Small Press Publishing

“Since the profit margins for small presses can be narrow, many are driven by other motives, including the desire to help disseminate literature with only a small likely market. Many presses are also associated with crowdfunding efforts that help connect authors with readers. Small presses tend to fill the niches that larger publishers neglect. They can focus on regional titles, narrow specializations and niche genres. They can also make up for commercial clout by creating a reputation for academic knowledge, vigorously pursuing prestigious literature prizes and spending more effort nurturing the careers of new authors. At its most minimal, small press production consists of chapbooks. This role can now be taken on by desktop publishing and Web sites. This still leaves a continuum of small press publishing: from specialist periodicals, short runs or print-to-order of low-demand books, to fine art books and limited editions of collectors’ items printed to high standards.” – Wikipedia

Some say that a small press is a publisher with annual sales under $50,000 and/or that publishes ten or fewer titles per year. Jane Friedman notes that they tend to have more flexible contract terms than the giant publishers. Personally, I like small presses because they focus on niche areas, regions, and genres that might make them a better fit for my work than a giant publisher.

While authors often speak favorably of the staff associated with imprints and divisions of large publishers, I think one is more likely to find a family/community atmosphere at a small publisher. In my wrap party post, I mentioned that the late Pat Conroy said of one of his books that his publisher had assigned some 15+ people to get his book out–from editors to book designers to cover artists to publicists.

At a small press, those 15 jobs might be done by several people and, as is true with my publisher Thomas-Jacob, by one person with a little bit of contractor help. This tells you that those who own and manage small presses are working out of a strong passion for their specialty areas–a labor of love that’s similar to a two or three-person bookstore as contrasted with chains or major independents such as Powell’s.

Small Press Listings.

New Pages, a handy writer’s resource, maintains an alphabetized list of small presses here. Some are sponsored or featured and have more extensive writer ups. The New Pages blog is filled with a large assortment of writing opportunities.

Poets & Writers maintains a listing os small presses here. You can sort these by genre and sub-genre.

Bookfox maintains a list of the 30 Best Small and Indie Literary Publishers. This list is annotated.

Powell’s Books, the largest independent book store in the country, has a list of 24 of Our Favorite Small Presses.

I like Powell’s introduction to its small-press list: “Most readers are familiar with the big publishing houses, like Penguin Random House and HarperCollins, but there are thousands of independent, smaller presses in the US and abroad committed to publishing diverse and debut voices, unconventional narratives, and works in translation, as well as hosting workshops and community programs. In honor of National Small Press Month, and with no small amount of hand-wringing — there are so many excellent choices — we present 24 of our favorite indie presses.”

I’ve just scratched the surface here about listings and the publishing benefits of small presses. My point is, there are hundreds of opportunities out there for your books if you don’t want to try a so-called BIG NEW YORK PUBLISHER. Big publishers deal in volume, so if you’re sending, say, your second book to one of them, they might expect your first book to have sold 15,000 to 20,000 copies. Some won’t look at your work if they don’t think it can sell 50,000 copies. You need a special kind of writing and a remarkable platform to break into this world.

A small press is much more likely to leave the porch light on for you.