Publishing: Pro and Cons of Small Presses


Pros and Cons 

to Small Presses

I discussed an overview of the main types of publishing and warned about looking for services versus a vanity publisher (see here), then the pros and cons of traditional (here). Today, we focus on small presses also known as independent (indie) publishers. Next week, I'll visit self-publishing. Remember, there is no "best" path as it depends on the author's preferences when it comes to money they want/can invest, the control they desire, and their goals for their novels. 

  Small/indie presses—independent publishers, pretty much every publisher outside of the Big-5 and imprints who is not a self-published label, a vanity press, or a publishing service (I’ll get into these later).
   *note: these vary greatly so I’m generalizing a lot here. Basically, don’t go for one that doesn’t fit this pro model below.
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Pros: They produce quality products, and are hands-on, small-knit and personal (because they only publish so many a year and have smaller staffs). Their royalty rates tend to be higher than traditional (varies, seen 15-50%), and some have cost models--after they break even on the costs of your book, they up your royalty percent. No agent is needed, so not sharing of royalties and you can query them directly. They have expert editors, formatting folk, and book designers. They include you in every decision and step, and let you be as involved as you want to be. They will market a little for you, and find a few professional or unbiased reviewers. They offer some to all legal protection. The best have reputable distributors, so books can go in independent bookstores. The time from acceptance to print varies, but usually faster than traditional. Some presses do all book formats Most importantly, it should cost you nothing up front.

Cons: They are usually genre niche only, so finding the right one can take research and can be hard to land because they only put out a limited amount of novels a year (averaging 10 titles a year according to several sources). Like traditional, the price is controlled by them as well as promos. They have a smaller budget than the Big-5, so could have less quality or limited marketing, limited exposure and readership, so author must promote (this is expected in trad too, but more vital with indie). Some presses are only POD (print-on-demand) which means bookstores cannot take the risk without profit or a return policy. You could be bound to publisher for a timeframe, genre, or series (read contract carefully before signing). Some can be limited in book formats like not offering print or audio.

    In short, higher royalties and control, experts on it free of charge, but lower sales and exposure than traditional; more professional support and cheaper than self-publishing.

My experiences will sound biased, but I think it is because I found the path that suited me best. Whereas traditional didn't work out, and I did not wish to go self published (the reasons I'll explain next week), small press I found to fit me like a glass slipper. I worked with two different publishers thus far. I don't wish to compare them, as they both are great and taught me loads, but the one I'm with now hand down is so personal, hand-on, and thorough; I feel like I am friends and coworkers with them--my voice counts. I'm getting fair royalty rates, some exposure, and most importantly, I didn't have to change my vision or spent a cent. As opposed to agents wanting me to change everything, both my publishers had made subtle suggestions for improvement that don't completely alter the bones of my novels. If you think you want collaborative control, but can't afford to self-publish a quality novel, or you are tired of agent rejection or hate the idea of having little say, then small press is for you. Here are my works through small presses:

    They can be found for purchase here.

    Join me next week to see the pros and cons to self-publishing.