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10 Red Flags To Look For When Finding Your Hybrid Publisher

In the evolving landscape of publishing, hybrid publishers offer a compelling alternative to traditional and self-publishing. By combining elements of both models, hybrids allow authors more control over the publishing process while providing professional expertise that can make all the difference in today's crowded marketplace.

However, the realm of hybrid publishing is fraught with variability in quality and intention. As a writer, recognizing red flags when researching potential hybrid publishers is crucial to making an informed, beneficial choice for your publishing journey. Here are ten red flags to watch out for:

1. Upfront Costs That Aren't Commensurate with the Services Offered & Hidden Costs

All hybrid publishers require un upfront payment from the author. These costs should not only be reasonable, they should be well-explained (beware of pricey print run and ongoing storage fees!). Any fee that is charged without a clear explanation should be considered a warning sign as should costs that are not presented upfront when you are first evaluating a hybrid. Costs should always be commensurate with the services offered. In other words, if you're paying for expertise, make sure you're getting experienced and well credentialed talent.

2. Lack of Selectivity

One of the hallmarks of traditional publishing is selectivity which helps to ensure that only authors whose work meets certain quality standards are published. Likewise, reputable hybrid publishers also maintain a level of selectivity. If a publisher accepts every manuscript that comes their way, it might indicate their primary interest is in collecting fees rather than enhancing the quality and marketability of books.

3. Poor or Inexistent Distribution Channels

Effective distribution is critical to a book’s success. A red flag in hybrid publishing is the lack of a robust distribution strategy. Choosing a hybrid publisher that only lists books on major online retailers without any strategy for distribution to physical stores, will limit your book's reach and success.

4. Limited Marketing and Promotion Support

Check what marketing and promotional support the hybrid publisher provides and whether or not that support is included in their fee or requires an additional investment from you. A common issue with some hybrid publishers is promising extensive marketing services but failing to deliver or not providing any marketing support at all. The publisher should provide detailed information on how they plan to promote your book. Lack of specific, actionable marketing plans is a red flag.

5. Negative Reviews and Complaints

Do your research on the hybrid’s reputation and look for reviews and testimonials from their authors. Frequent complaints regarding lack of support, hidden fees, poor communication, or unfulfilled promises can be indicative of a problematic publisher. Platforms like the Better Business Bureau, Trustpilot, and writer forums can provide insights into other authors’ experiences.

6. Rights Issues

Examine the contract closely, especially the clauses concerning rights. Some hybrid publishers may seek more rights than necessary or make it difficult for authors to reclaim their rights. Ensure that the contract allows you to retain significant control over your work and doesn't lock you into unfavorable long-term conditions.

7. Quality of Published Works

Review other books published by the company. Look at the quality of book covers, interior design, and editorial standards. Read their blurbs and consider the ratings of books they've published. Poor production quality can be a strong indicator that a publisher is not investing appropriately in its titles. Remember, the appearance and polish of your book will significantly impact its appeal to readers and help it to stand out.

8. Communication and Professionalism

Throughout your initial interactions, assess the professionalism and responsiveness of the publisher. Your questions should be welcomed and answered with timely and responsible replies. Delays in responses, evasive answers, or a general lack of professional communication can foreshadow future issues in the author-publisher relationship. Remember, when you sign with a publisher of any kind, you are entering into a long-term relationship so it's up to you to make sure it's a good fit. If you don't feel comfortable, it's a red flag.

9. Lack of Industry Affiliations

Affiliations with recognized industry organizations like the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA) can lend credibility to a hybrid publisher. Lack of such affiliations doesn’t necessarily mean the publisher isn’t reputable, but membership in industry organizations suggests a commitment to industry standards and ethics.

10. Experience & Expertise

Hybrid publishing provides authors with the experience and expertise they need so readers can find their books. There is greater risk to authors who choose hybrid publishers that have been in business for only a short while or have published a small number of books. Like everything else, publishing is a people business. If a hybrid is not upfront about the skills, background and experience level of the team members who will be working on your book, consider that a red flag too.


Choosing the right hybrid publisher requires careful analysis and due diligence. By being aware of these red flags, writers can better navigate their options and select a hybrid publisher that truly adds value to their publishing journey and respects their aspirations and work.


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