Freeing Hostage: even series are hybrid these days

manijabrownsmith-strangerLast year I read and reviewed the wonderful Stranger by Rachel Manija Brown and Sherwood Smith. Now this is a book with history. In September of 2011 Brown and Smith opened up about their experiences trying to get an agent to represent them to sell the book that became Stranger. One agent expressed interest in taking the book on, provided they would either turn their gay main character straight or lose his point of view and any reference to his sexual orientation. This sparked a lot of discussion and gave rise to #YesGayYA. Stranger was eventually picked up by Viking in 2012 and was finally released last November. After the groundswell of support in 2011, I would have expected far more of a splash on publication, yet when it finally arrived, it did so relatively silently. 

The publisher seemingly didn’t capitalise on the interest and publicity that was already there for the book in 2011. Especially given how long it took from the signing of the contract to the actual publication of the book. Add to that the fact that Viking didn’t want to commit to book two until after the release of Stranger, and it’s not surprising that Brown and Smith decided to self-publish the rest of the series, starting with book two, Hostage. The wait between book one and book two would be significant and can be a series-killer, especially in the competitive YA market. The authors have a more detailed explanation for their motivations on Sherwood Smith’s blog. And Brown and Sherwood are not the only ones choosing or being forced to choose to self-publish later books in a series. Laura Lam, for example, is also planning to self-publish the third book in her series through a kickstarter after her publisher folded. It seems a sensible course, especially in Brown and Smith’s case as it offers the series a far better chance at success than being traditionally published with such long stretches between books.

rachelmanijabrownsherwoodsmith-hostageYet I wonder what this will mean for publishing series in the future. Can we have not just hybrid authors, but hybrid series as well? Will other people decide to publish one or more books in a series on their own if their publisher doesn’t move fast enough? Or will publishers even decide to publish fewer and fewer series, choosing to go with standalone novels? And what will this mean for discoverability? Speaking for myself, I rarely read self-published novels and if I do it’s generally by authors whose work I’ve previously encountered through traditional publishing. If authors that I’ve read and enjoyed before but who aren’t on my must-read list decide to self-publish, then will I lose sight of their careers?

I honestly have no idea. Publishing has been in a state of flux for years and I think it’ll remain that way for the foreseeable future, so there’s no telling how this will play out. For myself, I still don’t see how I’ll navigate the discoverability of self-published books, especially given the fact that the books that are traditionally published are so numerous that I have a hard time keeping up. So while I might indeed follow authors I know in their self-publishing journey, I doubt that I’ll go out and discover new self-pubbed authors on my own. As for losing sight of authors’ careers if they move away from traditional publishing, I think only time will tell whether that will actually happen.

What do you think? Do you think hybrid series are a phenomenon that’s here to stay or might even start to happen more often? And do you think it’s a good thing or a bad thing?

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  • I think it’s great that authors have the choice of self publishing these days, so they can continue series that have been discontinued by the publisher. But I agree, it’s hard for readers to keep up with everything. I am the same as you, I don’t read indies at all, unless it’s a situation like Laura Lam, where I will definitely read her books if she decides to self-publish.