Sunday, July 1, 2012

The Advantage of Small Presses

Couldn't resist using this picture of my dish washing assistant. Good things come in small packages, yes?

Most writers dream about the big score - being published with a big New York City publishing house. For me it's embodied by movies where they show editors commanding assistants to deal with the diva author who's come to visit. They plot ways to get the writer to deliver the book. Or to soothe ruffled feathers. There are expensive luncheons and receptions and anxious publicists catering to the author's every need. Also? Lots of mahogany and glass. And martinis!

Totally archaic. And likely unrealistic even in the hey day.

But it's a lovely fantasy.

Part of that fantasy is the author as superstar. The Castle lifestyle that Carolyn mentioned yesterday. The other part is that it's a rarified place to be. It's not easy to get in with a big house.

This is where small presses come in. Paradoxically, it can be easier to publish with a smaller press precisely because they are less corporate and can have a different focus. A small press might like your offbeat guide to southwestern roadside curry vendors, where a big house sees something like that as falling well below the margin of profitability. Smaller presses also are more accessible, with more flexible business practices.

My first book (Wyoming Trucks, True Love and the Weather Channel) was published by the University of New Mexico Press. My editor corrected me, though, when I referred to it as a small press, saying that she'd call it a medium-sized press. It used to be that a small press was generally defined as one that produced less than ten books a year. I have no idea how the rise of digital-first presses affects this. Ellora's Cave, one of the first digital presses and arguably one of the biggest, is releasing 16 ebooks this week, whereas Carina Press, which is a smaller imprint of the giant house, Harlequin, is releasing three. Some of this reflects a different emphasis in business practices and intended audience, too.

I can vouch that working with Carina "feels" like working with a smaller press than my Ellora's Cave interactions do. More like when I worked with UNM Press.

It will be interesting to compare, if I ever publish with one of the big NYC houses.

Frankly, though, I've just never been that good at being a diva.


  1. You better start practicing being a diva for when it happens ;-)

  2. Ha! Such confidence. Maybe I'll start with small temper tantrums...

  3. - And at small presses the office kitten is always doing things like sitting in the dish washer, playing with the used copier toner, hiding the paper clips...why your agent has a saucer covering the top of her tea cup.

    Ok, I'm dreaming, I have never had an agent or publisher (yet), but when I'm ready, I hope they have an office kitten.

  4. I think your vision is right on the mark, John. Love it!