Tag Archives: publishing

Mis-Adventures with a Small Press

I started my writing career with the glassy eyed hope of being traditionally published by a New York Publishing House. My books would be in book stores (this was a while ago, back when Borders was still in business and Barnes and Noble was going strong), people would line up out the door for my signings, I’d have options for movies and I’d get fan mail asking when my next book would be out. Or death threats for killing a character.

Well, it’s pretty hard to break into that world, which I found out the slow and painful way. I decided I would write a book with the purpose of getting it published. A year later it was “ready.” I queried every agent I’d ever met, and some I hadn’t. I did my research and sent my manuscript off to about forty agents and a couple of publishers that took open submissions. Then I waited.

I knew it was a good story, but I didn’t realize that it wasn’t up to snuff for major publishing. After about six months of rejections, I was with my writing group and one of them had heard of a new press in our area. They were small, but after some quick research I felt that they would be innovative enough to keep up with the quickly changing publishing world. Almost on a whim, I submitted the first three chapters and a synopsis of my novel. And waited again.

A couple of months after that, I met this publisher at a conference. They were all really young, and I was a little afraid, but they remembered my story and asked for the rest of it. I obliged. A couple of weeks later, I had a publishing contract with them. I was on cloud nine!

Then, of course, reality set in. The original publishing date for my manuscript got pushed back not once, but twice. It only took me forty-five minutes to go through the “heavy editing” pass for my book. Trust me, it wasn’t that good. I never got a finalized copy edit from the publisher, and never received an e-copy of my book.

The biggest surprise was how much marketing they expected me to do. The only real direction I got was to be on as many social media platforms as possible and become the queen of them. Interact. Reach out. Be cool. Which isn’t terrible advice, but social media is not my forte. Which left me stressing about getting 30+ Tweets out a week and as many comments on other people’s stuff along with Facebook. And whatever else I could get involved in.

The only marketing my small press did for me was setting up book signings around my home, which was nice, and providing bookmarks and ARC copies of my book. After that, I was totally on my own. A rock tossed into a lake that had one trajectory—down.

I did see my book in Barnes and Noble (Sorry the picture is fuzzy, but my book is there), which was awesome. What wasn’t awesome was that they put it in the adult fantasy section. Right next to Brandon Sanderson. Hello, I write YA, not adult stuff. Brandon Sanderson readers would likely not dig my book. Which is fine, they’re not my audience. I talked to every B&N I went to and finally found out that the B&N hierarchy had somehow put my book into the category they thought it “Fit best” in. Uh, no. Nothing I did could change their minds. Which was frustrating.

Paralleling my experience with a small press, I had a friend who went Indie. She was building an audience and having a great deal of success as she figured out how to utilize Amazon to do her bidding.

One day I sat in a room full of authors doing book signings. Brandon Sanderson was in one corner, with his line out the door. Next to me sat a woman who had made six figures the year before Indie publishing. Not going to lie, I checked out her books and they weren’t that great, but they were in the “all the rage” category at the time. My brain went into action.

I had a long conversation with myself about what I really wanted. Did I want that line, or did I want to make money? Which you can do with a New York Press, but it’s very difficult with a small press. It’s not picnic with a large press either, especially since more and more of the marketing responsibility is being laid at the author’s feet. And without control over your categories and price point on-line it makes marketing more difficult.

After my book had basically tanked after two months, and my small press said they wouldn’t publish the second one unless I somehow sold a bunch of copies of the first, I decided to get out. I’d put a clause in my contract that they only had 60 days for their first rights of refusal. They went beyond that, and I got out. No fuss. No hard feelings. It just didn’t work out for me.

As I look back, I see that this small press wasn’t prepared for their own ambitious publishing schedule. Almost everyone there were interns (not actually paid) so you never knew if you were getting a good edit or even good advice. No one was trying to screw anyone else, but a company can only break so many promises before things go south.

Was it worth it to see my book in a bookstore? Yes. Would I do it again? Not sure. I needed that experience. It was my dream, and it came true. But like so many dreams, it wasn’t quite what I had pictured.

Important Resources For Researching Small Presses

I’m no authority on small publishers. Or big ones.

Oh, you aren’t either?

Awesome! Let’s learn together.

Let’s start from the beginning. What are the differences between big and small presses? What does it mean for you as a writer? You’ll have to do research on specific presses, but usually, a larger publisher will have a sizable staff with different departments that can see to the publication of your book from beginning to end, including marketing and advertising. Does this mean small presses don’t have these? Not necessarily. Many small presses have all of that as well, but some may not have as large of budgets to spend on marketing and advertising, for example. Some may not have the distribution that bigger publishers have. Each publisher is different, and you’ll need to research each you are interested in individually to see what they offer.

First, how can you determine if a publisher is a small or large press? An imprint? Check out this incredibly handy chart made just one year ago that shows the big publishers and their imprints: https://almossawi.com/big-five-publishers/.

Here’s an example of one section of the chart:

As you can see from just this branch, the chart is comprehensive, and is a good resource if you want to find an imprint of any of the top (and largest) publishers.

If you’ve established that the publisher you’re looking for isn’t an imprint, here’s a fantastic resource in Poets & Writers for almost every small press: https://www.pw.org/small_presses.

You’ll notice that each publisher has a brief description, their reading period dates, which genre(s) they publish, and any sub-genres. Most smaller publishers should be listed in this comprehensive database, and will include a link to their websites. Read every word of the publisher’s website. I mean it! Every. Single. Word. Take a day or seven to consider if the publisher would be a good fit for you and your work.

Compile a list of the small presses that you think would be the best fit.

Once you’ve considered a number of publishers, small and large and otherwise, what exactly should you be looking for? What questions should you be asking yourself, and what information should you be looking for?

The Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America website has an entire page dedicated to information about small presses, including warning signs one should know to look out for when considering a smaller press. While it’s a lot of information, it’s well worth the read and worth bookmarking for future reference: http://www.sfwa.org/other-resources/for-authors/writer-beware/small/. At the end of the article, SFWA lists a number of additional resources.

Which is the best publisher?

That, my friend, is up to your own evaluation of your writing, your career goals, and the publisher that can best help you achieve your goals. It’s all a matter of research and evaluation. Happy researching and evaluating!

 

Are Small Publishers a Small Price?

When it comes to publishing, opinions vary by wide margins. Some say traditional publishing is the only way to get noticed, to come out with a quality book, and to have a chance at a wide readership. Others say traditional publishing is a scam, they use their authors, and only the top sellers get anything out of the relationship. For some, indie publishing is the only way to go. The writer has full autonomy of their work; able to make the covers, formatting, and editing quality the way they think it should be done. Yet, I’ve seen some authors and readers turn their noses up at indie publishing, saying it floods the market with sub-par books and the writers are wannabe hacks who couldn’t cut it in “real” publishing.

And then we come to small publishers. Are small publishers a middle-ground or a scam? Because the books are vetted by non-partial book enthusiasts, does that lend them more credibility? Are they run by publishing novices who don’t really know what they’re doing? Do they have the power to increase marketing and exposure or is it just self-publishing where the author does more work and never sees royalties? Are authors risking their novels/career/time because the small publishers always fold within five years? Are authors increasing productivity because a small publisher takes care finding and working with editors, cover artists, and formatting?

In short, what does it cost us to use a small publisher and what are the rewards? This is the question we’ll be asking this month. Read each day for views from the authors and the publishers. Our fictorians and multiple guests are going to be writing about personal experience and personal views. As always, we’d love to hear your comments. Keep the conversation civil and discard any preconceptions. Let the debate begin:

Colette Black Bio:
Author PicColette Black lives in the far outskirts of Phoenix, Arizona with her family, 2 dogs, a mischievous cat and the occasional unwanted scorpion. Author of the Mankind’s Redemption Series, The Number Prophecy series, and the new Legends of Power series, Colette writes New Adult and Young Adult sci-fi and fantasy novels with kick-butt characters, lots of action, and always a touch of romance. Find her at www.coletteblack.net

 

Guest Post: J.A. Sutherland

My 2016 Year in Review

In putting together notes for this post, I’m actually pretty glad I decided to do it. In many ways, 2016 was a horrible year – but for my writing career, I find it was pretty good, and writing this gave me some very positive things to reflect on.

One of the positive things is that I wound up with some interesting data on presales – as a data-driven guy, I like that.

Presale periods are a surprisingly divisive issue for authors, with some swearing by them and others … well, there’s some swearing involved there, as well.

One of the arguments against them is that, at least on Amazon, sales from the prerelease period don’t “count” toward rank on release day, thus not driving a new release as high in the charts as it might otherwise go.

I think that’s short-sighted. Marketing is all about eyeballs – getting more eyeballs on a product, repeatedly, so that it becomes more familiar and more likely to be purchased. Given this, it would seem that sustained, longer-term visibility is more beneficial than a shorter period, even if the shorter period, even if the shorter period gets more individual eyeballs.

A presale period does this by staying on the new release charts longer, exposing the book to eyeballs more often, and my personal dataset seems to bear this out.

First by happenstance, then by design, I released three of my four books following the same pattern and at the same time of year. In addition, I do very little marketing, so my sales charts are largely unaffected by ads and are driven almost exclusively by visibility on Amazon.

My first, third, and fourth books were all made available for prerelease in August, starting in 2014, with a release date in November, the maximum prerelease period available on Amazon to a self-published author.

There were relatively few presales with the first book, but what I observed with the third and fourth was striking.

Now, all of the expected YMMV caveats apply – this is data for a series, in the space opera genre, and may not apply elsewhere, especially to stand alone novels. Also, I’m tracking dollars-earned, not number of copies, because, frankly, that’s what I care about.

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  1. I put my first book on presale in August 2014 for a November release. It had a trickle of presales over that time, and more sales when it finally released.
  2. Book 2 went on presale in November 2014 for a February release, which, I think, helped Book 1’s sales after a bit.
  3. After which, sales fell steadily through the new in the last 30-, 60-, and 90-day lists.
  4. Until Book 3 went on presale in August 2015. Now, it’s important to remember that the dollars for presales don’t register until the book’s actually released, so this jump in sales (of 10x the previous months) is entirely sales of the existing books, not the new one. I did virtually no advertising or promotion during this time, so the effect is entirely attributable to the visibility of Book 3 on the Hot New Release charts, which are significantly easier to get on than a category’s Best Seller chart.
  5. So I got 90-days of that visibility, then all the revenue from presales, and still had 30-days of “new release” status going into November.
  6. The question I started asking as Book 3 lost that status was: Is that repeatable? Not just the spike of new release sales and initial visibility, but the sustained sales of the previous books while the next is in prerelease? It seemed logical, but so many authors were swearing that the Day One spike was essential.
  7. Well, sure enough, it did repeat, with slightly different pattern because Book 4 went on prerelease a bit later in August this time.
  8. All of which resulted in, again, more presales of the next book, making November 2016 my best month ever.
  9. And projecting December to be better than last year as well, though not as much as it could be because the audiobook of the new release is a bit delayed (Book 3’s audiobook released in December 2015, increasing that month’s revenue.

It could be argued that the higher rank of a Day One, no-prerelease spike might make more money, but given what I know about marketing, I don’t think so. Amazon’s algorithms favor stability of rank over spikes, so I don’t think a higher spike would last as long in its effect. I know that it would take a huge number of sales in 30-days of visibility from no prerelease to make up for the revenue I see in 120-days with one – it doesn’t seem feasible.

Marketing is about eyeballs and while some people will buy your book the first time they see it, others will think “maybe” – the longer it’s visible, the more opportunities there are to both get the initial buyers and convert the “maybes” to yeses.

I know I plan to repeat this with my next release and hope 2017 will be better still.

untitled ..Bio:

Bio:
J.A. Sutherland spends his time sailing the Bahamas on a 43′ 1925 John G. Alden sailboat called

Yeah … no. In his dreams.

Reality is a townhouse in Orlando with a 90 pound huskie-wolf mix who won’t let him take naps.

When not reading or writing, he spends his time on roadtrips around the Southeast US searching for good barbeque.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jasutherlandbooks/
Twitter: @JASutherlandBks
Website: www.alexiscarew.com