Wednesday, June 16, 2010
Radine Trees Nehring - Writing For The Small Press
I'm a small press author and, after seventeen years of working with small publishers, I wouldn't have it any other way.
I think we are all aware that the ground under book publishing is shaking, and the six large New York publishing conglomerates, along with their authors, are the ones most affected by this earthquake. That explains why the majority of book authors today are (often by necessity), leaving behind the cachet of a New York name, and working for small presses. To feed this growing market, new mini publishers are being added weekly to the list as possibles for both print and e-publishing.
So...how do we find OUR small press?
First, an agent is rarely needed, though more and more agents are willing to work with smaller houses as New York options close down. Still, most likely you will be on your own during the search period. Ask around, join lists in your genre, attend conventions, read writers' magazines, study WRITER'S MARKET. One draw-back here is that many small press books are not automatically stocked in bookstores or libraries unless there is special interest in their area, so it's sometimes hard to look at samples of a smaller publisher's work.
Be aware of the difference between self-publishing or working with a vanity press who charges for services, and working for a publisher who does not charge for any services and pays royalties. Both take care of getting your book produced, but vanity presses do little else, and if you self-publish, all the work is on your shoulders. Editing, distribution, significant reviews and promotion are minimum or nil with both of these, and use of a hired outside editor is highly recommended. Many vanity publishers will publish almost anything that looks like a book.
On the other hand, legitimate small presses are selective, and each author must go through the regular application process--query letter, and any follow-up requested if the query reply is positive. If you are offered a contract by a small press it's a good idea to look it over very carefully and--if you are a member of a writers' organization that offers this service--have it looked at by a professional, assuming you aren't using an agent. I was a member of National Writers' Association when Brett offered me a contract. They vetted it for me and deemed it the most author-friendly contract they'd ever seen. When I was ready to sign with St Kitts, the editor at Brett offered to look at that contract. She made some suggestions, and most of them were accepted by St. Kitts. By the time I signed with Wolfmont I was a member of Authors Guild and they also evaluate member's contracts without charge.
There are hundreds of legitimate small presses exhibiting varying degrees of plusses and minuses for authors. I guess I could say "buyer beware," but in my own experiences and those of authors I have talked with, affiliation with a small publisher has been largely positive and most would recommend theirs to those who ask. (All these authors, I might add, are self-starters when it comes to book promotion, a BIG plus.)
I have worked for three small presses--Brett Books, St Kitts Press, and Wolfmont Press. In every case it's been a happy experience. I've received good editing, promotion, and distribution support, and what's more, made good friends in each business. They obviously cared about me and my books. (After all, selling books is their bread and butter too.)
How did I find these gems? They were recommended by editors, by friends in the writing profession, and by organizations like Mystery Writers of America. The fact my publishers provided so many author services in the first two cases was partly luck because I found out all the best things about them after I had signed contracts. (You can be smarter. Learn as much as you can up front. With the advent of the Internet, that's became easier.)
In the case of my recent affiliation with Wolfmont Press, I did ask a lot of questions before I signed with them, but am still learning goodies almost a year later. It isn't that anything was concealed, it's just that I keep getting little surprises, like a box of 800 lovely bookmarks for my new novel that arrived shortly before the book came out. (I hadn't thought to ask about bookmarks.)
Note: Brett, a non-fiction publisher in New York, is now out of business. SK Publications closed St Kitts, its mystery imprint, to new submissions two years ago. That's one of the minuses about small presses. Their financial footing is sometimes shaky, which can lead to closing. Also, there may be only one or two people running the business and burn-out, increased family obligations, or other happenings can mean a close-down unless the business is appealing enough to sell to another party.
No matter what route you follow, today there is no reason why any persistent (and talented) writer can't be published.
Radine Trees Nehring
The TO DIE FOR mystery series.
Now boarding: Take a JOURNEY TO DIE FOR.