Book Insider: Hybrid Publisher vs Self-Publishing
Lessons for Leadership
My first book, Make Space to Lead, comes out on November 2nd. I chose to self-publish the book and am now sharing brief lessons about two options for self publishing that I know of. These lessons are also universally applicable to leadership:
When you’re doing a work project, when should you hire a full-service agency (go to a hybrid publisher) vs assemble your own team (completely self-publish)?
I started writing content for my book in February 2021. However, I’ve been consistently sharing my coaching & leadership journey via weekly blogs since October of 2019. Perhaps about 10–15% of that blog writing was repurposed into the book, yet the writing muscle and practice, including getting feedback in the form of views and comments from readers, has been an integral part of my process.
I started researching how I wanted to publish Make Space to Lead in January. I already know that traditional publishing, via an agent > book proposal > book deal wasn’t something I was willing to wait for.
I wanted the messages in my book to come out in 2021 or at latest early 2022, and from my research I thought that going traditional publishing would take 2–3 years. This is a brief overview on the process of getting traditionally published from Tim Ferriss. My understanding is that first-time non-fiction authors will typically get a low 5 figure advance, and the royalties (15% of sales, I think) won’t get paid out until the publisher has made back the advance money.
If you’re curious about all the book publishing options, check out this informative chart from Jane Friedman.
When I started in January, I honestly didn’t know much about hiring a full-service agency (hybrid publisher) versus completely doing it all myself. I fell into the latter approach, more by accident then intent, though I believe that this DIY approach I lucked into suits me well.
Using a hybrid publisher means that you spend some money, roughly $15–25K with a small publishing company that soup-to-nuts helps you from book idea to launch. They provide the expertise through the publishing journey and the resources to help you with:
- Writing. Assigning a book coach to help with you through early writing, including support & guidance, and reading everything you write. This can take 6–18 months.
- Editing. Once there is a rough first draft, a developmental editor reads through the structural makeup of the books. After you’ve written a second, third, fourth?, fifth? draft, the manuscript goes to a copyeditor, then a proofreader to help with edits. Reference from Jane Friedman if like me, you’re confused between all the editor types.
- Book design for the cover and interior formatting
- Physical act of publishing from printing to ebook conversation and distribution
A hybrid publisher helps you project manage through the entire process like using a general contractor for renovations to your house. Similar to self-publishing, the author retains full profits from the book. In leadership, this is also analogous to hiring a full-service agency for technical projects such as a branding, creating a microsite, or a Salesforce migration.
My Self-Publishing Resources
In contrast, in the DIY method, you assemble your own team piecemeal. This is what I did, and I believe that it was the right process for me because I am notoriously picky and have high quality standards over many steps of the process, including the cover design.
If you’re curious, this is the team that I assembled. If you’re looking for specifics on any of individuals, feel free to contact me directly via all the social channels on my site.
- Book coaches: Patti M. Hall and Sarah Chauncey
- Bood design: Dino Marino
- Editing: Developmental (Sarah Chauncey). Copyediting and Proofreading will be through Wendy Muruli and Shamaila Anjuming via Tessera Editorial, an all-remote BIPOC editorial team.
- Support for ebook launch and the Amazon publishing process: Emee Estacio
To date, I’ve spent about $15,000 and I expect to spend another $5K. The financial investment is similar to the hybrid-publisher option and I will retain 100% of the book sales.
Through this process, I’m specifically not talking about the marketing and promotion aspects of the book, as it’s still very much in-progress. My understanding is that regardless of being traditionally published, or self-published, authors are always responsible for the bulk of the marketing.
Lessons for Leadership
On to the leadership lessons, after that publishing-related preamble! Three things for people to think about when considering hiring a full-service agency or expert (this is the hybrid-publishing model) versus building your own team (my DIY model).
1. Time and Money
There’s going to be constraints on every part of the process. The biggest two are time and money, so ask yourself:
- How much money are you willing to invest?
- How much time are you willing to invest?
- What are the real deadlines for this project?
For my book publishing, I was willing to spend the money, and much of my personal time to make it high quality. However, my biggest constraint is that I wanted to publish it in 2021, with the flexibility of a 3 month delay. That led me to the unequivocal decision of assembling my own team.
For a leadership project, ask yourself these same three questions. If you have more time than money, it may make most sense to go with assembling your own team of internal resources or contractors. The project deadlines make the decision more ambiguous.
If there is a true hard deadline, hiring a full-service agency, with its own project manager, can help keep the project to a timeline better than relying on your own internal shifting priorities. This is the path that I’ve seen for most projects through my career. Finally, if you have a specific tight deadline and have lots of time, assembling your own team is one way to make it happen.
2. How hands-on will you be?
Consider listing out all the different aspects of the project that you know of. What aspects of the project truly matter to you? These aspects are where you want to put your personal attention on. This is where you can invest more time or money, and be hands-on, either in the creation or the review process.
For me, in addition to the writing, as a designer, what I really cared about was the cover design and interior layout. One challenge for me if and when I choose to go the traditional publishing route is that I may have little to no creative control over book design.
For a leadership project, consider how and where you want to be involved. Where do you need to personally approve every detail and what can you delegate to someone else? You will need to have a detailed project manager that you trust, unless you’re willing to do it yourself. An agency will have this point person for you. If you’re assembling your own team, consider who will play this role to ensure the project’s success.
3. What is the project context?
Finally, consider how this project compares against everything else you’ve got. Why are you involved and why does it matter to you? For me, launching Make Space to Lead was my top priority in 2021.
That singular focus helped me to prioritize and ladder up all other activities to support it. Yes, I had a number of other important initiatives in my business, and others became temporary urgent #1s for a period of days or weeks, but this book was the clear #1 priority. Given that context, I was willing to invest most of my time and money towards the book.
In leadership, I’ve had periods of time when agency projects such as a company rebrand became my #1 priority over a period of time. In those cases, especially when I was closely supporting the CEO or executives, that project stayed #1 on my list. In other cases, projects like mid-size product launch or building a marketing microsite, were important, but not the most crucial company priority.
I needed to have a team complete the work, but it wasn’t a do-or-die situation. Understanding relative priority helps with understanding the work. For a high priority project, it may bring some peace of mind to have a full-service agency with high quality execute the work. Or, you may want a black ops internal assembled expert team to do so.
As part of being a new writer, I’m sharing my learning and process around self-publishing options. Yet as with everything I do, the growth journey ties back to leadership.
When making project decisions about working with a full-service agency vs. assembling your own team, consider the following factors of 1. Time vs money, 2. How hands-on you’re willing to be, and 3. The project context.