Small presses are a wonderful option for many writers. They’re like having your cake and eating it, too. You get the benefit of professional editing, distribution and promotion while keeping creative freedom. Small presses are more open to new writers, but it is a myth that it’s easy to be published by a small press. Because they have a limit on what they publish per year, it can be even harder to get accepted. But overall, a new writer especially might find it worthwhile to try.
There are many reputable small presses out there, but there are also many sharks. If you are looking into small presses, electronic or print you need to be careful. You should always do your research on the company and never sign a contract until you’re absolutely sure the publisher is the real deal. You could end up signing away more than your book.
What to look for when searching for quality small presses:
If it’s a print pub, make sure the publisher has solid distribution. Not all small presses have books in stores, but their books should be available to retailers for order. You want your book in as many places as possible to give it the best chance. A publisher without distribution will make it harder not only to get your book out to readers but for you to secure book signings and events. Most stores will not allow you a book signing if the book cannot be ordered. You can always check retailers and see if they carry titles from a specific publisher. Stay away from publishers who offer books only through their site. This is a huge red flag.
2. Research the Publisher Thoroughly
Don’t just sign with someone because they seem to be nice people who love your work. Desperation only causes problems in the end. Check out the staff. Who are the editors? How long have they been in business and what publishing expertise do they have? Who is the head of the company? What is their background in publishing? What makes them qualified to publish your work? The best way to find this out is to ask the staff themselves. If they don’t wanna answer then most likely you don’t want them publishing your work.
3. Contact Publisher’s Current Authors
The best way to get a true feel for any publisher is by speaking to authors with the company. Most authors will be glad to answer your questions. Beware that not all opinions are the same. Look at how long an author has been with the company. If they have only been with the publisher a few months and have only glowing things to say they might be in the honeymoon stage and cannot be objective. Try contacting authors who have worked with the company a while and have multiple books out to get a valuable outlook.
4. Check out a Publisher’s Books
Always check out the books of publishers you’re thinking of working with. Are the books properly edited? Are the covers made up of tacky stock photos? It is standard practice for some small presses to use stock photos but the covers should still look professionally done. Is the binding cheaply made? You can check out books from ebook sites, too. Read online samples and check out ebook covers. You don’t want to be stuck with some cheap-looking, unedited book.
5. Beware of Author Mills
Don’t be desperate and settle for author mills. Author mills publish anything and everything. A monkey could type up a manuscript and an author mill would publish it. Most do not pay authors their royalties and use underhanded business practices. They don’t promote and once you’ve given them your work the staff often treats you like you’re none existent. The biggest sign of an author mill is a publisher that accepts books quickly and also gets their books out unrealistically fast. Decent publishing takes time even with epublishers.
6. Be Cautious with Brand New Presses
New presses are tricky because they haven’t been around long or established a reputation. You can’t be sure if they are good or bad. Be careful. Check out the staff. You need to know what makes them qualified to publish your work.
I can’t stress enough how important it is to research. You cannot afford shortcuts when selecting publishers. Another thing to remember is money flows to the author not from them. Unless you’re seeking out self-publishing companies or vanity presses, steer clear from any publisher that asks you for money.
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