Traditional publishing has been around for centuries. It’s an essential industry, after all, as books make up the cornerstones of the educational, professional, and entertainment worlds.
However, like any industry, it has endured waves of disruptions—significant ones like ebooks, indie publishing, and audiobooks—and while traditional publishing still remains prominent and undeniably powerful, it is no longer the only major avenue for storytelling.
One of the more popular alternative publishing companies was Scribe Media, an online resource that offered book-writing and author-coaching services and abruptly closed its doors in May of 2023. Though its most recent failures are troubling, they don’t speak for the rest of the industry.
In fact, hybrid publishing is on the rise like never before.
Indie and hybrid publishing houses emerged as alternatives to fulfill two needs: complete ownership and an accelerated book-publishing process.
In traditional publishing, authors often have no control over how their books are marketed or even what the covers look like! Their royalties are unbelievably low (think 10-20 percent), which means unless they’re J.K. Rowling or #1 on The New York Times Best Seller list, they’re not making much. Not to mention, authors cannot monitor their own book sales in most cases!
This is all assuming that an author has managed to navigate through the heavily gatekept industry, has acquired an agent and then a publisher, and finally got their book out there—all of which could take anywhere between five to eight years for a new author.
You can see why indie or hybrid publishing, where authors have full control over their manuscripts from editing, layout, and book cover to pricing and marketing, is such an attractive option.
While alternative publishing has transformed many spaces like fiction and poetry, its prominent impact is seen in genres of self-help, business, and industry memoirs.
But what makes end-to-end publishing companies (like BrightRay or, until recently, Scribe) such powerhouses of writing, editing, and publishing stories for industry experts and executives? There are three big factors: turnaround time, autonomy, and control.
All three of these factors operate on an underlying foundation of total transparency.
If a publishing house doesn’t value transparency, authors are not kept in the loop, they have no clue which step of the process their book is in, and they are unable to shape the course of their work. If this is the case, then what’s even the point of partnering with a hybrid publisher?
Exactly—none. This is why the backlash against Scribe Media has been so overpowering.
The Cautionary Tale of Scribe Media
On May 24, 2023, Scribe Media ceased operations. Ninety-six employees were let go, and all client contracts were put on hold indefinitely.
While Scribe Media claims to still be operating, they’ve started selling off their assets. Throughout this whole affair, Scribe Media has not clearly communicated or even acknowledged this series of events in its entirety, which has led many employees and clients into a state of panic, confusion, and distrust.
Scribe Media’s collapse has shaken the roots of alternative publishing everywhere. Their lack of transparency and communication left clients in the dark about their contracts, their books, and the teams they worked with.
On a Scribe Media post, David Gee commented:
“As a Scribe Media ‘author’ who has paid thousands of dollars to the company, and so far has received little in return, I obviously feel bad, on lots of levels, for what has transpired. However, as a former network TV news anchor, reporter and crisis communication expert, the situation has been made much worse by what you have—and haven’t—done.”
While Scribe Media’s fiasco in the past few months may stick out as a sore thumb, it’s only one publishing house out of many—many that are doing it right.
In fact, smaller publishers often have the capacity and the culture to support the necessary transparency and communication efforts that authors deserve. Larger publishing houses come with bloat, and with bloat comes higher barriers between upper management, clients, and writers, and convoluted communication.
In a smaller end-to-end publishing house, there are better lines of communication, intentionally cultivated transparency, and the promise of designated writing teams that are laser-focused on providing the best service for their clients.
This kind of one-on-one partnership, especially when working on a deeply personal and time-consuming project such as writing and publishing a book, is absolutely essential.
At BrightRay Publishing, we pride ourselves on a streamlined process that helps us pull the book out of your head and onto the page:
- Our writers work with our client authors, maintaining open and direct lines of communication to ensure they feel confident and that we’re meeting their expectations.
- There are no freelance writers being pulled in and off of jobs, which creates consistency.
- We operate with writer capacity in mind so our client authors get the attention they deserve.
- Mutual accountability is built into our business model. Our writers are only able to write as long as clients meet them halfway. And our authors appreciate that.
While Scribe Media may have set off tremors in the alternative publishing industry, they have in no way decimated it. It will continue to thrive because it is necessary. Every person deserves to tell their story, and hybrid publishers like BrightRay are equipped to provide them with a personal writing team—no typing required!
Scribe Media may have been the biggest player in the field, but they were not the only one—there are plenty of publishing options available. Engage with some of the smaller publishers, and you may be surprised by the offerings and quality available.