I’ve been at a small press for about 8 months. My experiences there have been a mix though mostly positive or neutral in tone. Several unexpected lessons popped up, and I believe anyone who finds themselves with a contract from a small press needs to consider the following.
The lion’s share of the marketing has fallen on me which is common for small press authors. While literary agents and larger presses seek large platforms, not having one is less problematic with a publisher who can spend a couple hundred on ads without really worrying.
Small press doesn’t mean no marketing from the publisher; however, it can mean greatly limited efforts, and I certainly didn’t realize the ending pie chart going into editing. When reviewing any contract, assume the minimal obligations will be met. Don’t expect anyone to go out of their way to make your life easier. Especially publishers who often have two hundred or more other authors to meet contract obligations to – it’s really just good business sense on their part.
I love a good print book. The only time I use my Kindle is if my interest in a book is fleeting or it’s for my graduate coursework. Therefore, I predictably was disappointed to learn my publisher – and a good solid percent of other small press – don’t prefer print to ebook. Why?
They’re expensive. You can’t be certain you’ll make ends meet, and returns occur with a greater frequency. Even putting a traditional print run aside for a Print-on-Demand (PoD) paperback, the cost of PoD can make the whole endeavor not worth it to a publisher financially. This is why they have print thresholds. They make the money to put it back into the book.
Is it ideal if you want to hold a print copy of your book? Not really.
Does it make sense for a business that works on a budget far smaller than the industry’s Big Five? In most cases, yes.
As an introvert with antisocial tendencies, this was the hardest for me to wrap my mind around. Small presses have less employees. I deal with every single employee of my press, so I know what’s going on in their lives because even though I’m introverted, they aren’t.
This meant adjusting to a relationship that was professional yet personal. The degree, of course, varied alone a spectrum depending on the day’s activity. In our press’s author’s group, it’s personal with professional only when matters of industry arise. When negotiating contracts, it’s professional, but my publisher is willing to answer inane questions several times over and provide accounting numbers for my statistically minded heart because she knows me. She knows the way I think and understands we’ll both be happier with a decision if we both understand the big picture.
All in All?
Small press means a bigger chance of delays because there are less employees to pick up slack. It also means you’re more likely to know everything that’s going on which could affect your book and career. Like everything else, there are compromises and trade-offs. The best you can do is know what you’re getting into and find the best option for you.