The road to publication for many is often a bumpy one, and it’s ultimately up to you the writer, to decide which way you want to steer. Should you turn that wheel and head toward the bright lights of New York City, gleaming skyscrapers and huge corporations? Or should you turn that wheel toward the cottages and bed & breakfasts that line rural America? Unfortunately, there isn’t a road map or GPS guiding an author to their destiny. It’s up to you, the writer to decide which direction you’d like to go.
Sure, we would all love an urban oasis where our books are abound, line endcaps across America’s bookstores, and grace the bestseller list, but not every author has the same fate as Suzanne Collins or Stephanie Myer. Just as in any business, you must start somewhere, and not only are small presses accessible to beginning writers, they also provide opportunities during a fickle economy. The odds of getting published by a “major” publishing house are dwindling because of a failing economy. But there are so many wonderful stories that need to shared and that’s where small presses come in.
While the big publishing companies have been merging, the number of small presses has been increasing. Small presses are independently owned; they are not part of a corporation, and many if not most of them are devoted to a specific mission other than, or in addition to, maximizing profits.
Small presses tend to fill the niches that larger publishers neglect. They can focus on regional titles, narrow specializations, niche genres, and books that do not fit neatly into a commercial mold. And big presses seem to have a pretty specific set of molds right now. In a troubling economy, some big publishers are leery of taking on an unknown author, but it’s small presses that are taking a chance on new authors and championing new voices.
In the little-guy economy, the personal wins and this is one of a small press’s strengths. There’s a premium on the individual and getting an e-mail from somebody who says, ‘Hey, check this out,’ means a lot more to the recipient than a mass e-mail from the publicity department of a large corporation.
A writer can expect to work closely with the publisher, editor, and perhaps cover artist of a small press. Getting more personally involved with the publishing experience, having more input and control, dealing directly with their own contracts, and marketing their books provides a learning experience, one that provides a great stepping stone for eventually working with the Big Guys.
And last but not least, there’s the reward of seeing your work in print. As in any endeavor, writers need encouragement, one of the reasons why most of us continue to write. If your book is accepted by a small press, chances are they’ll be extremely enthusiastic and carry that enthusiasm all the way through to publication. In other words, you won’t be competing with 1,000 other books for in-company attention.
Small businesses face considerable challenges, and you don’t get any more small business than a small press. Big publishing houses can’t possibly publish all the books out there which is why the small press is an important engine for writers. So when you rev your own engine and hit the pedal to the metal, be sure to analyze your dreams of publishing and your goals for literary success. You might find yourself off the beaten path, but at a small stop that offers BIG rewards.
Lori Calabrese is an award-winning children’s author. Her first picture book, The Bug That Plagued the Entire Third Grade, was named Dragonfly Publishing Inc.’s 2009 Best Children’s Book. She writes for various children’s magazines, is the National Children’s Books Examiner at Examiner.com, and enjoys sharing her passion for children’s books at festivals, schools and events. Visit her website to learn more loricalabrese.com.