In the 21 years it took me to complete my book and pitch it to an agent, the publishing world had changed dramatically. No longer were the big six publishing houses paying hefty advances to newbie authors. No longer did agents clamor for unknown memoirists.
“Why don’t you self-publish?” I was asked repeatedly.
The reasons were many. I didn’t have the skill set to do the heavy-lifting. Getting a great book cover, interior design, hiring a set of editors, worrying about metadata and distribution, the layout; the very idea of it was exhausting. I also wanted my book to be available wherever books are sold, and to be available in libraries so anyone could have access. And since the book’s themes were universal, I didn’t want to limit my reach to an Alaskan readership alone.
I’d pitched my book to enough agents and editors to know that unless I was Michelle Obama or a Kardashian, getting my memoir through one of the remaining big publishing houses wasn’t going to happen. One agent mentioned that his agency received 500 queries a week from hopeful authors. Of those 24,000 queries each year, he selected seven authors to represent. “And memoirs are tough to place.”
Ouch. I needed to set aside my memoir for a while, re-evaluate, and work on something different.
And then I connected with editor Brooke Warner through her business, Warner Coaching. I set aside my memoir and hired her as a developmental editor for a novel I was writing. I didn’t mention my memoir to her, and she didn’t talk up her other job as co-founder of She Writes Press. We simply worked on the novel.
I knew about SheWrites.com, a large international online community of women writers. But She Writes Press was a different beast.
Developed in 2012 to give great stories access to the publishing world, She Writes Press also wanted to be a platform where women could launch their writing careers, and compete with their traditionally published counterparts. Books published through She Writes are available for review at trade outlets like Publishers Weekly, the Library Journal, and Kirkus.
What separates this hybrid publisher from some traditional vanity press is that it’s curated. Many submissions are rejected for publication through She Writes Press, but hopeful authors are given feedback on how to improve their manuscripts before resubmission. A sales team pitches the books to retailers and distributors. And for me, it felt like I had a partner in the process of publication rather than standing alone.
That’s the good news.
The bad news is there are no advances paid to authors. On the contrary, it is the author who pays for the services that get the book ready for ebook and paperback distribution. That’s a big financial risk. The author gets a bigger slice of book royalties to offset their initial investment. Recouping that investment could take years.
She Writes in one of a growing number of hybrid publishers. Green Leaf Book Group, InkShares, and Matador Publishing each have a different business model. Each have a slightly different take how hybrid publishing is defined.
It wasn’t until I finished my still-unpublished novel that I pitched my memoir to She Writes Press. I’d read some great memoirs published by She Writes Authors like Uncovered by Leah Lax and Beautiful Affliction by Lene Fogelberg, and knew I’d be fortunate to be a part of their tribe. She Writes authors have garnered more indie writing awards for their authors than any other small press in the last two years. It was exactly where Pieces of Me: Rescuing My Kidnapped Daughters belonged.
I have friends who’ve self-published their books and done impressive jobs getting the word out there about their books, and have made real money. I have others who’ve traditionally published and have done just beautifully also. But for me, a non-Kardashian who wrote a memoir intended for a broad reach, publishing through a hybrid publisher was the right solution.
Are you considering hybrid publishing to publish your book? Not all hybrid publishers are the same. Check out Jane Friedman’s post in Publishers Weekly on how to evaluate a hybrid publisher to learn more.
Lizbeth Meredith is a writer based in Alaska with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a master’s degree in psychology. She has worked as a domestic violence advocate and a child abuse investigator, and works with at-risk teens as a juvenile probation supervisor since 2000. Her memoir, Pieces of Me: Rescuing My Kidnapped Daughters, was a silver medalist in the 2017 IPPY Awards. Lizbeth also published When Push Comes to Shove: How to Help When Someone You Love is Being Abused and is a contributor to A Girl’s Guide to Travelling Alone by Gemma Thompson. She can be reached at lameredith.com or on Facebook and Twitter.