to the first book can also help with marketing the new book. How much will this cost, how long will it take, or is it even possible to update the first book?

Are businesses like AuthorImprints considered hybrid publishers?

AuthorImprints is not a hybrid publisher, but we support the fact that hybrid publishing can be the right decision, depending on the book and the author’s goals.

Instead, AuthorImprints helps self-publishing authors with their own publishing brand. We have the industry experience to recognize the potholes, obstacles, and bottlenecks in self-publishing and ensure our authors avoid them.

  • Authors have final approval over all creative and editorial decisions, yet they benefit from our decades of publishing experience.
  • Our authors’ books receive broad distribution and are available to brick-and-mortar bookstores, libraries, and schools for ordering.
  • For print books, authors have a choice between print-on-demand or traditional printing. When choosing traditional printing, we also manage distribution to major wholesalers such as Amazon and Ingram.
  • Every book is professionally produced, following industry standards and best practices.
  • Authors receive 100% of their royalties.
  • Authors have their own publishing imprint and publishing accounts, and they can make changes at any time.
  • Authors own their own publishing files—there is no charge to transfer control.

Most importantly, like a hybrid publisher, AuthorImprints manages everything on behalf of the author—no professional experience or project management is required from the author.

We help authors professionally self-publish books using their own publishing imprint. Contact us about your book.

Author Barbara Linn Probst, twice published by a hybrid press, shares her thoughts about hybrid publishing here on Jane Friedman’s blog.

Frequently asked questions

  1. What are some reputable hybrid publishers?

Business models of hybrid publishers vary, but seven companies that are notable examples of reputable hybrid publishers are listed in our article: How to Evaluate the Best Hybrid Publishers: Criteria, Red Flags, Options.

  1. Do I need an agent to hybrid publish?

No—unlike traditional publishers, hybrid publishers generally accept unagented manuscripts directly from authors.

  1. What is a hybrid author?

A hybrid author isn’t one who publishes via a hybrid press, but rather is an author who has both self-published and published traditionally. This can be decided on a book-by-book basis, or even format-by-format basis. For example, we managed the publication of The Other Magic for our client Derrick Smythe. But he negotiated his own traditional publishing agreement with Podium for the audiobook edition.

  1. Do authors ever pay a traditional publisher?

No! Rarely, if ever, should you be expected to pay with a traditional publishing deal. A true traditional publisher should not ask you for money (though smaller presses might ask you to pay for outside editing). Use your best judgment when a publisher asks you to pay. They might be a well-intentioned hybrid publisher, or they might be a predatory company hoping to take advantage of an uninformed writer. For this reason, arm yourself with knowledge about the publishing industry so you are prepared to vet these companies. (Note: any author, regardless of publishing path, often invests in marketing and promotion.)

  1. Are there professionals who can help me self-publish?

The best place to begin is the vetted lists of publishing-services firms maintained by the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi). AuthorImprints is a member with a rating of “Excellent.”

Learn more about AuthorImprints self-publishing services.

Photo credit: David Wogahn [The Last Bookstore, Los Angeles]

2 thoughts on “Self-Publishing vs. Hybrid Publishing: What’s the Difference?”

  1. Excellent. Thanks for this explanation on the distinctions between hybrid publishing and the other models.

    I created an imprint for my own books and it is evolving into a hybrid publisher as I take on projects for other authors.

    My model is that my publishing company pays all the upfront costs of editing, interior layout, and
    cover design. Then I get paid back from initial sales. After the investment is paid off royalties are split with
    the author.

    And yes, I apply heavy editorial selection processes. I only know how to market non-fiction, usually technical books
    so I look at an author’s expertise and reputation in the field.

    Thanks again.

  2. Great feedback, Richard. As you point out there can be various business models and IBPA in their guidelines are quick to point that out as well. I like your model because it puts the focus on the book with both parties sharing risk rather than a conversation about costs.

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