Guest blogger: Jessica Knauss (@JessicaKnauss) - blog of Rachelle Gardner, Literary Agent
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!