There’s a term that’s been floating around the publishing industry for a while now: hybrid authors. It refers to authors who have been both traditionally published and who have self-published, and generally, these are the most successful authors.
I not-so-secretly aspire to be a hybrid author, partly because I’m familiar with the industry and have great respect for the people in it (some of my friends are editors for publishing houses) and partly because I’m curious to experience first-hand how it might be different from self-publishing, which I’ve really enjoyed doing. So for other aspiring hybrid authors out there, here is a list of the more unconventional ways to get conventionally published. By that I mean publishers, generally smaller, who accept direct manuscript submissions.
Always, always, always read a site’s submission guidelines, and follow the instructions exactly. All publishers and agents are super busy and get many queries every day, so in order to give your letter or manuscript a shot at being read, make sure to submit correctly. This goes for literary journals as well.
An editor for a top literary journal did a Reddit AMA in September last year, answering questions about what editors look for in submissions. It’s a long thread, but GalleyCat compiled a list of the best questions and answers. Things to keep in mind: literary journals need slush piles, and all writing is subjective.
Emily Wenstrom wrote a helpful article on The Write Practice, called “4 Steps to Give This Editor No Choice But to Publish Your Story.” She’s an editor for wordhaus, an ezine that publishes genre flash fiction (also accepting submissions), and she gives advice for how to hook an editor.
On the book side, Andrew Karre, editorial director of the Lerner Publishing Group’s trade imprints Carolrhoda and Carolrhoda Lab, talks about how he likes provocative books in an article on Publisher’s Weekly.
One possibility of becoming a hybrid author is to go the agent route, and I think this could be especially helpful for children’s authors who do not have illustrators. The important thing to keep in mind for when querying is to abide by the submission guidelines.
Another great resource is Agent Query, which has a search function and categorizes agents by whether they specialize in fiction or nonfiction.
Some agents can even help authors self-publish. I’ve met a few agents at conferences who offer self publishing services for authors whose books are good, but not getting picked up. Publishing Perspectives lays out an in-depth case study of an experiment with digital only works that were curated and managed by agents.
This list of publishers pays for work, either upfront or via royalties.
BookRix: BookRix is a community site that allows authors to get feedback on their work and self-publish/distribute ebooks. However, recently it announced the launch of its new program, “BookRix Selected,” which will give advance payments to self published authors.
Patchwork Press: Instead of being published, join the Patchwork Press team. It’s like collaborative publishing, where each member uses their skills to help all the books in the pool reach their maximum potential.
Paper Lantern Lit: A literary incubator, where writers send in submissions for ideas developed in-house. Writers whose styles fit in with the projects then complete the book (work for hire), which Paper Lantern Lit sells to a publisher.
Storyville App: A monthly subscription app that releases new short stories weekly. Submissions must be original.
Book Publishers With Select Direct Submission Days
Many of the big publishers in Australia have opened up their submission process. Linda Morris wrote in The Age about publishers that allow unagented electronic submissions either once a week or once a month. Publishers include HarperCollins, Pan Macmillan, Penguin, Random House, Hachette, and Allen & Unwin.
Allen & Unwin: Every Friday, Allen & Unwin allow authors to email unsolicited electronic manuscripts in all genres, so long as they follow the guidelines.
HarperCollins: Authors from all over the world can submit manuscripts on Wednesdays for adult fiction and non-fiction including novels (all genres), memoirs, biographies, narrative histories, young adult, popular science and illustrated non-fiction. Authors whose work is under consideration are contacted within three weeks.
Pan Macmillan: The first Monday of every month is Manuscript Monday, where authors can email submissions in commercial fiction, literary fiction and nonfiction, children’s, young adult, and commercial nonfiction.
Penguin: During the first week of every month, Penguin Books Australia has The Monthly Catch, where they accept unsolicited electronic submissions by Australian authors.
Book Publishers Accepting Direct Submissions
These companies do not require working with agents (and in some cases prefer working directly with the author). They work similarly to big publishing companies.
Counterpoint Press: Publishers literary fiction and nonfiction, though only nonfiction queries are accepted without an agent.
Dzanc Books: Currently looking for literary fiction, either as a novel or short story collection. Also accepts nonfiction via a competition (deadline June 30, 2014).
Imajin Books: Looking for genre fiction and asks for rights for 5 years.
I’ve written about crowdsourcing opportunities before, but as a marketing technique, and not in the context of getting a traditional publishing deal. However, a few of the sites are run by major publishers, and use their community to help find new books to acquire.
Authonomy: Owned by HarperCollins, Authonomy is a workshop site where authors are encouraged to upload a few chapters of their manuscript. The community rates and reviews it, and HarperCollins editors read the top 5 manuscripts at the end of the month. The site has some negative reviews, but it has launched a digital imprint that aims to publish 12 books each year from the site. Avon, an imprint of HarperCollins, has acquired a few novels from Authonomy. In 2011, Avon bought three books by Laurence O’Bryan, and in 2014 Avon agreed to publish debut author Kat French’s novel Undertaking Love this summer.
Swoon Reads: Run by Macmillan, Swoon Reads is a crowdsourced site focused on teen romance. This past Valentine’s Day, Macmillan announced it had acquired the rights to publish its first Swoon Reads book, A Little Something Different, by Sandy Hall. Swoon Reads launched last September, and readers and writers from all over the world can upload and comment on works. According to Publisher’s Weekly, “The community’s members are involved in every step of the publishing process, beginning with the initial discovery of the manuscript, and give input on cover design and marketing and publicity plans. The Swoon Reads Board, made up of staffers from various departments within Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group, also weigh in on the acquisition process.”
Wattpad: I’ve mentioned Wattpad before. Anyone can sign up and upload their work. Readers comment and rate, and some indie authors have built up a following as a result. A few authors have had so many people read their stories on Wattpad that they have been offered book deals by traditional publishers. Forbes reported that Lily Carmine got a deal with Random House UK for her book The Lost Boys, and Emily Benet is now working with MBA Literary Agency on her book, Spray Painted Bananas. Teen author Beth Reekles published her book The Kissing Booth, with both Random House UK and Random House in the U.S., after receiving 19 million reads and over 40,000 comments on Wattpad. Random House also partnered up with Wattpad last year to release Ruthie Knox’s novel Truly as a serial on Wattpad before publishing it as an ebook this summer.
Literary magazines are a great way for a writer to get exposure. Writers with literary magazine credits can sometimes find agents easier, or be more likely to have a manuscript accepted from a book publisher. I also have a more extensive list of magazines on my Digital Pubbing Resources site.
Brevity: Publishes short nonfiction.
The Conium Review: Accepts general fiction and poetry.
Every Day Fiction: Looking for flash fiction, up to 1000 words.
Vestal Review: Publishes flash fiction, and only reads submissions between Feb.-May and Aug.-Nov.
Word Riot: Likes experimental flash fiction, short stories, excerpts, nonfiction, poetry, and more.
Duotrope: An extensive database of magazines actively looking for submissions.
Erotica Readers: Author resources with links to submissions for anthologies, magazines, and books.
Preditors and Editors: A list of book publishers and distributors.