Partnership Publishing: The Continuing (and Controversial) Revolution

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February 2014
by Brooke Warner

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In 2012, when I co-founded She Writes Press with Kamy Wicoff (founder of the social networking site, we thought “hybrid publishing” best described what we were doing. Like others in the in-between space, we’re neither a traditional press nor a self-publisher. Our authors pay for production and manufacturing, and they keep 70 percent of net sales on the back end. We vet submissions and distribute through Ingram Publisher Services. And our authors come to the table with strong marketing and publicity campaigns.

Perhaps because hybrid publishers have existed for such a long time, I took for granted that the hybrid space was not only well explored but also well defined as territory for companies that are decidedly not vanity presses. Two years ago, I didn’t expect to have to defend our model, or to have to stick up for the press as much as I’ve had to—both to online critics who find the author-subsidy model unfair or unseemly and to industry professionals who insist on categorizing us as a self-publisher.

As our press evolved, we landed on the term partnership publishing, originally because that’s what our authors preferred, but also because it’s a more accurate description of what we do. The authors get all the benefits of creative collaboration and a hand-holding relationship that has traditionally been the cornerstone of a small-press experience, and, in exchange, they pay for production and manufacturing but also keep ownership of their project and earnings.

Our vision was simple. We set out to ensure quality by vetting manuscripts and helping women’s voices be heard. But a simple vision doesn’t necessarily make for a simple process. Amazon barred us from making metadata changes on its site on behalf of our authors, and our books were constantly listed as out of stock or low in inventory there. I finally broke down and called Ingram Publisher Services after seven months of fighting an impossible battle. We needed distribution if we were going to survive.

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