Sunday, March 11, 2012

The Virtues of a Small Publisher II: Why did you choose a small publisher?

Virtues of a Small Publisher Sleuthfest Panel Members: Back row from left: Lesley Diehl, Cindy Cromer, Mike Dennis; Front row from left: Lynnette Hallberg, Marty Ambrose









We are continuing our discussion of small publishers this week.  I think there are many good reasons for using a small publishing house.  During the Editors and Agents Panel at Sleuthfest, several panel members pointed out that advances with large publishers are getting smaller, publicity support is shrinking, less editing occurs, and midlist authors fear their contracts may be terminated.  Given this picture, many small publishers with their emphasis on more intimate and supportive relationships between author and press court talented writers and offer them a home where personal contact and input into the process is part of getting into print.

Myths about small publishers abound.  You pay them.  Not true.  That's a vanity press. They have no way of distributing your books once they are in print.  That depends upon the publisher, but most use Ingram and Baker and Taylor, as do the larger houses.  Your local bookstore cannot return the books.  Also not true in most cases.  There is no vetting process nor editing with a small publisher.   Again that varies from house to house.

I'm certain there are other myths.  I'd like to take this blog to clear up misconceptions about small publishers as well as be honest about what a small publisher can and cannot do for you.  This week I'd like your input on why you decided to go with a small publisher.  It's your decision whether you want to name your publisher or not, but I'd like to hear about the paths you took to publication and how they are working for you.

In the next few weeks we'll be talking about other aspects of going with a small publisher,so stay tuned here.

24 comments:

  1. To be honest, I never bothered to query the larger houses. I'd seen too many writers spend years going through that headache. By going with Oak Tree, I was able to have a one-on-one relationship with the publisher. It didn't take long to realize she didn't like to do acquisitions, so I volunteered. Would any other publishing house have let me worm my way in like that?

    I certainly try to maintain the personal aspect of Oak Tree with every author who queries. I even get thanked for my rejections!

    A publishing house may be small but it doesn't have to think small.

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  2. Small publishers are bolder than the biggies. They're willing to take a chance on a good story, even if it's not written by a member the "The Jersey Shore" cast. And for that, I can't thank them enough.

    William Doonan
    www.themummiesofblogspace9.com

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  3. As a member of the panel,on which Lesley moderated, I was surprised at some of the misconceptions and confusion regarding small publishing houses. I went through the query process in search of an agent utilizing Agent Query then started hunting through Predators and Editors. During this time I had received many rejections but also some positive feeback and requests to submit either the first few chapters and sometimes the entire manuscript. Many if not all agents and publishers have a stipulation that they will not consider any author that has previously self-published, or utilized a vanity press, POD etc. I held out and remained patient. When I received those magic words, "Contract Offer" from eTreasures Publishing, I couldn't believe my eyes! Once I had a lawyer review it and I signed the contract everything started to roll quickly. I didn't pay any money up front, mind you, and within a few days I had a packet to fill out regarding the front cover and had to submit the synopsis for the back cover. I was completeley surprised to hear that authors, some from big houses, had no input into the front or back cover. Who else could write the back cover if not the author? After the formalities were completed I had an editor assigned and boy was she thorough and quick. Sometimes I couldn't keep up with her edits. From the time the contract was signed until publication,it was about 3-4 months. I can contact the CEO of eTreasures, the publicity staff, and my editor at anytime and receive a rapid response. As far as the cover of my book, Desperate Measures, is concerned, I'm thrilled and have received so many compliments on it. As I stated, I had some input and suggested the black rocks with blood dripping down them but the design team did the rest. I have to force that old saying from reverberating in my head, "Can't judge a book by its cover" and hope my creative suspenseful writing captivates the author as much as the cover. LOL

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  4. @ William. Yes I couldn't agree more! Small publishers are open to newbies and willing to take the chance on a new author with a great story.

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  6. Here's how I see it.
    A) The big houses will not so much as look at the manuscript of a previously unpublished author unless the author has an agent.

    B) The odds of getting a reputable agent to represent you, if you are a first-time novelist, are probably about the same as winning the BIG lotto.

    C) So, what are your options? You can self-publish or you can submit to small publishers. Although I see nothing wrong with self publishing, I personally wouldn't trade small publishers for all the chocolate in the world!

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  7. I've absolutely loved my experience with The Wild Rose Press. And the editing? Outstanding! My advice to those to whom NY has said no--try a small press. I don't think you'll be sorry.

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  8. I agree with Patricia: anyone can self-publish, but for me, there is greater validation and satisfaction knowing that a traditional publisher thought my work good enough to want to publish it. The smaller presses are more open to first-timers than the big houses, and they will spend more time and attention with their authors. Also, since they're smaller, they can roll with the industry changes faster than the conglomerates.

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  9. I'm with two small presses: Oak Tree Press and Mundania Press and am quite happy. Both do all the same things the big publishers do except no advance. The books are in trade paperback and e-pubbed an available in all the usual places.

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  10. I am published with two small presses also. Whenever I complain about having to hand sell my books at different venues like bookstores, breweries,(I write a microbrewing series, libraries or festivals, I remind myself of how rewarding it has been to meet the people who read my books. That in person touch can't be duplicated when you hit the "buy" button on line.

    Fellow writers with big houses are doing the same and finding they too like meeting their fans.


    I think small houses using POD technology are ecologically responsible. I only wish some of the more traditional writing organizations saw it that way. As John suggested, small publishers may be more eager and able to embrance the changes in the publishing industry.


    Thanks for your input. If you know other writers who might have soemthing to say on this subject, whether postive or negative, please direct them here.

    Lesley

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  11. The small publisher has a lot to offer an unpublished or newly published author. The big houses will offer no more support - editing or promotion - than a good small house. Unless you've sold 100,000 copies, you are much better off with a small publisher. But here, as with everything else, you need to do your homework. Not all small publishers are created equal (just as not all large publishers are good for you). I'm dealing with two small publishers at present. I am happy with both.

    Jim Callan

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  12. I too had wonderful experiences and small publisher great improved my short story collection Murder Manhattan Style and my novel, Heartland. E-publishers are another option. Like James above, I wound caution authors to be very selective and to read contract carefully. Small publishers vary tremendously in how well they do their work. You might want to get feedback from people who have used a particular publisher before you decide that's the one for you.

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  13. After being with two NY publishers, I'm now with Wild Rose Press for my romances and Five Star for my mysteries. The editors at both houses are very responsive and friendly and I've been happy with the experiences. I, too, am blogging about the Sleuthfest panels I attended and spoke on: http://nancyjcohen.wordpress.com

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  14. I've been published by both a small house (Soho Press) and a large one (St. Martin's Press) and I can say that I was definitely better treated by Soho. And now, after St. Martin's dropped my series (yep), my agent and I are looking for a new publisher. I'm honestly hoping that a small press will pick up the new book, after the incredible amount of indifference and incompetence I and my last two books received at SMP. Otherwise it's self-publishing (in partnership with agent) for the new novel; I've decided that I will never go back to a Big Six publisher unless the advance is a whole lot more than I've been offered before (yeah, right!). Small houses simply treat you and your work better.

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  15. Great, great topic, Lesley. I think there are many advantages to going with a small or independent house--although this category encompasses a full range in of itself as you can see from the comments. Soho Press, Akashic, Algonquin, Oak Tree, Echelon are but a few of the independent presses yet they range on many factors.

    For myself, with my debut novel yet to come out, I have had a wonderful, myth-busting experience so far at my publisher. Much and brilliant editing has gone on--not even only by my editor--others at the house have devoted time to issues small and large in my manuscript. The whole team--from sub rights to marketing to art--seems passionate and talented.

    I realize this isn't the case with every house, or every book, and so what I tend to think is that deciding between the 3 publishing paths--major house, small/independent press, and self- or indie-published--comes down to your book, your particular strengths and needs as an author, and also which opportunities present themselves at a given time.

    There's no best or right path. Only the one that's best and right for you.

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  16. I went with a small publisher, Oak Tree Press, because the big publishers and agents will not handle unpublished authors. Sunny Frazier, acquistions editor, turned down my mss. at first but gave me feedback on it. I asked if I could revise and resubmit the book and she said yes. None of the big presses will let an author do that. I rewrote the mss. and OTP has published my book. OTP used the title I wanted, used my copy on the back cover and let me give input on the cover art. I'm not limited to a "three-book contract" but can write more books in the series if I want. OTP takes returns from bookstores. When I contact OTP with questions, I get an almost immediate response. Who could ask for more from a publisher?
    Sally Carpenter

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  17. From the discussion here, it's clear all of you are happy with your choice of a small publisher. As Jenny pointed out, each writer has to make the decision about what is right for him or her. Next week we'll talk more about small publishers, but this time I want to hear about the downside working with a small publisher.

    Thanks for keeping this discussion ongoing. I'm sure your comments will prove helpful to those writers trying to decide how to proceed with their work.

    And be sure to check out Nancy's blog http://nancyjcohen.wordpress.com for information on Sleuthfest. She does a great job of covering the important issues on some of the panels there including information on the big six publishers, agents and editors, epublishing, and small publishers. Thanks, Nancy.


    Lesley

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  18. I tried three different paths. I self-published and it wasn't for me. I tried an epublisher, Wings ePress, and I'm very happy with them. For my second series I went with Oak Tree Press, and I'm very happy with them, too. I appreciate that an author can have a more personal relationship with a small publisher instead of just being a name with no face.

    By the way, Bogey's Ace in the Hole was just released by Oak Tree, and I really appreciate their patience when I have questions. I don't think a large publisher would have as much patience.

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  19. I'm an agent who has placed many books with smaller publisher for many of the reasons listed above. I feel my authors get more personalized care. Does that mean my authors and I wouldn't want to be with a bigger house, not always. I tell my authors there is good and bad with every publisher. You have to decide what you want for your book.

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  20. I write for The Wild Rose Press, voted four years running as the best publisher by Preditors and Editors. My experience with them had been first class all the way. Any book with a word count exceeding 65,000 is produced in both paperback and eBook formats. Their graphic artists are very talented, trying hard to capture the essence of one's romance. Since surgery five months ago, the owner of the publishing house emails me once a month to see how I'm healing. Try getting that kind of treatment from a large publisher.

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  21. Good points about the personal contact from a small publisher. I noted at Sleuthfest that some authors with big houses were now emphasizing the hands on relationships they had with their editors. If that's true, it's certainly a plus especially when we're hearing how little editing is going on these days.

    Lesley

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  22. I'm interested in the comments by Oak Tree Press authors. Oak Tree has a troubled past, but so many good authors are going with Oak Tree I assume the problems have been resolved.

    I will stick with Krill Press as long as they will have me. It's still very small but it's hands-on press with a savvy editor who works with the author every step of the way. My book (a reprint) was Krill's first publication and I got an advance, which really pumped me up.

    Krill does both POD and e-books but the e-books are the hot sellers. Krill promotes extensively online and I believe that is the way to go. I've been reading since I learned to read from a Folger's coffee can at about age 5 and I now prefer e-books to print.

    Pat Browning

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  23. Thanks for the information about Krill Press. I had heard of Krill, but didn't know much about them. It sounds as if your experience has been positive.

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  24. My first mystery is coming out in November from Mainly Murder Press and I find this discussion quite interesting. I live in upstate New York like Lesley and have set my story in and around Albany. The more I learn about small presses, the more I know I made the right choice. My experience so far is limited, but I'm sure taking notes! I'll be back here often.

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