DALLAS (WOMENSENEWS)–Last year Kate Luke and Rachel Rozet were spending their afternoons doing homework. Now, they spend this time signing copies of their published young adult novel “Kinda, Sort Of.” Their book has sold over 100 copies after just a month of being on the market, securing a spot on Amazon’s top 10,000 list.
Luke and Rozet aren’t the only teens who have seen recent publishing success. Publishers, including Seal Press, The Polyethnic and She Writes Press, are using a hybrid publishing model that gives younger authors access to publishing opportunities that more experienced authors have had for decades. Some of these hybrid publishers only publish female authors, providing a further edge for teen girls.
Hybrid publishing falls somewhere between traditional and self publishing. Instead of going through an agent, authors submit to the publisher directly. A smaller staff lowers overhead, allowing authors to receive royalties of up to 30 percent, in comparison to traditional publishing’s average of 8-15 percent royalties.
These figures are attractive to young authors who wouldn’t get this kind of money for their work anywhere else. Teen Voices talked to five published teen writers who agree that hybrid publishers that are willing to take a chance on young writers have helped them forge a positive start to their writing careers.
“With this publishing process, I feel connected with my publisher and editors because they understand what I’m going through,” says Rozet, the 16-year-old co-author of Kinda, Sort Of” who’s from Valrico, Florida.
Since hybrid publishers tend to serve very specialized groups of people, those who work at these small companies are usually of similar age groups and mindsets. At The Polyethnic, a YA publisher, for instance, 90 percent of the staff consists of females under the age of 25, many of whom are teens.
Other teen authors have also benefitted from the atmosphere at some hybrid publishers. Amelia Etchells, the 15-year-old author of “Imperium,” calls The Polyethnic “friends who are willing to help with basically anything. The founder of this company has really helped me with the process,” she says.
While traditional publishers may offer similar aid to their authors, teens often connect best with other teens. All of the teen authors interviewed talked about the community they feel with their publishers and the other authors they publish. Writers pitch new book ideas to each other, exchange writing tips and develop friendships.
“Everyone at the company is very supportive of each other, from the reps to the designers to the other authors,” says Luke, Rozet’s writing partner, referring to The Polyethnic. (Full disclosure: the author of this article is also a client of The Polyethnic.)
Sasha Mogilevs, the teen author of the upcoming Polyethnic book “Bite Me, Kitten,” tells a similar story. “Hybrid publishing served me with a lot of emotional support.” Through its Slack group, The Polyethnic takes the time to interact with its young authors on an individual basis.
Both of these authors say that publishing with The Polyethnic didn’t cost them anything, although this is not necessarily the case with all hybrid publishers. For example, authors at She Writes Press pay for an all-inclusive publishing package upfront.
“That is a great feeling, to know that someone thought my work was good enough. They thought that it would make them money, make me money, and was worth the investment,” Luke says.
Helping Young Writers
Luke, Rozet, Etchells and Mogilevs, along with 22 other authors, currently receive standard publishing services from The Polyethnic. While other publishers may not deem these young authors to be ready, The Polyethnic’s 19-year-old founder, Melissa Futrell, has signed 18 teen authors in the six months that the company has existed. More than 80 percent of Futrell’s authors are teens and 77 percent are teen girls.
After writing her first book as a middle schooler, she shied away from traditional publishing, which she felt she was too young to pursue. Futrell self published her story, “Kaguya Hime: A Tale of the Bamboo Hunter.” Her company is a way to help young writers like herself.
“We’re definitely breaking the status quo that teens can’t write,” Futrell says. “So many people frown upon” teen writers.
The Polyethnic has received plenty of social media hate recently, from people who call their authors “lazy teenagers” and insult them in other ways. Despite these critics, hybrid publishing is receiving a positive response outside the publishing industry. Lisa Faith Phillips, president of Women’s Media Group, an organization dedicated to helping women in media, says hybrid publishing is “a great way to go” for young authors.
It’s “not vetted as much, and allows writers many options, such as starting on a writing website like Wattpad,” she says. “If you want to publish a book, the first thing you have to do is write, and the prospect that hybrid publishing offers encourages young writers to do that.”