Pros and Cons of Small Presses
Guest blogger: Jessica Knauss (@JessicaKnauss)
As a writer and hopeful published-author-to-be, you have probably noticed the scores of tiny publishing houses cropping up in the new, bewildering publishing climate. Often created from virtually nothing by people with a particular passion, these small presses should not be ignored when considering your options. The following comments are based on my personal experience “on the inside.”
Advantageous characteristics of a smaller press can include:
• Welcoming. Debut authors tend to get an unbiased reception.
• Quick. A small staff can mean less bureaucracy and an easier decision process.
• Dedicated. They will take an unknown author’s manuscript seriously and invest time and resources in its success if they believe in it enough to publish it.
• Dynamic. Smaller presses can adopt new techniques and adapt to new technologies much more quickly.
• Collaborative. It is likely that you, as the author, will have some say in the design of your book and its cover and possibly even release dates.
• Creative. Small presses interested in their authors’ welfare and their own future will work with you to implement effective, low-cost marketing solutions and make the most of whatever resources are available.
These advantages come with the pride of releasing your book with a “gatekeeper” publisher instead of risking the stigma of self-publishing. Even if readers don’t care who published the book they’re reading, most authors still do. Both debut and mid-career authors should keep these benefits in mind if they are not contractually obligated to submit to a large publisher.
Disadvantages of working with a small press:
• They may lack a large publicity and marketing budget.
• They usually pay little or no advances, and their royalty rates may be lower than those of larger publishers.
• You may have to take a primary role in proofreading your work or provide other grassroots types of help.
• Having fewer staff means that any personnel changes could be catastrophic to your project.
• They may not have the same level of distribution as larger houses.
You can overcome these disadvantages if you’re willing to work hard and get a little help from your friends.
What to look for before submitting to a small press:
• Does the press accept your type of book?
• Do you like the cover artwork of their previous books?
• Is the press’s distribution comprehensive enough for your needs? Will your book be published worldwide, or only in certain countries?
• Do the proposed royalties seem fair?
• You may also wish to contact the published authors and ask them about their experience with the small press you’re considering.
Please note: if any publisher ever asks you for money for a service other than copies of your completed, printed book, run away and don’t look back. A reputable publisher may ask you to have your book edited by a third party, but agreeing to subsidize any portion of the process directly with the publisher could sink you into a situation you won’t easily get out of.
If all of the above checks out, follow the submission guidelines and send your best work. They’ll thank you for it!
Jessica Knauss worked as an editor at Fireship Press for two years. She founded and runs the bilingual Açedrex Publishing. Later this year, a new venture with other talented people from the small press world, Loose Leaves Publishing, will release its first book. She maintains a writing and book review blog at jessicaknauss.blogspot.com and is considering submitting her historical novel to small presses.