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Your Publishing Path: Small Presses

Smaller publishers with more flexibility than the giants, but more resources than an individual author.

April 10, 2019

Renee Frey, COO Authors 4 Authors Publishing

Last week we looked at the “Big 5” publishers and talked about how to publish with them. Now, let’s look at some of the smaller publishing companies, and compare that to the traditional publishing model.

What is a small press?

A small press is a smaller publishing house. They publish books, but don’t publish as many as the large publishers, and (since they’re smaller) don’t make as much money. It’s sort of like comparing a local restaurant to a chain. The food may be fantastic, but with just one location, there’s no way that restaurant can compare in earnings to Applebees.

Since they’re smaller companies, small presses are more adaptable and flexible than the traditional publishers. However, they still do the production work of publishing your book.

So why should I go with a small press?

First of all, Authors 4 Authors Publishing is technically a small press (so I am a little biased here). What’s great about us is how flexible we are. We’ve had authors design their own covers, write their own blurbs, and everything in between. Because we’re a smaller group, it’s a lot easier for us to compromise and involve the author in key decisions.

Some smaller presses (like us) don’t work with agents. So remember that commission that came out of your earnings with the Big 5? You won’t lose it with a small press that works directly with you. It also cuts down on the length of the query process, since you can query these publishers directly, instead of trying to get an agent first.

Some smaller presses offer higher royalties than the larger presses. This is mostly to entice authors like you to go with them instead of with a larger publisher. We can do this because our overhead is less than a larger company, so we don’t need quite as much per sale to keep things running. We also don’t have offices in expensive New York City (where the rent is too d___ high…).

The best advantage is that a small press is still a publisher—so those production costs like book covers, editing, proofreading, and so on are paid for by them, not you.

Some small presses specialize.

Which is great—a small press that knows their specific market REALLY REALLY well will know how to place, market, and ultimately sell your book. And while the Big 5 have imprints that specialize, these imprints are still part of the larger corporation, which limits their flexibility.

Another specialty is the type of book. Electronic presses, for example, are small presses that only do electronic distribution, such as ebooks and audiobooks. Since this market is growing and predicted to continue growing, these presses are reserving their resources for the most impactful market areas. While you won’t realize your dream of seeing your novel grace the shelves of your local Barnes & Nobles, your book will be marketed to reach the hordes of readers on Kindle Unlimited, Audible, or Scribd.

Small presses are agile.

I do technical writing as well, so for you non-programmer folks, agile is a rapid development cycle. And small presses are VERY agile. Since it’s a smaller group, the bureaucracy that can slow things down with a large publisher just isn’t there. It also means that a small press can adapt to market changes faster because they can implement new plans and try new things with greater ease than a large company. Want to do a flash mob promoting your book? A small press is more willing to try your idea and support you in that than a larger company.

This sounds PERFECT! Small presses, here I come!

Okay, not to rain on your parade...but as with all our publishing options, no choice is perfect. There are a few cons to small presses. Most of them make sense with what we’ve already discussed.

Resources

A small press just doesn’t have the same resources at their disposal as the Big 5. This doesn’t mean they won’t spend as much on your book (trust me, even with having the resources, the Big 5 won’t necessarily allocate them), but it does mean that small presses may not have the same influence and reach with distributors as the larger companies. However, they are still putting their resources on the line, so you don’t have to.

Experience

The reason most small presses are small? Because they are a new business, and are still learning the trade. Even if they’ve been around for a couple of years, that’s not the same as the decades of experience had at larger companies. So while the people may be great to work with, there may be some kinks that need ironing as they develop their process.

Now I’m confused—should I go with a small press or not?

As I’ve already said in Choosing Your Publishing Path, there isn’t an easy answer. It’s about what’s right for you.

If you’re an entrepreneur and want to be part of a start-up company (and all the excitement that goes with it), a small press would be great for you!

If you have a very specific idea or vision for your book, but don’t want to self publish, a small press would be a good company for you.

If you prefer a more personal experience, and a smaller circle of people handling your work, a small press would be a great fit for you.

Join us next week when we talk about self-publishing.

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