The Publishing Roadmap Preview

That’s right! October 1 I’ll be releasing the third and finally installment of the author roadmap series over in my shop. The series covers everything from Nanowrimo to writing your first book on your own schedule, how to settle on and develop an idea, all the way through to picking what publishing path works best for you, how you work, and your personality type. There are worksheets and plenty of questions you should ask yourself as part of the decision making process. Below, I’ve included an except from the section on small presses or indie publishing.

Small Presses

Small presses can be a great middle-of-the-road option if you aren’t sure which way to go with your publishing journey. You don’t need an agent to submit to most of them, just a good query letter and a finished manuscript. Small presses tend to be more communicative than the big publishers, and more hands on. However, they have limited resources. You probably won’t get an advance, and there’s a good chance your book won’t be featured in book stores, if the book store is even able to carry it (and this is why the DOJ is investigating major publishers for anti-trust violations).

Many authors have great experiences with small presses. But be aware that there are many pitfalls to be aware of before signing anything.

  1. Con: small presses don’t have the resources to offer advances. If you get one at all, it’s typically small, less than $5,000.
  2. Pro: your royalty percentage will be higher, usually in the 30-40% range.
  3. Con: Small presses can fold quickly and suddenly. All it takes is one person in charge making a bad decision, a lawsuit, a sudden financial struggle…you might see it coming, and you might not.
  4. Pro: Your editor will likely be more hands on, offering more advice and suggestions.
  5. Pro: you’ll have more control over the cover and marketing that is offered by the house.
  6. Con: The cover art is often…not as good as it could be.
  7. Pro: Small presses are typically more willing to take on experimental or cross-genre fiction
  8. Con: They usually don’t accept nonfiction work, though there are a few small presses that specialize in things like memoire, how-to, self help, and other nonfiction subjects. If you are writing a scholarly biography of Catherine the Great or the history of the Roman Empire, though, you’ll be better off looking at larger presses with an agent, just because they have better reach.
  9. Pro: Publication is often much faster with small presses than with larger ones. 
  10. Con: Small presses often only have the resources to publish 1-5 books a year, which might impact your timeline, publication date, or their acceptance rate. They might only take on 2-3 books a year because that is all they can publish.
  11. Pro: less competition among authors than with large presses.

The hands-on approach and family atmosphere of small presses appeals to a lot of authors, despite these drawbacks. And many are successful at it! There are several independent presses out there that have been in business for 20-30 years, but there are plenty of others that count their time in months and years instead of decades.

One thing to ask yourself before submitting to a small press is, Can I do this myself? Many small presses only offer e-book publishing. They do the editing, formatting, and cover art. But are those tasks you are willing to take on yourself, or hire professionals to do? Look closely at the cover art on books they have published. Would you buy that book? Would you be willing to pay for that artwork? Or can you find a better artist elsewhere? Look at exactly what the press offers before deciding to work with them.

Check out the Publishing Roadmap on October 1 for more about small presses, choosing your path, and a break down of how they work and my own personal experience!

Like what you see? Check out The Writing Process Bonus Edition: Submission Packages