Okay, you’ve signed a contract with a small press and you’re doing the butt-wiggle dance of joy.
You probably sent your book to a lot publishers and at last your work found a home. Whether you’re a new writer or have been published before, it’s a relief to know you’ve found someone else who loves your work as much as you do.
Screeching To a Halt: Loving Small Presses
It’s that I want to bold and italicize:
We love your book, too.
I can nearly 100% guarantee that that’s why any small press anywhere wants to publish your book. Not because we think it’ll be snapped up for film rights, or you’re the kid of a famous writer, we want to publish your book because we love that kind of book.
That’s the absolute beauty of independent publishers: because we’re not a conglomerate, because so many, many small presses have a niche focus – Lesbian romances, Aussie crime fiction, Regency supernatural, Sherlock Holmes gay mysteries – we can each focus on unique books and the writers producing them.
Because we're not global conglomerate trying to keep ourselves in the black, like Random House Penguin, we can absolutely publish books we love. The lights we’re keeping on aren’t in an office tower, they’re our own, because most small presses I know are run out of a garage, a spare room, or a home office.
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Sure, small presses need to be in the black like the big presses, but we can get there selling far fewer books than those big publishers, because we don’t have their overhead. And heck, most of us have day jobs to make double-damn sure the lights stay on.
So What’s Your Point, Atlin Merrick?
What I’m trying to say here is that a small press can publish voices the big presses won't, because we can sell less and still stay in business.
Which is amazing for you and me as writers, and it’s why so many of us get published with an independent press first. Big presses may come for you when you’ve got a dozen books in your mystery series, but it’s almost always the small press which is going to take that initial risk on you.
Right, fine, so what’s your actual point, Atlin Merrick?
Which Brings Me to Royalties
Some new writers look at the percentage they make on a book and presume the rest of of the money goes right into their publisher's plump pockets.
Whether a press is publishing Indigenous voices, children’s books, crime novels, mystery stories, or romances the absolute fact is this: most of the books any press puts out will do just basic business. And yet every press has fixed costs: paying proofreaders, layout artists, copyeditors, and cover artists.
Most small presses are likely running on a shoestring yet it's this smallness that's a gift, to you and to us.
Through small presses, important voices are heard. Through small presses, more voices are heard. Through small presses, some voices grow into bigger, louder voices that help make changes.
Which Brings Me to Who's Out to Get You
Despite what I've heard unpublished writers say, no one is out to get you because we are you. Nearly everyone working at a small press is also a writer, so we know how it feels to get rejected, get edited, wait out the publishing queue.
A small press, like the one whose site you’re on now, started and continues to exist because they love a certain sort of book and want to see more of them out in the world. So no one's rejecting or editing you for LOLs or taking your heard-earned…anything. Instead we try to be part of the change we want to see on the bookshelf.
So we need you to work with us.
That means you have an obligation to politely ask questions if you have them. You have an obligation to understand that independent publishers are not conglomerates. We're not Hachette or Penguin, so demanding more royalties, shinier covers, a faster book turnaround, well that’s magic particular to big presses and even then you need to move a million books first.
Small presses world-wide open doors for unique voices, niche genres, new stories. They're not out to get you, they’re out to put your book in reader’s hands. Into their own hands.
So help them.
Atlin Merrick has a lot of thoughts about a lot of things. Usually she writes these sorts of blog posts because someone asked a thing about that topic and She Had Some Thoughts™. Hopefully these particular thoughts were helpful. If they were, let Atlin know below. If you want to Ask a Thing too, let her know that as well.