The Benefits of Small Presses

Studying_Scott_AkermanBy Cecilia Lewis

As an editor at a mid-size publisher, I am often asked about the benefits of publishing with a smaller press. Many writers are familiar with the benefits of traditional publishing vs. self-publishing, but what about legitimate, smaller presses? Should writers submit their work there?

Of course, every book is different; I can’t give advice on the best path for your book or your long-term career. But if publishing with a small press fits your goals, I think it’s definitely worth considering. Here are some of the benefits small presses can offer:

  1. Accepting unsolicited/unagented submissions

Many small presses not only accept unsolicited/unagented submissions but actively seek them, unlike larger houses. It can be easier to get your manuscript in front of the right editor at a smaller press. Of course, I would caution any writer who is considering signing a contract without an agent; this is not the best route for everyone. But for writers with the knowledge/ability to negotiate their own contract, it’s certainly a viable option.

  1. Specialization

Many small presses specialize in specific genres or niche markets and are very familiar with that audience. Larger houses tend to look for manuscripts with broad commercial appeal, whereas smaller presses can be much more successful in niche markets. If your book fits into a specialized niche, seeking out smaller presses may be the best option for you.

  1. More individual attention

Perhaps the most important benefit of a smaller press is the individual attention you and your book will receive from not only your editor but also everyone involved in the process, from the designer to the publicity team. When a press releases a smaller number of books, you can be certain that yours will be their top priority. The working relationship is more personal, and you may get to know everyone on staff. As an editor myself, forming strong working relationships with my authors and helping them build their careers is one of the most rewarding parts of my job.

  1. More author involvement

Similarly, many small presses allow the author to be more involved in other aspects of the process, such as design and marketing. You might be asked to give more input on the cover design or work more closely with the marketing team than you would at a larger house.

  1. Supportive community

Additionally, you might receive more support and attention from fellow authors at the same press. I know that many of my authors have received support not only from my entire team but also from other authors that we work with. Having a smaller community means that everyone knows each other well, and many writers are incredibly supportive of their peers.

  1. Long-term support

For many presses, sales numbers are a marathon, not a sprint. Small presses tend to support all of their books long-term and keep them in print longer, whereas many large publishers push big sales numbers right away and might keep a book in print for only a year or so. Many small presses will continue to both print and promote their backlist titles for longer periods.

  1. You can be a bestseller

Many writers believe that their books won’t be bestsellers with a small press, but that’s not necessarily true. Some small presses, like mine, have produced bestselling titles. It’s difficult to become a bestseller with a small press, just as it is with a larger house, but it is possible.

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Of course, there are cons to consider as well. A small press will probably have a smaller budget, especially for promotion. Some are ebook only, and for those that do print physical copies, distribution may also be a problem (though some presses, like mine, work with larger publishing houses for distribution). It’s not the right path for every writer or every book, but small presses are an important and often-overlooked option for publication.

Have you ever published with a small press? Would you consider submitting to one? What are the pros and cons I missed? Let me know in the comments!

Interested in professional editorial services? Check out my Services page for more info on working with me!

This post is part of my Submission Tips series. For information about submitting to publishing houses, literary agencies, and more, check out the other posts in the series here, and follow the blog to see future posts!

Related Links:

-10 Tips for Writing a Query Letter

-5 Steps for Researching Literary Agents

-The Querying Process 101: Links and Resources

-8 Tips on Submitting to Literary Journals

-7 Tips for Writing a Professional Cover Letter

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