Why Choose a Small Press?
Choice Number One: Self-publishing.
Many new authors, and also experienced authors who are returning to the field of publishing, are choosing this option first.
Self-publishing offers specific advantages to authors. Works can be released the moment they are completed. Works do not have to meet any specific content standards or adhere to any particular formulas. Works that publishers do not consider to be “commercially viable” can, and have, become very successful as self-published books. In several notable cases, the success of certain self-published titles has given their authors an alternate entry path into the world of traditional publishing. Even some literary agents are now perusing the ranks of online best-sellers in search of their next would-be clients.
With these advantages comes a laundry list of demerits. The self-published author has to do all of their own marketing, editing, formatting, cover design, et cetera, or, more likely contract out some or all of these services to more skilled parties. Many experienced self-publishing marketers place the author’s up-front costs for a true “professional-appearing” self-published novel at five hundred dollars on up.
But this is not the biggest problem the Do It Yourself Author faces. The biggest problem is breaking out of the ever-expanding pool of DIY-published authors. The “salad days” of authors such as Amanda Hocking and Hugh Howey breaking out of the pack and into major publishing contracts may already be history. Without the constraints of physical barriers and physical media, the potential expansion of titles is virtually infinite. Every title added to the DIY pool reduces YOUR chances of breaking out of the pool, no matter how professional or outstanding your e-book is. The same day you upload your outstanding, professionally formatted e-book, dozens of unedited, poorly composed e-books will also be uploaded, and their mere presence will make it harder for readers to discover yours. Readers grow weary of digging through heaping, ever-larger piles of manure in search of the diamonds, or even the coal, for that matter.
Choice Number Two: The Major New York Publishers.
If you have written the type of novel that major New York publishers are truly interested in, and, more importantly, you have an agent who believes this to be true of your work, by all means let this agent make their rounds. If your work can succeed in this situation, you are the best of the best, and very damn lucky, to boot.
The disadvantages? Where do we start? Since I don’t wish to make an eight-hour video, let me point out a couple of the demerits that usually don’t cross authors’ minds, when they think about the traditional querying system.
First, what if your agent/agency LOVES your book, but can’t sell it to a publisher? New York’s relentless narrowing of formulas makes it ever more difficult to agents to sell certain types of books to the Big Five, regardless of those novels’ merits.
And even if you beat the odds and get a contract, a more formidable challenge awaits you. Years ago, the Big Five used to be able to get some shelf space allocation for “hot” new authors. Not anymore. The main reason why anyone would want to be on the Big Five is for their ability to get your print novels onto physical shelves. You, as a new author, will be very lucky if your print book makes it to the shelves of a few indie stores.
Choice Number Three: The Independent Press
With an independent press, the author gains some of the best advantages of traditional publishing, while bypassing most of the disadvantages of the old-line, and arguably obsolete, querying system.
In most cases, authors can query and submit to independent presses directly, bypassing an agent or agency’s opinion of what type of works THEY think will sell. As I pointed out, even the most experienced agents and agencies have picked books they could not sell. They also routinely reject works that later go on to become successful, adding another “time and energy” bottleneck to the authors’ path of success. The independent press bypasses the middleman and delivers the author’s original creative vision directly to the publisher.
And, once that vision gets there, the independent press is not hobbled by narrowing commercial formulas, the validity of which have been disproven by many recent successful works. If an independent press chooses to publish your novel, they are more likely to value the original creative vision of the work, and not try to bend it to fit an algorithmic formula. Thus, the independent presses can take more creative risks than large New York publishers can. In this respect, and others, the independent press embodies many of the qualities that the major publishers were once known for, but which no longer apply to the Big Five in today’s world.
Authors on an independent press do not have to go it alone. They benefit from teamwork, and the collective experiences of the team. Professional editing, formatting, cover designs, and marketing assistance are just a few of the many important ways in which the teamwork of an independent press benefits all of their authors.
The most important factor authors need to consider about independent presses are the size of the operation, and what benefits said press can offer. The term “independent press” can mean anything from an operation run by a single person, to a fully-staffed professional corporation. And even the better of those smaller operations may be able to meet some authors’ needs very well. One factor the author must consider is how far they wish to take their work, and how far the particular independent press can take their work. If all you want is for your book to have a quality cover design and formatting for printing on CreateSpace, for example, there are many small operations that can handle this job very well.
If, however, you want your work distributed not just on Amazon, but through large print trade distributors such as Ingram or Baker & Taylor, and you wish to be listed on Bowker, then you will be best served by a larger independent press that has made the considerable capital investments to play in the major-league field of book distribution.
Whichever of these three basic publishing paths you wish to journey on, it is important that you research the advantages and disadvantages of each path, and to be honest with yourself about your work, who it will appeal to, and how far you plan to take it.
In my following video, the second of this series, I will discuss in depth how the choices you make as an author affect your career journey, and serve as a guideline to which path you should choose.
This is Daven Anderson at PDMI Publishing, LLC. Thank you for listening.