When I first began my research on the pros and cons of writing for a small publisher I thought I knew what I would find, after all, I write for a small press. But what I discovered is that my experience was not necessarily the norm for all writers.
I have written for both a large and a small publisher. I wrote for Love Inspired Heartsong Presents, which I thoroughly enjoyed before Harlequin dissolved the line. I now write for Mountain Brook Ink, a new small publisher. I love writing for them too, but there are definitely pros and cons.
Let’s take a look at some of the pros of writing for a small publisher.
- Contract to publication is faster. On average the time from signing the contract to publication is six months.
- More input regarding the cover art. This isn’t true of all small publishers, but most of the writers I spoke with felt like they had a good deal of say in their cover art. My publisher, Mountain Brook Ink, gives me a huge amount of say regarding my cover design.
- Higher royalties. On average, the writers I polled earned 45%. Keep in mind this is the average. I spoke with one whose royalty rate is in the 15-25% range, depending on the number of copies a book has sold.
- No agent is needed. In most cases, you do not need an agent to submit to a small publisher. Depending on your perspective, this can be a positive or a negative. Clearly, the biggest benefit here is that you don’t share your royalties.
- A stepping-stone to get started in the business. You will certainly learn a lot about publishing when you work with a small publisher. So much goes on behind the scenes that I never realized until I signed with one.
- Often times a small press is more flexible with word count and/or content. For example, I like to write in the 40,000 to 50,000-word count range. There is a limited market for that word count with large publishers, but mine is fine with it.
- Consider more genres than large publishers. It has been my experience that smaller houses have more wiggle room with what they publish. That being said, this is not always the case.
As you can see there are several pros to publishing with a small press. I’m sure there are more that I may not have thought of. Feel free to list them in the comments if you think of one.
Now for the cons.
- Little or no advance. However, keep in mind the royalty rate is substantially higher than a large publisher will pay.
- Smaller distribution. It is uncommon to find a book from a small press on a bookstore shelf. That being said, most small publishers have good online distribution.
- Little marketing provided. I list this since it was something that came up with the authors I interviewed. However, based on my experience I feel like my small publisher has actually helped market my book quite a lot.
In fact most authors, regardless of who they write for, generally complain about the lack of marketing their publisher does for their book. Today’s authors must embrace marketing their own books regardless of who their publisher is. That being said, when I wrote for a large house my first book was in the CBD catalog and the book completely sold out of print on all venues.
- Only one or two people often run a small press. When something goes wrong in that person’s life it in all likelihood will have a direct impact on you and your book. I was at a writer’s conference this past year talking with an author who writes for a small press. She was frustrated because the book had not yet been released and it was past the release date. To make matters worse, she hadn’t been able to reach her publisher. I’m sure that would frustrate most of us.
The thing that struck me the strongest as I was interviewing authors for this post is how much difference there is between the various small presses. Some do everything in regards to publishing, while another requires the author provide a completely edited and formatted book ready to publish. My publisher does everything, except the substantive edit.
For years I’ve heard that writers should avoid small presses. But things are changing. As more large houses are closing their fiction lines, small presses are picking up the slack. Publishing with a small press is now more acceptable and in many cases preferred.
I would caution you to do your research before submitting to any publisher.
- Talk to someone who writes for that press and ask about their experience with that publisher.
- Find out if royalties are paid on time.
- Is there an advance?
- Do they follow through with their agreements?
- What is the publisher like to work with?
Not all publishers are created equal. Some will be dream publishers and others will be a nightmare. Do your homework.
If you are published what are some things you would add to help others who are seeking publication? If you are not yet published, are you open to a small publisher, or are you aiming for a large house?
Kimberly Rose Johnson married her college sweetheart and lives in the Pacific Northwest. From a young child, Kimberly has been an avid reader. That love of reading fostered a creative mind and led to her passion for writing.She especially loves romance and writes contemporary romance the warms the heart and feeds the soul.Kimberly holds a degree in Behavioral Science from Northwest University in Kirkland, Washington. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers.You can connect with Kimberly via her website at:http://kimberlyrjohnson.com/index.html
Links: Amazon http://amzn.to/1TqmarI
|A Love To Treasure|
Mark is hoping for a quiet summer in Sunriver as he contemplates his future in law enforcement, but a string of burglaries draws him from his self-imposed break from detective work and thrusts him into the middle of the investigation. To complicate matters, Nicole is in jeopardy, and he knows his growing feelings for her could cloud his judgment. Will their differing career goals be the end of their summer romance—or just the beginning of forever after?
Seekerville is giving away a Kindle copy of A Love To Treasure in honor of Kimberly's visit. Leave a comment and we'll put your name in the puppy dish. Winner announced in the Weekend Edition.