The Beginning of the END part Four — More on the Small Press


FaithHunter14SmallMorning, y’all!

I ended two weeks ago with a bit of the pros and cons when dealing with small presses, over big presses, and there were just as many cons as pros when it came to dealing with and being published by New York houses. I’d like to concentrate on one single pro today, and how it may often be better than dealing with big houses and with self-publishing.

(With apologies to Di, and her post on Friday!)

Pros for working with a small press? In my opinion is this – Writers get a bigger percentages on electronic sales. NYC offers a standard 25%. Most small presses offer 50% net. And the money flows to the author. A lot of people are going the self-pub route, because they think they can make a high percentage with the first check, and they are right on a sale-by-sale percentage. But that isn’t always so in the long run, because a poorly structured and edited book has less of a chance to bring in new readers than an edited and polished book. I want to sell beyond my family and buddies and create  a successful book. A small press can make that happen. How?

  1. The editorial process. We all think our work is grand until we get our first editorial letter, and then we often cringe because we have left plot holes, dropped plot threads, changed characters’ voices, and dozens of other things that a good developmental editor will catch and tell you to correct. Developmental editors are hard to find. They are expensive. And they are the single most important thing a writer needs to grab the attention of the reading public. If you find and pay for your own developmental editor, you have to vet them (do research on them), check their references, and then pay them. Up front. With a small press, you get this done ahead of time, for you.
  2. Copy editing and line editing. Keeping the details correct and making sure the plot threads are all finished is the job of a copy editor. Catching all the typos is the job of the line editor. These jobs cannot be done by your high school English teacher, your mother, your spouse, or your secretary.  These are specialized jobs for trained and experienced people, not for pals or family. Small presses have these people. Self-published writers seldom do. And again, a self-published writer has to pay them up front.
  3. Cover art. A lot of self-published covers look pretty crappy. Okay, a lot of New York house art is pretty awful too. A small press will often work with you to find and create the cover you envision for your book. And again, the writer doesn’t have to pay for this work.
  4. Formatting. Your books has to be formatted for all the electronic versions out there. Do you want to go through this learning process? Or pay the formatter? Again, money to the writer. ISBNs. Do you know how to get one? A small press buys them in bulk.
  5. ISBNs. Do you know how to get one? A small press buys them in bulk.
  6. PR – a small press has contacts among other writers for cover blurbs. A small press will have a website and may also have a twitter following and a face book page. A small press has contacts. A small press often has other writers to put you with for round-robin PR. As a self-published writer, thinking about that first book, do you have this?
  7. Dealing with hard-copy presses. Formatting the text for print. Getting the inside matter ready (all that copyright stuff). Formatting the cover for print. Getting the spine right. It’s harder than you think. It gives me a headache, frankly.
  8. Distributors. Getting in with Baker & Taylor or Ingram’s – places that distribute books to traditional markets. Can you get in? Many small presses have access already.

Frankly all this gives me nightmares, which is why (with one exception) I have never self-published. I have done the small press all the way and will continue to do so. And though my percentage per book is half, I don’t have to pay up front for ANYTHING! And I can spend all the hours writing my next project rather than learning and doing all the stuff above.

Yes, I know there will be disagreeing voices. And with lots of good reasons, because this is only the pro list! So hit me with your best shot. I want to see comments, people!





10 comments to The Beginning of the END part Four — More on the Small Press

  • mudepoz

    There are a lot of nightmare stories about small press. Some of the ones in erotica that people thought would last forever have crumbled to dust. I guess it’s like everything else, do your research. I have to admit. I love my publisher. I love her help, the editors, the artists. As things change, she rolls with it and takes advice as well as gives it. I’d say it was a Canadian thing, but she’s originally from Greece.

    Since PR is such a huge part of getting any kind of royalties, what a small press (at least mine, MuseItUp) offer still means a lot of work. However, it’s not starting in a vacuum as a new author who just wrote and self-published something does.

    Once again, I’m posting without caffeine or a finger filter. I really do need editors.

  • LOL. Good points Mud. In case some of you are wondering, over the last few days, a small press (that had grown into a big press for the erotica market) closed its doors. It was a hard blow to a lot of writers, but it was an indication of a press that didn’t roll with the market changes. It’s possible that it would have survived had it offered its biggest authors a better percentage. But that’s just an opinion, based on nothing but my own thoughts.

  • Okay, let me start by saying that using the phrase “hard blow” to talk about the fall of a house that specialized in erotica seems . . . unfortunate . . . 😉

    This is a terrific post and one that echoes things Faith and I have said in the past, here and elsewhere. Self-publishing is a really tricky choice for aspiring writers, precisely because of the lack of “built-in editing.” ALL of us need some editing. Maybe, after all these years, Faith and I need a bit less than someone who is just starting out. And still, I would never dream of putting out a novel without at least some editorial input. If you’re still developing as a writer, you need that. And at a small house, you’re going to get more personal attention than you would from a NY publisher. Small presses are a great option, precisely because they split the difference in a way between New York publishing and self-publishing.

  • (bursts out laughing)

    Not commenting on the “hard blow” comment. (shakes head) I never even noticed… And now I am terrified that I’ll make a booboo in something else I write here.

    But yes, that publishing option is exactly what I mean, David. Small presses split the difference between large houses and self-pubbing, and give a writer time to just write. And work on edits that make a book much better. And build a following of readers.

  • I agree that self-pubbing is not necessarily the best option. And it’s absolutely critical that the book be edited and copy edited by professionals. And the cover must be good. Those things cannot be stressed enough. The major thing is that it is an option now, and for many authors, and I am one, going hybrid is an exciting choice. One of the things that makes a self-pubbed book or series so exciting, is that you can use it to generate sales in your other books by putting it on sale and running ads and that sort of thing. But. It most definitely is not for everyone and it’s important to know what you’re getting into and the costs before you leap. If the return on investment isn’t there, then you shouldn’t do it. Unless you’re doing it for friends and family and such, which is an entirely different matter. I do know a number of authors who are trying it because of draconian clauses popping up in their traditional contracts. I do ADORE my publisher–Belle Bridge Books. My editor is wonderful, my copy editor has been fantastic, the staff is incredible and responsive, and they keep up with the changing market. I do not want to give them up for anything. I hope they don’t want to give me up 😀

  • Di, I was hoping you would jump in here. Self publishing is *finally* an option for all. But for the newbie, getting that push (however small) from a small press, seems vital. Or maybe I’m just a scared rabbit hiding in the brush!

  • One major question is what can you do v. what can a press do about marketing? And will they do it? For instance, a press can get you into Kindle Select or Kindle of the week or some such. I don’t know that an individual can. And then there’s catalogs and circulating to bookstores and getting you reviewed in magazines and where to put your money for the biggest bang. But some small presses do nothing. So it really is something that the writer needs to discuss with the publisher and research for him/herself before signing. For me, the marketing portion is huge. I want to use my indie stuff to help my trad stuff and vice versa. So for instance, in The Incubus Job, I asked my Belle Bridge editor to let me put a chapter in the back to advertise. Cross-pollination. She was happy to. I don’t know if one of the NY houses would have been willing, but there’s no downside to it.

    I know self-pubbed writers who’ve done poorly in terms of sales. Their hope is that as they increase their book numbers, they’ll hit. On the other hand, I have a former student who writes sweet Romances who had no name, self published, and is making a good living–enough to support her family. So it’s a crapshoot there as well as with traditional publishing. YOu never know if you’ll hit or if the readers will find you.

  • One thing I forgot to say was that in self-pubbing, the money comes more frequently, so that you can have a steadier income. That said, people have to buy your books to get that income, so going small press or mid press first could be the smartest move, unless you have the money to fund a good and savvy marketer.

  • Great post, Faith! I love this discussion. Small presses really seem to be the way things are going these days, and that’s not such a bad thing.

    About the editing: You hit the nail on the head, here. Copy and line editing require a *lot* of focus. I find myself reading a manuscript I’m working on at least three times through, making manual notes as I go along. And developmental editing, which I’ve occasionally been asked to do lately? It’s not just dropped threads and plot holes (though those are definitely big issues), it’s also niggly details, like conversation flow (“Character X said this to Character Y, so why do you have Character Z mention it instead of Y?”) and paying attention to the timeline for plausible temporal flow. There are so many details to keep track of! Having that kind of support is definitely worth it. 🙂

  • Sorry I took so long to reply. Death and deadlines…
    Anyway —
    Di, you make valid points and are heading where most writers (except maybe the top 200) are heading. Into a hybrid lifestyle of writing.
    Laura, totaly. The more trained people who read my work the more problems that get pointed out to me, and the better it is.