Especially in a bad economy, large publishers are directing their resources to surefire bets: already established authors. This leaves new or less well-known writers in the lurch. But never fear, enter small publishers.
Some of the benefits to the writer of using a smaller publisher include more author rights to the works, larger margins even if the initial advance might be low or nonexistent, more personalized attention, and faster time to market (particularly to independent bookstore networks, such as IndieBound). It’s no surprise smaller publishers also have amazing reach due to their innovative, out-of-the box thinking when it comes to promotional channels, such as via the Internet and other avenues…not being restricted as larger publishers are, caught up in their template processes for each category of book they work on.
Small publishers deserve a second look from writers. Case in point is the 2010 Pulitzer Prize winner for fiction, Tinkers, by author Paul Harding. Harding was relatively unknown when his book was published through a small printing house, Bellevue Literary Press. His book was left unnoticed by the New York Times when it came out, but not by others who felt it was something special and helped float it up. Now look at him!
Then there’s also the complete surprise…when a major author decides to go the alternative, smaller publisher route. According to a recent article in the Baltimore Sun, Stephen King published his most recent book, Blockade Billy, using small publishing house Cemetery Dance Publications (April 20, 2010).
The publisher’s owner, Richard Chizmar, couldn’t have been more thrilled that one of his favorite authors—and the reason he got into publishing to begin with–decided to print his latest book with his very small, five employee publishing business. It’s no surprise that the deal, now publicizable, is opening up all sorts of opportunities for Chizmar’s small business.
According to Chizmar, “There are other small publishers he has supported, but he’s been very, very generous to us. This is our third book project, but what makes this significant is unlike ‘Buick 8,’ where there were copies in all the bookstores from the New York publishers and we just published a limited edition; for ‘Blockade Billy,’ it was all ours.”
If you are looking for a small publisher, there are several resources at your disposal to help interact within the business as well as to help you research which publisher might be best for your particular situation.
A great resource is the Small Publishers, Artists and Writers Network (SPAWN). This site is aimed at providing writing, marketing, and publishing information to writers and others interested in the publishing business.
Another great resource is the SPANnet Online Community, a project of the Small Publishers Association of North America (SPAN) it allows writers and publishers to join for free. The mission of SPAN is to provide benefits that make our members more successful authors and publishers.
The website Poets and Writers has an amazing list of smaller publishers that can help get your potential publisher research started.
So how to take the first step? Here’s some items you might want to keep in mind when looking for a small publisher for your book project:
- What topic area are you writing about? It’s best to find a publisher who focuses on the same category or who has similar types of projects in their portfolio
- What are your goals? How much involvement do you want to have with your project?
- How much will the advance (if any) be?
- What are set up costs and how will you raise these funds? Would you be able to tap into angel investors or will you take the debt on yourself?
- Will you be interested in print on demand? Going the publisher route usually takes care of any inventory storage, but in the case of very small publishers, this might not be the case. Find out what services your publisher offers and what responsibilities you have.
But when it’s all said and done, it’s always possible for a larger publisher to purchase rights to the smaller publisher’s works…so you might get even more recognition if you’re lucky. Do your research and due diligence and you’ll have a better chance to get a good, strong foothold in the publishing business.