Should I accept a contract from a small press or wait for a large house? Or should I self-publish?

This is kind of like that old show “The Price is Right.” Do you want the new living room set, or the unknown behind door number two??? It’s a tough decision, not knowing exactly what your choices are.

First, ask yourself: In my heart of hearts, do I WANT a large publisher, or will I be happy with whatever publisher gets my book out there? It’s such an individual decision.

If you DO prefer a large publisher, then start by seeking representation by an agent, because that’s what you’ll need.

Not every book is going to be picked up by the big publishers, and the key indicator is whether you’re able to get an agent. If you’ve submitted to dozens of agents and it’s not happening, you’ll want to (1) make sure your book is truly something people will want to read, (2) begin pitching directly to small publishers who don’t require an agent, and (3) explore indie publishing.

Small presses have smaller budgets, but they may be more willing to take on a book that the larger houses can’t. Small and hybrid presses have payment structures different from the larger houses. They usually offer small advances, and some don’t offer advances at all. These aren’t reasons to avoid them, just something to know.

Be careful if you’re offered a contract from a small press. Make sure you understand how they operate. Are they a hybrid press? Meaning: Will they charge you for publishing with them? Google the company. Go to a site like “Writer Beware” and make sure they haven’t been reported for unsavory business practices.

Self-publishing can be an exciting journey, but there are challenges. An author needs a budget to pay for editing, formatting, cover design and marketing. On the upside, self-publishing can be much faster, with the ability to get your book on sale much quicker than a publisher would.

The fact that authors have so many choices these days is GREAT news. One way or the other, you can get your book published! Which route you take is entirely up to you.


If you should decide to invest in some personalized counsel, I offer coaching for unpublished authors here: My Coaching Services


Rachelle Gardner

Literary agent at Gardner Literary. Coffee & wine enthusiast (not at the same time) and dark chocolate connoisseur. I've worked in publishing since 1995 and I love talking about books!