[This is Part 1 in a 4-part series, based on an article of mine in The New Writer’s Handbook 2007.]
Small presses offer opportunities for new or different authors. As we said in the ’60s: small is beautiful. Literary, adventurous, or tightly focused, small presses routinely take chances on new authors who have some thing important to say. And through the democracy of the Internet and guerrilla marketing tactics, they may have a decent shot at financial success, major awards, and media attention with select titles.
It can be just the right thing for you. But how do you know?
First, what is a typical small press? “Typical” is not really applicable to this diverse universe. There are thousands of independent presses, as different as cats and dogs and armadillos. They may reflect the personality of a single person working out of a home office. Others have grown into a corporate entities with real offices with potted plants.
Some have been around for decades, others for just a few years. Each year a good number disappear, but many new ones rise to take their place.
A tiny micro-press might publish only one or two books a year. Others might release a dozen or more titles a season. First printings tend to be modest, from a digital Print-on-Demand (POD) approach that only prints books as needed, ranging to runs of 3,000–5,000 copies.
Their editorial goals range from presenting “new voices” to publishing worthwhile books overlooked by big publishers because they didn’t fit somebody’s business plan. Small presses create titles from avocado cookbooks to zoo activity guides, and everything in between.
The name of the game for indie presses: “find the niche.”
In total, these myriad presses are responsible for publishing many of the astounding number of of new titles (more than 100,000 titles each year!) flooding into the American marketplace.
Most prefer the term “independent press” over “small press,” to emphasize their uniqueness. They don’t like to think of their ambitions or literary talents being diminutive in any sense.
However, small press is the term I will use here to focus on the realities of working with most of these publishers: small staff, limited resources.
Given this tremendous diversity, what should you expect when dealing with a small press?
[Next in this series: Getting Published with a Small Indie Press: The Positives]
Disclaimer: yes, I currently run a small indie press, Crickhollow Books. For more on that effort, visit the Crickhollow Books website.