Thursday, July 5, 2012

Pressing Business

by Allison Pang

Pardon me if this post seems a bit short and rambly. I'm actually still on vacation and I've been staying off the internet for the most part (and the wi fi is fairly spotty at best anyway.)

To be honest, this week is a little difficult for me - mostly because I don't have any real experience with small presses. But there are moments when I wish I did.

I did look at some when I first decided to try to get published. Back when I was finishing up my manuscript I was in awe of anyone who had a book on the shelves. The dream of getting published was just that - a dream. The mere idea of even attempting to get my manuscript read or accepted by an agent or a New York house was overwhelming. I didn't think I was ready or even had the talent to try.

I think a lot of this was compounded by the fact that so many other writers I knew from workshops and online groups constantly talked about how long they'd been writing for, how many rejections they had, how many trunk books they had.

I didn't have any of that, so I assumed I couldn't possibly be ready for the big time. I started looking at small presses, under the assumption that I needed to pay my dues there first (as has been previously mentioned this week by some of the others, small presses can be fantastic places to grow talent.) Plus I had a project I was working on at the time with a co-writer and I thought some of the more erotica based small presses would have been a better fit for what we had.

But then the project fell apart and I was left with only the solo wip that I had started to write to have something to learn with. And I wavered as to what I should try to do - but I knew that I wanted to be traditionally published, so I figured I'd start at the top and see what happened.

And somehow, it worked. I got my deal. I got my NY publishing credentials.

But I also got lost in the shuffle.

One of the things I definitely envy among many of my small-press author friends is the fabulous relationships they have - with their editors, with their publicists...and with the overall enthusiasm their publishers treat their work.  Small presses tend to be more transparent in some ways - you can definitely get a better sense of how things work from a business perspective.

Traditional publishing with the big six is a bit more murky, especially for a mid-lister. So, no - I can't give anyone specific advice about small presses. What I can tell you is that in the three years I've been with my publisher, I've been orphaned twice by my editors (I'm on editor number 3 for book number 3 - and no, this isn't because of diva behavior on my part. One editor quit and went elsewhere. One editor went on maternity leave and never came back). Same with my publicists - number 3 on this new book, and I've never even spoken to her on the phone. I have very little idea as to what she does or how she does it (with the exception of sending galleys out for review).

I suppose this makes me sound a bit jaded. I probably am.

It's not that I'm not grateful for the opportunities I've been given, but sometimes I think there's this idea that getting a "deal" means all your writing problems will go away in a halo of rainbows and roses. The truth of it is that publishing is a business, whether you go large or small press, or go with self-publishing. We like to think that being an author is all about the words, but it really isn't anymore.

It can be hard to research publishing houses - as I mentioned above, the big six can be rather tight-lipped when it comes to telling their authors what the sales numbers are, for example. Communication can sometimes be slow.  With the ebook./DOJ issue floating about, it becomes even more difficult, especially when it comes to trying to figure out what's fair as far as royalties and advances go
If you're thinking of working with a small press - check out their track record (especially with someone like Preditors & Editors). One of the things I've noticed is that with the advent of ebooks, a large number of small presses have popped up. Some are legit....but an awful lot seem to have been created by authors who couldn't get their work published anywhere else so decided to create their own publishing company to avoid the "stigma" of self-publishing.

Bottom line is: If you have a contract, *really* take a good look at what you're getting....and what you're giving up. There have been so many horror stories out there of authors who have been jilted out of royalties or had their work changed or stolen because the authors are so desperate to get their work in print. You can save yourself a world of hurt by doing your homework (even if some circumstances are beyond your control).

In the end, I guess the only real advice I can give is make sure you really want it - once you sell, things become a whole new ball game - and chances are, you'll be learning the rules as you go.

1 comment:

  1. Really great post, Allison. I think this will be useful information for a lot of people. Thanks for sharing!