Rise of 'hybrid authors' as writers buy back their rights

Rise of 'hybrid authors' as writers buy back their rights

The “rise of the hybrid author” was discussed at London Book Fair, with the prediction that writers will increasingly buy back rights to their own books from publishers. 

Justine Solomons, director of Byte The Book, chaired a discussion between Simon Appleby, director of digital agency Bookswarm, host of “The Bestseller Experiment” podcast Mark Stay and Hermione Ireland, m.d. of The Académie du Vin Library. The session on technological changes in publishing was broadcast on 23rd June as part of London Book Fair’s digital line-up. 

The increasing dominance of the hybrid model for both literary events and authors’ careers was discussed.  “I think we’re going to see the rise of the hybrid author,” Stay said. “Just this week on the podcast we interviewed Nadine Matheson of The Jigsaw Man. She’s going to be typical of the kind of the writer you see. She did National Novel Writing Month, self-published a thriller, learned a lot and regrouped then wrote The Jigsaw Man and it was part of a six-publisher auction. You’re going to see a lot more authors coming in through the ranks like that.” 

Authors will increasingly navigate their own rights instead of publishers, according to Stay. “You’re going to have authors like a friend of mine who is with one of the big publishers. He got the rights back to 10 thrillers this week, absolutely cracking thrillers, which frankly his publishers didn’t know how to sell,” Stay told the panel. “But now he can take those, sell them himself, make 70% on each sale instead of the paltry amount publishers usually give and re-jacket them and sell them internationally."

Stay added: "You’re going to see a lot more hybrid authors, getting their rights back and waking up to the fact they’re not selling their books to publishers but licensing them.” 

On festivals Appleby said things were unlikely to go back to how they were before tha pandemic, explaining: “A lot of people have realised they can get a lot more done if they don’t go halfway around the world. In all facets I think hybrid events will become much more normal. We are pre-recording the bulk of this and I think this is a better way of working, you get a better quality of discussion.”  

However, Appleby echoed what some events organisers recently reported at The Bookseller's Marketing & Publicity Conference, suggesting there is a sense of saturation for online events. “A lot of publishers embraced online events but are now experiencing a degree of online event fatigue, in terms of how to differentiate this poetry event from another, for example,” he said. 

The panelists also discussed the priorities for publishers around building a database and logistics. Ireland said on direct-to-consumer publishing: “None of the big publishers tend to have e-commerce functionality really. The big publishers are so worried about looking like they’re competing with Amazon. HarperCollins do sell on their website but it’s not their main revenue stream.” 

She added: “To a certain extent if you’re a big publisher you don’t mind if your customers are buying from Amazon or Waterstones... but being able to talk to your customers through e-newsletters is really important and everyone’s got wise to that in the past few years. A lot of people are very late to the party frankly, it’s really important – being able to sell and communicate with your customers is so important – building your database is the single, most important thing.” 

Meanwhile Appleby stressed the importance of logistics for small companies. “Small publishers, indie bookshops and authors need to get better at logistics and fulfillment. Brexit has made some of that more challenging, hopefully temporarily.”