Publishing Strategies: Small Press/Independent
Out of the publishing platforms we’ve taken a look at thus far, small presses – often referred to as independent presses or publishers – are the closest to what we think of traditional publishing. Rather than harkening to mind the imposing facades of Harper Collins or RandomHouse, we see smaller houses with smaller staffs and, of course, smaller budgets.
A small, or independent, press is simply a publishing house with a low annual income. They tend to publish fewer than ten physical titles per year, though some might be known to put out more, and of course the advent of digital publishing has allowed many smaller presses to garner a larger list of titles. Small presses, as well, usually serve a specific niche or genre. For example, one press might publish only science fiction while another might focus on narrative memoir. Otherwise, a small press functions similarly to a large press (with a smaller staff, of course): they edit, market, oversee distribution for, etc the titles they purchase. And unlike vanity publishers, they pay you.
The great thing about (talented) small presses is that, while small, they can be fierce. With a focus on a specific genre, they are experienced and knowledgeable on the ins and outs of producing that kind of book. They can have a devoted audience and know where to market a book so that it sells best for the type of work it is. Of course they don’t have the same economic power of a bigger press – like one of the Big Six houses – and you can only go so far without the money to carry you. But the staff of a small press is a devoted group of people who are passionate about what they’re doing, and really believe in the writers they contract. They are also thought to be more interested in taking on new or emerging writers, and will often take on books that have less of a mainstream appeal (i.e. Big Six rejects; granted they’re good books from talented writers, of course).
That isn’t to say that big publishers are uncaring or uninterested in new authors and work that pushes the envelope. And in fact it can be difficult to get work placed with a small press that only takes on a few titles every year. But there are clear benefits to this strategy. Publishers in all “traditional” platforms are a passionate and dedicated group of people who really care about the work they’re doing (they have to be with how awful their pay is), but for many authors small press publishing might be the best suited path for them.
Q: Have you looked into small press publishing? Or had you never heard of it before? Do you think you’d pursue this method of publishing your own work?