Monday, February 9, 2015

Working with Small Publishers - Twelve Pros and Cons

Working with a small publisher can be both rewarding and frustrating. We didn’t need an agent (for the most part) and we didn’t have to learn the ropes of self-publishing. But there are limits and we have to weigh our options.

I invited twelve authors to share the best and the worst thing about working with a small publisher.

Michael Offutt
Double Dragon Publishing

What's the best thing about working with a small publisher? I've only published two books with my small pub. I think the best experience was the amount of freedom I had in helping design the cover art. It's pretty much spot on for the feel I get from the book.

What's the most negative thing about working with a small publisher? Again with my small pub, the only negative thing has been lack of support in the marketing department. Marketing though is pretty hard to do with books (a thing I've learned over time), so I don't blame them at all. Any and all marketing rests with me.

Donna K. Weaver
Emerald Arch Publishing

What’s the best thing about working with a small publisher? My publisher was wonderful to work with. They knew me like a large publisher never could. They solicited my input and listened if I had concerns. I felt respected and valued as an author. Since, for me, it was very much about the experience, this was just the way I should go.

What’s the most negative thing about working with a small publisher? A small publisher doesn't have as many connections or as much pull as a larger publisher. They're less likely to have much, if any, marketing budget, so the authors have to do most of that. Of course, anymore, even if you publish with a large publisher you have to do a ton of marketing.

Jamie Ayers
Curiosity Quills Press

The best thing about working with a small publisher is the smallness! I remember the excitement my editor had for my trilogy from the moment she offered me representation and thought there was no way I'd get that much enthusiasm for a debut author such as myself at a big publisher. I'd have been a very tiny fish in a HUGE sea. Less authors also meant my first book would get published in eight months verses a couple years.

The most negative thing for me is not being stocked on bookstore shelves across the country . . . it makes visibility difficult and the job falls almost completely on my shoulders to get my name out there.

Charity Bradford
WiDo Publishing

What’s the best thing about working with a small publisher? I loved having a team of people help me improve my novel. Knowing that I wasn't doing it alone took a lot of pressure off of me. The editor was wonderful to work with and I ended up with an amazing cover.

What’s the most negative thing about working with a small publisher? For the most part I loved every aspect of the process. One negative is that sometimes I don't receive answers to my emailed questions. They are busy working on the upcoming books, and I often don't feel they have the time for me. A large publisher would be the same way though.

Susan Gourley
New Concepts Publishing, Crescent Moon Press, and Musa Publishing

For me, the very best thing about working with a small publisher is the personal attention I receive. The editors take a personal interest in not only my current books but my career and future books. Their quick attention to my questions and concerns makes me feel like I'm important part of the company and not merely an employee or the producer of a product they sell.

On the negative side, though my books can be ordered in brick and mortar stores, I've seldom seen my books on the shelves of a physical store. This used to bother me more than it does now. Most of my sales are in the digital market any way.

Heather Gardner
InkSpell Publishing

What’s the best thing about working with a small publisher? - The individual attention. I'm on a first name basis with the CEO of my publishing company. I send an email and they send one back. We work closely together to create the very best product for publication. They want me to succeed because it benefits them as well.

What’s the most negative thing about working with a small publisher? - The constant fear of them closing their doors unexpectedly. Small publishers don't have a lot of capital backing them up. A few poor sales months could have them closing their doors. It's in my best interest to support the publisher, by doing as much self-promotion as I can, so they will be successful, then I will benefit as their client.

Nicki Elson
Omnific Publishing and Swoon Romance

A pro of small pub vs. big pub is that small publishers tend to move faster and get books out to market sooner. I suppose a con would be lack of distribution and shelf space at brick & mortar stores, but I don't see being in a brick & mortar as important in today's book market.
The pro of a small pub vs. self-publishing is having free access to the publisher's team of editors, publicists, and publishing expertise to ready your book for the world and help shepherd it out there. The con is that you give up control on choices on things like book cover, pricing, timing, etc.
What’s the best thing about working with a small publisher? My favorite thing has been the camaraderie with other authors at the publisher. We look out for each other and have been great supports for one another.

What’s the most negative thing about working with a small publisher? Like with any small company, some small pubs don't gracefully transition into a bigger business. Some handle growth better than others, and sometimes growing pains are..well, painful.

Tara Tyler
Curiosity Quills Publishing

What’s the best thing about working with a small publisher? The best thing is I got published! But also, I think I have a lot more say in cover design and content. Plus a lot more contact with upper management, and they answer questions quick.

What’s the most negative thing about working with a small publisher? Drawbacks would be not having the shelf space or advertising contacts and prowess of a big publisher. Here famous reviewer, read this book and give it a critique in a popular magazine... now that would be awesome!

Patsy Collins
Creative Print Publishing and Alfie Dog Publishing

Pro - There’s likely to be less competition, so your work is more likely to be read and it’s more likely you’ll get some kind of feedback even if your work isn’t selected for publication. When your work is published you’re more likely to have input into things such as cover design, release dates and title. You get more individual attention and build a relationship with the publisher, rather than just being one of many authors who is handled by a whole team of employees.
What’s the best thing about working with a small publisher? You get to speak directly to a person who can make a decision and can form a relationship with that person.

Cons. Much smaller budget for marketing etc. It’s less likely that your books can be offered for sale at the large discounts demanded by many bookstores, so your books won’t be so widely available on the High Street.
What’s the most negative thing about working with a small publisher? Much smaller budget for marketing etc. It’s less likely that your books can be offered for sale at the large discounts demanded by many bookstores, so your books won’t be so widely available on the High Street.

Donna M. McDine
Guardian Angel Publishing

What’s the best thing about working with a small publisher? I’ve enjoyed the “family” feel of working with a small publisher. The publisher and the fellow authors are always there for moral support and to answer questions.

What’s the most negative thing about working with a small publisher? In my opinion there is still a stigma that a small publisher is self-publishing. Not that there is anything with self-publishing. There have been many successful authors that have self-published. I’d also say not having a marketing team behind you is a downfall. But from what I understand even the big publishers don’t provide them as in-depth anymore. A lot of the marketing fall solely on the author.

C. Lee McKenzie 
Evernight Teen

Pros: It's quicker with the small publishers. You don't grow gray while waiting for your book. If you find the right one, they provide excellent covers and some marketing/promo.
They're accessible. I usually get answers to my questions within a day.

Cons: You have to be more careful about editing the book yourself. Double check and when in doubt, hire an outside editor.
You have more and more marketing to do with a small publisher. I'd book your own blog tour at the get go.

Alex J. Cavanaugh
Dancing Lemur Press LLC.

Pros: They’ve been willing to stick with me and continue promoting my series. I know that with bigger publishers, the marketing timeframe is small. And if I’d self-published, I would’ve given up ages ago! They've continued to market and support me though.

Cons: There are a lot of sites and venues that my publisher can’t access. Some I’m sure they just can’t afford. But it limits my books’ exposure to readers.

Those are some of the positive and negative aspects and from people who’ve gone down the small press path.

What are some of your pros and cons working with a small publisher? Would you consider going that route now?


Christine Rains said...

Fantastic post. Thank you to everyone for sharing. My pros are the team of helpers working on the book, and the cons are in the marketing arena. Not much help there at all.

Patsy said...

Thanks for including me in this, Alex.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Christine, that's why I feel very fortunate that my publisher does do marketing.

Thanks for contributing, Patsy!

Pat Hatt said...

Always good to know the pluses and negatives. Seems the main thing is resources, but bet they still have more than the cat lol

Chemist Ken said...

Thanks for all the viewpoints. I'm looking forward to the day I have to make that choice.

Heather M. Gardner said...

I feel the same way as everyone on the list. :)
Thanks for including me, Alex.
Sorry my cover isn't up there yet.

Stephen Tremp said...

Question: Do these small publishers provide the editing services for the MS? Or is this a cost passed on to the writer. Thanks.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Stephen, they have editors on staff or use a freelancer. No cost to you. If there is, then it's a subsidy press.

cleemckenzie said...

Darned comprehensive. I really thought this was a great post for new and non-so-new authors. Thanks. And thanks for including my two cents.

Patsy said...

Although the amount and quality of editing does vary ...

Fundy Blue said...

Very interesting post, especially as I considered the two books my sister has published, one through a main stream publisher and one through a small publisher. Marketing is definitely challenging! I'll be reading this post again! It's always fun and encouraging to see the books of authors I'm becoming familiar with through the IWSG! Now if I could just find more reading time to read so many more intriguing looking books! I'll get there!

Suzanne Furness said...

Interesting to hear some first hand feedback on working with a small publisher. Thanks for sharing your experiences everyone.

Donna McDine said...

I'm honored and humbled to be part of Alex's latest post at #IWSG - I'm in awe of the company.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

All three of my publishers do multiple rounds of edits. Musa especially is on par with any large publisher with how much editing they do.

J.L. Campbell said...

Great post. I've had a good experience with one of my small publishers. With the other, they published my book in 2010 and as at right now, I still have not got the royalty cheque that is owed to me. That second experience is what started me down the road to self-publishing.

F. Stone said...

Sorry to have missed this week's IWSG blog hop. I'll be there in March. Blessings

Loni Townsend said...

Great compilation of information, Alex. My friend, the girl on the cover of This World Bites, has been debating between submitting to a small press and self-publishing. I've passed along this link to her. :)

Lynda R Young as Elle Cardy said...

Not all small publishers are the same too. Some produce top quality work, with great editors. Others, not so much.
This was a great post! Brilliant!

Anne R. Allen said...

Great post! I think being with a small press is the best of both worlds!

Carrie-Anne said...

Very informative post! Even with the cons to consider, though, it still seems like a good small press is better than a gigantic publishing house where you don't get much creative control after signing a contract.

Nicki Elson said...

Both of the small publishers I've worked with also do mutliple layers of editing. I was just talking with an author this weekend who's been with both small & large publishers, and she said the small publisher actually did a far more thorough job w/ editing that big pub imprint. Surprising, right?

Nicki Elson said...

This is a great post, Alex (and not just because I'm included, hehe. Thanks for that, btw). I love that you pulled together a dozen different viewpoints and I'm sure it's quite helpful to authors trying to make a decision on the best home for their work. .

Sheena-kay Graham said...

Alex's own doing marketing is very attractive. Informative post and now there is a new list of potential publishers to check out. I know about Curiosity Quills and like their set up.

SpacerGuy said...

Content is king. It seems one can make a good impression with a gripping trilogy. You guys rock, to my shame I've never published but then I consider myself a student studying and learning the craft. It appears to vary from publisher to publisher, collaboration, feedback, exposure, marketing, advertising, shelf space, budgets, cover design etc all matter but the death knell appears to be poor book sales. I've learnt a lot today, thank you everyone.

Jemi Fraser said...

So much great input! Thanks everyone!!! :)

Cathrina Constantine said...

Great post! Good input!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Glad this is helpful!

Unknown said...

I really enjoyed reading everyone's responses! Thanks for putting this together!!

Leandra Wallace said...

Thanks for listing so many opinions, it was great to get a big picture view. I'd totally be happy w/a small press, and have been querying them here lately.

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

Excellent post, Alex. And thanks everyone for the great input. I've had a small group of friends published with the big 6 and interestingly, they all said the same thing. There was no extra help marketing. In fact, it was comparable to small presses. The only good part was they did well in Europe because of their publisher's credentials.

Tara Tyler said...

what an awesome collection of pros and cons! makes me want to get out there and promote. If it weren't for this darn job where i make money to live off of...
thanks again for letting me be a part of it!

Helena said...

This is really helpful information, although I'm not surprised by what these authors say. For all their qualities, small publishers just don't have the network and marketing abilities of the large companies; then again the editors can give personal attention, which mean so much to us writers.

Michelle Wallace said...

This is so awesome!
From the varied responses, I'm getting the impression that, when it comes to marketing, the small presses and big companies are sort of even...

Shell Flower said...

A nice, thorough look at small publishers. Thanks to everyone for sharing your experiences. These days, the pros seem to outweigh the cons!

Cherie Colyer said...

Great post! Thanks for sharing.

Peaches D. Ledwidge said...

Small publishers work hard. I understand the shelving "thingy," you need big bucks to place books in certain places.

dolorah said...

I like the personal/family feel to small publishers. I'm not much on marketing though, so that is a drawback. But, I have been looking into small publishers. I like not having an agent to make all the decisions.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful post, and I find the same working with small presses.

G. B. Miller said...

I probably would if I could find one that welcomed novellas. But novellas seem to be the pesky little brother that is always the small 3rd wheel when big brother/big sister goes out on a date these days.

Father Nature's Corner

Scribbles From Jenn said...

Wow! So much to think about, my head is spinning. I think I'll have some coffee and mull things over.

Empty Nest Insider said...

The personal approach to small publishing sounds wonderful! I also like their involvement in marketing. Thanks to Alex, Jamie, Lee, Donna, Patsy, Tara, Nicki, Heather, Susan, Charity and Michael for sharing your experiences.


Sharon Himsl said...

Coming to read later...Looks good. Thanks for sharing!