Hybrid Publishing Platforms; Paying for Services
Innovation continues to drive the publishing industry in ways not available before digital publishing allowed for Print On Demand services. The printing services for independent authors that were once referred to as “Vanity Press” have come on board the POD platform service providers. I have written more than one article on the stigma attached to the words Vanity Press, from the days before digital services. Today's independent authors have several Print On Demand platforms to choose from, most with very little, if any, upfront costs to the author. The basis of POD publishing being no book is printed until an order has been made. As opposed to the pre-digital practice of press printing thousands of books per run, to be stored before selling.
POD publishing allows for the low upfront cost simply because nothing tangible is being done beyond creating an persona account and moving digital files from one location to another. In pre-digital days, this would be useless without seeing printed books as a byproduct of the effort. For the future book to be ready for printing, it first had to be formatted correctly and include a cover design, on half-toned negatives. Hence the high upfront costs for getting these steps completed. Fast forward to the current digital landscape and those services become much less difficult for the author to complete.
The addition of digital imaging software and layout programs, along with spell checker, grammar checkers and even layout assistance, the author of today has a plethora of inexpensive and easy to use tools for these tasks, without the need for professional services otherwise demanded for a competent outcome. I say competent as most authors are not artists or designers, and often know little of computer software, all of which goes into the mix of outcomes, from professional looking to fairly dismal. Back in the day the layout & design work was done by the printer's staff, today, that is an available option.
A fellow author I know utilizes an online publisher, perhaps publishing company, for his books. This alliance for all practical purposes overlays the the structure of a traditional publishing company, without the brick and mortar. The new Digital Publishing companies that are now showing up represent the author's work as the publisher, list the book in the book market channels, as well as offer a la carte services for formatting, layout, cover design and marketing. The difference between then and now is that the author has the option of paying for the use of the services, or do all the work themselves. It is up to the author to supply the ISBN number for use, the publisher creates and places the bar code on the back of the book.
I can't say I have an opinion on the efficacy of this hybrid publishing system. I see it as another option for any author's use. The optimal word being option. I chose the path of being an independent author, which demands controlling every aspect of the book project, from the process of editing the writing and grammar, through formatting, layout, cover design, book listing and ISBN assignment. That merely gets the book listed in databases and outlet sites. Marketing remains the author's job. The hybrid system does all of those chores for you, if you want, but then so do POD publishing platforms, like the one I use; Create Space. Perhaps the perceivable difference between the two means of getting a book to print is from the readers' perspective. Will it make a difference to them if the author is independent, or “Published” by an online publishing platform. That's the only difference that matters from the author's perspective. In both cases, it is up to the author to get their writing into print. And get the word out. . . .