Why a Small Press?

Anyone interested in publishing knows that the business is experiencing a huge amount of change and growth in a very short time. The nature of this business is changing incredibly quickly and I think it’s a wonderful thing.

We all have the same goal: get good books into the hands of readers.

There are different ways to get to that goal, though. And the correct method will depend a lot on both the book being written and the author him- or herself.

One of the things that makes me sad is the division that’s been going on between indie/self-publishers and traditional publishers. There’s a lot of anger from indies who have felt rejection from publishing houses. There’s also frustration that some publishers are having trouble keeping up with new trends in book selling.

A question was posed the other day: Why would anyone want to go with a traditional publisher? 

After all, you can do all these things yourself and not share the profit with anyone. The person acknowledged that a large publishing house might be able to put extra muscle behind an author or offer a large advance (statistically unlikely for an unknown author, though). So perhaps, he thought, there would be a reason to go for a big publisher, but why would anyone choose a small press?

Let’s not forget the amount of work that small presses (and all publishers) are doing. The villain-ization of publishers has got to stop. We are not trying to make a quick buck off someone else’s hard work. A real publisher (as opposed to an author services company) is making money from how well they can sell your book. They work very hard at it. There are no quick bucks in the writing business.

So why would anyone share profits with a small publisher instead of doing it himself?

Because not everyone is the same. Not everyone has the same desires. You may want to do all the work to maintain complete control over your book. And that’s fantastic! You should definitely do that. Some authors do not want to learn how to:

  • format
  • upload
  • find a distributor
  • Figure out how to buy an ISBN and set up LCN, etc.
  • understand print sizes
  • gutter space, headings
  • front matter
  • commission a cover artist
  • find an editor
  • decide on a production schedule
  • send away for pre-publication reviews and blurbs
  • network
  • learn how to set up book signings
  • organize a book tour (virtual or IRL)
  • test out marketing strategies
  • set discounts
  • talk to bookstores about shelving
  • ETC.

They would like to write a book and hand it off to someone else to worry about the details and the receive a paycheck while they’re working on the next book. A good publisher is going to get the authors that paycheck. Because the only way for the publisher to make money is to sell those books!

The royalty check may be smaller than you would get on your own. But if you are not at all inclined to learn how to sell your book, it may also be bigger even with the marketing and overhead budget subtracted from it.

There will always be marketing that is better done by the author. I’m not going to start a twitter account in your name and tweet while pretending to be you. That would be ridiculous. A good publisher will help you understand what you can do to help your book succeed and they will be open to hearing your ideas too.

But let’s not discount all the hard work that a publisher can do for you. There’s a lot going on behind the scenes and when you’re a self-publisher, you are responsible for all of it. As I said before, there are no quick bucks in writing and a publisher can do you a valuable service. They take on the risk for you. They put their money on the line in the belief that they can sell your book and make it back. If you are with a publisher, you do not have to make that investment.

I encourage people to self-publish if they have the stamina and the drive for it. Just remember that it isn’t the path for everyone and there’s no need to make others feel bad about their choice to sign with a publisher, whether large or small.

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