Tag Archives: small press

The Publishing Consortium

Around seven years ago, I was looking to self-publish some of my old tales that had reverted back to me. I also had a couple of friends that were looking to do the same thing. At the time I was working full-time in the IT field and had some extra funds I could use to buy a block of ISBNs from Bowker, the company that controls them in the United States.

Looking at the options, I could spend $125 for each one or, if I purchased in bulk, the price dropped down to a buck each. I decided to buy a thousand-block and founded The Publishing Consortium, which is a cooperative for a bunch of publishing imprints for my friends and my own little personal publisher.

It took quite a bit of research to find out how I was able to legally assign ISBNs without getting into trouble. Bowker would rather sell a couple of high-priced ISBNs at a time, so some of the information was buried.

By registering sub-imprints, I was able to create an entry in Bowker that would show up when someone looked up the ISBN to see the imprint that published the title. Even though The Publishing Consortium is the overall owner of the block, I was able to give out contiguous small blocks for my friends who needed non-CreateSpace assigned ISBNs. For the most part, I gave out chunks based on how much they planned on publishing. Several got 20, and some received 50. Originally I was going to charge five bucks each so I could buy more when my thousand-block ran out, but since most of my friends are authors and are therefore, by extension, not rolling in gold coins like Scrooge McDuck, I don’t think I’ve received anything except lots of goodwill and continued friendship. Oddly enough, I think I’m ahead of the game.

Small press publishers looking for a place to park at a convention.

If you’re considering setting up your own imprint, I would recommend you go with the cooperative plan unless you happen to have $1500 you can spare. Yes, the price of a thousand-block went up 50% for an imaginary number. It’s better to get ten folks to toss in $150 each, and you can register all of the publishers as an imprint. I always use ISBNs on print books, and sometimes I also assign them to ebooks. What some folks don’t know is that your ebook ISBN is good for all versions, including MOBI, ePUB, and even PDFs. If bookstores wish to buy copies, they won’t see those dreaded Amazon-owned ISBNs.

You can also set up more shared functions between all of the small publishers. Perhaps you can share editors, artists, layout experts, and even marketers. By trading specialties, everyone can contribute something and all of the members will benefit. As they say, a rising tide raises all boats. When all the boats works together it’s called an armada, which can be a powerful force.


 

About the Author:DeMarco_Web-5963

Guy Anthony De Marco is a disabled US Navy veteran speculative fiction author; a Graphic Novel Bram Stoker Award® nominee; winner of the HWA Silver Hammer Award; a prolific short story and flash fiction crafter; a novelist and poet; an invisible man with superhero powers; a game writer (Sojourner Tales modules, Interface Zero 2.0 core team, third-party D&D modules); and a coffee addict. One of these is false.
A writer since 1977, Guy is a member of the following organizations: SFWA, WWA, SFPA, IAMTW, ASCAP, RMFW, NCW, HWA. He hopes to collect the rest of the letters of the alphabet one day. Additional information can be found at Wikipedia and GuyAnthonyDeMarco.com.

 

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!