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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.


Shirley said...

Radine, thanks for joining us today. I'm curious. Since you've researched different small publishers, have you found any particular ones that you would NOT recommend?

Also, I didn't realize that Wolfmont published fiction. Guess I need to do more research myself.

Shirley said...

BTW, I realize the heading says Wednesday. I always screw that up. I guess I shouldn't create the post ahead of time.

Beth said...

Hi Radine. Great post.

Have you been happy with the cover art of your books? And have you had more input than you normally would have had with a larger press?

As far as the editing, how many times did you edit? Did the small press do line edits?

Also, you mentioned that book stores sometimes don't stock small press books. So, how do you sell them? Amazon? Online? Local bookstores?

How many are printed at a time? Is it POD?

Congrats on your success of the To Die For series. That's exciting.

Sharon said...

Radine, thanks. Publishing as we know it is changing. I remember your presentation at the Poison Tea conference several years ago--small press seems a good way to go.

Mitch Jayne, our local "successful" writer in town uses a small press. Can't remember which one but I believe it is located in Missouri.

Like the new title. Will look for your book.

Janet Kay Gallagher said...

Hi Radine
Liked your website.
Will be looking forward to reqding your books.
Thanks for the information on small publishers.

pennyt said...

I only recently discovered your books and have read and enjoyed the first two very much. I'm glad to hear you are continuing the series.

Radine said...

Hi all,
Since I've never worked with a press that I would not recommend, I am not well-suited to giving negative comments. Sometimes a writing acquaintance will indicate the press they are with has been disappointing (Hiliard (sp?) and Harris being one example), but then someone else might come along and report positive experiences with HH. Kind of confusing, isn't it? It may depend on the expectations of the author!

As to cover art yes, I do get input. As a matter of fact, St Kitts gave me the option of using my sister-in-law as a cover artist rather than their in-house artists and she's done all my covers since then. Wolfmont wasn't quite as willing to use her, they favored in-house work, but finally agreed, since my own pleasure with her work, not to mention my love for her, was something my editor eventually understood. There were difficulties because programs used to create cover art did not mesh, but I think we are now all pleased with the cover for JOURNEY TO DIE FOR. (My husband took the photo that the cover was adapted from, and his photo of our mailbook surrounded by wildflowers was used in toto by Brett Books for the cover of DEAR EARTH.)

Editing. Gosh, I'd bet I go over and re-write some chapters twenty times. (And I have to print them out to really catch what I need to change.) I write one day, and usually edit in the morning before I start on that day's work going forward. All my books have received pretty comprehensive editing from their publishers. Wolfmont probably does the most complete line and copy editing I've ever received, and both my editor there and I missed two or three wrong words I'd used in the manuscript. We were both horrified when a friend of mine pointed it out. (She reads every word in a book rather than zipping along, absorbed in the story, which is how I usually read.) ARGH!

My publishers have always worked with Ingram, Baker and Taylor, and many other distributors, so my books, though not stocked in all bookstores by any means, are available there by order. This is true of many small presses. My books are also available, as was suggested, at Amazon.com, Digital-Bookshop.com, B&N.com, and others.

Shirley said...

Radine, thanks again for doing this.

The winner of Radine's book, A Journey to Die for is JAN GALLAGHER!!!!

Janet Kay Gallagher said...

Just came in to see if there were any new posts and saw I was the winner of the book. Thanks.

Radine Trees Nehring said...

It was fun being with all of you. Thank you for inviting me to be on your blog!