Many of you know I wear many hats. I’m an author, a book cover designer, and I also run a small press called Stitched Smile Publications. Our company is a wee toddler, and at the same time it feels like I’ve been doing this for years.
I get a lot of questions from authors, so I’ve decided to add some blogs about publishing here on my blog. I hope you will find it interesting, useful, and comment to ask more. I’m not the “end all, be all” of answers. These opinions are mine, and do not reflect the entire industry as a whole. Take it as you will.
There are good and bad things about small presses, and there are pro’s and con’s to the “big 5”. My goal today, is to discuss both.
If you think I’ll tell you a small press is better for you, you’re wrong. Stick around. Small presses get a bad name but it’s a fantastic way for newer authors to get their foot in the door and learn what this industry is all about.
Number 1: Writing is Hard
If you think being published through a small press is easier, it’s not. In fact, it’s much harder. You don’t have a team of well-paid staff backed by a huge budget to go through your work, you don’t get the huge marketing budget, you don’t get the mass production of your work, and it’s harder to get into bookstores.
So why would you want to publish through an small/indie publishing house?
Number 2: Writing is an Art
A smaller press is more likely to listen to your ideas, to your input, and be more willing to implement them. If you think you can go to a big pub house and say, “Hey Bill, I was thinking … I’m not too fond of the font you used on the cover of my book. Also, my main character’s hair is a parted to the left and would never wear those shoes,” you’ve been drinking something over 180 proof.
While a smaller press is more likely to have a closer relationship with you, it doesn’t mean this is the best way to publish.
Just as you’re willing to give feedback and go back and forth, so is the publisher, editor, and staff. If you’re wanting to be hands on, you’ll definitely be thrown into the ring of fire. It’s more likely you’ll be doing a lot more than dictating which side you want your character’s hair parted on the cover. Not everyone is cut out for this kind of commitment.
For some authors, they’re more happy tossing the manuscript to the professionals, collecting the check while moving onto the next story.
Number 3: Publishing is a Business
Regardless of whether you go big, or go small press, the publishing industry is a business. You still have to promote. With a smaller press, you’ll have to do more of it. The perk is you have a closer bond with your readers. Indie authors are more available to fans, and the fans like it. With a larger press you’ll get book signings but you’ll be traveling and doing much of the same thing with less interaction. How many best-selling authors have you had a deep meaningful conversation? How many of them message you daily?
There are exceptions to every “rule” but again this is a picture you need to zoom in and out of.
Number 4: Editing is Your Lifeline
If you decide to go with a small press, you may … or may not … have a real editor. Always ask for credentials and look at the work they’ve done before. Because of the lower budgets in small presses, sometimes the editor(s) may be less experienced leading to a less than stellar end result.
Editing takes time. A full novel of 100k words will not take 2 weeks and one pass to edit. I don’t care who your editor is. A real editor mauls the words, slashes the sentences, cleaves the paragraphs. When your book has bled enough your editor will begin the task of healing the wounds, putting the pieces together, and stitching the words until they are finally done.
Let me remind of you something before I go further. Small presses are usually (not always) geared toward newer, not-best-selling authors.
That means you are still learning.
Did you catch it? You are still learning. Your manuscript isn’t ready. It will bleed. And it should. It’s like hands-on training at a new job where you have the potential to make an unlimited amount of income if you learn the job. A job you only know how to do from observing another person do it.
Number 5: Everyone Can Tell A Story
What makes your story better than the author selling tons of copies right now? If you cannot answer this question you now understand why you are not a best selling author and why you are not above having more than 2-3 passes with an aggressive editor.
In conclusion, writing isn’t about the publisher … it’s about the author. What kind of author you desire to be is entirely up to you. Yes, bigger presses will offer advances. The expectation is you will sell enough to cover it. With a huge check in your hand, will it be too much pressure? If you’re with a small press, your royalty percentages are usually higher. Even though you don’t get an upfront “advance” you will still earn money based on sales.
The choice is yours. Whichever path you choose keep dreaming, and keep writing.
Comment below and let me know your thoughts about both styles of publishing. Are you an indie author who loves it? Or are you looking to go big? Are you an author with a bigger publisher and looking to try a small press? Looking forward to hearing what you guys think!