Maggie Wells · Margaret Ethridge

Small presses can lead to big dreams

I am small press published. Over the last few years I’ve tried to explain what that means to my non-writer friends and family to varying degrees of success. What it always boils down to is this: You can’t buy my books in Wal-Mart, Target, or Barnes and Noble. Yet.

For me, making my foray into the world of publishing via a small press was the best possible route. I was lucky. I found a group that was the perfect fit for me. The publisher is very up-front and open with us about her business plan. She expects us to grow and flourish, and knows that any success we have outside of her press can only reflect well on her business. The editors are generous with their time and input. My fellow authors have been enthusiastic, informative, and incredibly supportive.

That publisher created a warm, welcoming atmosphere that made me feel comfortable enough to push my boundaries, polish my writing, and look into the future.

So, what are the pros and cons of small press publishing?

On the pro side I’d list:

  • Personal, individualized attention for your manuscript.
  • Greater author input and more publisher flexibility in the process.
  • Smaller, more intimate peer group.
  • Author can gain some exposure to the ‘behind the scenes’ aspects of the industry.

As for the cons, they’re probably not a surprise:

  • Smaller built-in audience, limited distribution, and little or no promotional expenditure on the part of the publisher.
  • We all know that any or all of the above can lead to smaller royalty payments, no matter how attractive a percentage of cover price.

Is small press publishing the answer for everyone? Probably not, but that’s okay. The publishing world is morphing right before our eyes. There’s bound to be a place for everyone to get a good foothold. If you’re lucky (or smart) enough to fall in with the right group, the experience can be invaluable.


9 thoughts on “Small presses can lead to big dreams

  1. I was lucky enough to follow in your footsteps…and it’s not just because I’m stalking you. 😉 I’ve had a wonderful experience starting out with a small press, and I think it was the perfect fit for me too. I love how a small press feels more like a supportive community than a business. 🙂

    1. I thought I felt hot breath on my neck. Yes, the sense of community with some small presses is amazing. I’ve made some truly good friends and learned a lot in the process!

  2. I’m a reader not an author. I’ve featured plenty of small press author book reviews on my blog and I’m so thankful that there are other avenues other than just the big houses. I would have missed out on so many fabulous stories otherwise.

    1. Yes, a small press does provide a great venue for those stories that may not fit a niche. Talk about a treasure trove!

  3. The size of the press does not necessarily determine how good (or how bad!) a book is. But small presses are a great place to hone your “working with an editor” skills, as well as making deadline skills. Good topic, Mags

  4. Can you imagine trying to publish thirty years ago. Only one channel for your work to travel. If you didn’t fit, it was, “Sorry Charley.” Three cheers for options!

  5. So true, Cyndi. One of the things I love about being a writer is the ever-expanding ways we can learn and grow. Not just in our craft, but in our business accumen as well.

    Megan, we are so lucky to live in this era of options. At times we may have a few too many options, but overall these opportunities allow authors to thrive. Hip, hip, hooray!

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