Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Small Publishers: Myths Busted Here


Have you ever considered submitting to a small publisher? Were you confused about their place in the industry, or what they bring to the table? Today Karen Gowen, Managing Editor at WiDo Publishing, is here to shed some light on small publishers and bust some myths for us. Here's a Q and A session with Managing Editor Karen Gowen:

Julie Musil: What are some common misconceptions about small publishers? Can you do a little “myth busting" for us?

Karen Gowen:
  1. “A small press can’t do anything for me I can’t do as well or better for myself.” A common misconception, that doesn’t take into consideration the cost of time and money it requires to do it all yourself rather than sharing the load with professionals who are willing to invest in your work.
  2. “Small publishers can’t get my book in a bookstore.” If a small publisher has the right distribution channels then your book can certainly be in a bookstore. However, remember that ultimately the bookstore chooses what it puts on its shelves and with millions of books to choose from, they need to have a reason to stock yours. This is why we encourage our authors to promote themselves and their books the first 90 days of their launch, in partnership with their local bookstores.
  3. “They might go out of business.” Any company, large or small, can fail for any number of reasons. It’s important to do your research and feel confident about the publisher you choose. And be sure there’s a clause in your contract where the rights will revert to you should they go out of business.
  4. “If my book doesn’t do well it will hurt my chances of getting an agent and a big contract later.” This really doesn’t apply in today’s publishing market. Many authors are going hybrid, trying all kinds of ways to publish and market their work, and a savvy publisher will understand this. One of our top-selling books, Waxing Moon by H.S. Kim, was previously self-published with poor rankings and sales. It frustrated the author who decided to submit it to WiDo. Our submissions editor saw how with a better title and cover and professional editing, her book could get another chance, and that’s exactly what happened.
  5. “All publishers are out to cheat the author and make money on their hard work.” Any publisher who cheats their authors will not stay in business long. It’s a partnership, where if the book sells, both parties benefit. If a book does not do well, the publisher has lost money on their investment while the author has lost their investment of time and hope. It is disappointing but there are no guarantees. Ultimately it’s the marketplace that determines how a book will sell. Some think it’s the publisher’s fault if the book doesn’t do well. This is a short-sighted view which won’t help one’s career. Better to just move on and write another book. A legitimate publisher has strong motivation to see a book make money, and both author and publisher will share in the success.
Julie Musil: What are some of the benefits of working with a small press vs. pursuing a Big 5 publisher or going indie?

Karen Gowen: A major benefit over going indie is you’ve got someone else financing the editing, typesetting, cover design, etc. rather than having to pay for these costs yourself. Plus you’re dealing with professionals who have done it all before. This takes a lot of pressure off the author, allowing you to focus on your own marketing efforts as well as on the next book you want to write. And a small press can have the same distribution channels as a large one—distribution that is not available to the self-published. WiDo distributes worldwide through Ingram and Baker & Taylor, the two largest distributors to bookstores, both brick and mortar and online. 

The benefits over using a Big 5 publisher are personal contact, quick turnaround time, and your book getting a longer chance to find its niche rather than mid-listed after 30 days if it doesn’t sell right out the door. Books submitted to WiDo are often published within a year to 18 months of signing the contract. Our editors don’t have a huge backlog of work and can give personal attention to each author they work with. Each book and author is treated equal to every other one. Some books may do well right after launching, others might take longer, and unfortunately, there are books that never really find an audience. But we never give up on any of them because we know how good they are.

Julie Musil: What should authors look for when researching small presses and ultimately submitting? 

Karen Gowen: The first thing to look for is how the money flows. If the company charges for any services, or deducts production costs from author royalties, then the money flows toward the publisher. If the company takes care of all book production and pays a fair royalty on sales, then it flows toward the author. This is what you are looking for: the money is to flow to you, not to the publisher.

Then there’s the contract. If you don’t feel good about it, don’t sign it. Have a lawyer look it over if you’re not sure. 
Check what kind of books the publisher has released and how well do they fare in the marketplace. Also, how happy are the authors with the publisher? There will always be books that sell better than others and disgruntled writers upset that theirs haven’t done as well as they expected, but the overall picture should be a positive relationship between author and publisher, with both working together to give the book every chance at success.
Julie Musil: What is WiDo on the lookout for? What would you like to see in your inbox?

Karen Gowen: If you’ve checked our submissions guidelines and submitted accordingly, then after that we want to see something fresh and original, either in concept or writing style and preferably both. Some recent examples of work we’ve published which fits into this category are the following:
The Opposite of Everything by David Kalish—dark humor about a man diagnosed with thyroid cancer and fumbling in his relationships. 
Drinking from a Bitter Cup by Angela Jackson-Brown—a young girl with everything going against her finds the inner strength to rise above her challenges.
The Convict, the Rookie Card and the Redemption of Gertie Thump by Becky Lyn Rickman—a hilarious look at a small town busybody who gets caught up in other people’s lives despite her resistance to helping anyone but herself.
The Magic Wakes by Charity Bradford—a well-woven blend of sci fi, magic and romance in the New Adult genre.
Red-tailed Rescue by John Irby—a heart-warming prairie tale about the friendship between a troubled girl and a red-tailed hawk, told from both points of view.

These are just a few of the amazing books we’ve published recently. As you can see, they have one thing in common—fresh and original storylines—with the added bonus of being extremely well-written and having strong, identifiable characters.
Karen, thanks so much for shedding light on WiDo and other small publishers!

Friends, as you can see, there are many great reasons to consider submitting to small publishers. One of Karen's best pieces of advice, in my opinion, is to do a lot of research. In a future post I'll outline resources for researching small publishers.
Have you published with a small publisher? Submitted to some? Any advice you'd like to add?

36 comments:

  1. With so few book stores remaining, who cares if your book is in one or not?
    I've been very happy with my small publisher. They've stuck with promoting my titles long after most big publishers would've quit. (And they wouldn't have hit best seller status either.)

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    1. Alex, you're so right about that. When it comes to actual bookstores, I haven't bought books there in a loooooong time. Well, except for when my friends had book signings there. But I just did that as a friend. Otherwise I would've bought their books on Amazon.

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    2. Alex is right. Forget trying to find a book in a bookstore - I need to find a bookstore first. There is ONE in my city shopping centre, and it's a grubby discount store. Such a shame, but a sign of the times.

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    3. Donna, so true. Even Christmas shopping...I do so much of it from the comfort of my own home. Same with books. And the Kindle? Amazing. I love how we can just download a book with the click of a button and start reading right away. Gosh I love technology.

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  2. I am going the route of small publishers with my first novel. Thanks for having Karen here. I trust her information.

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    1. Karen, that's wonderful! Congratulations and good luck to you.

      Karen Gowen and WiDo have definitely earned trust in the writing/publishing industry.

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  3. Thanks for having Karen. I also trust Karen's information. I'm working on a book I'm thinking about submitting to her.

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    1. Kitty, that's great! WiDo has been around for a while, and Karen's insights are wonderful. It would be great if you can work with them. Good luck!

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  4. Julie, Thanks so much for having me on your blog! I love to talk about publishing and about WiDo in particular. It's great to have an opportunity to explain some of the "myths" out there. And research is so important, because one reason myths develop is because there's some truth in all of them. Thanks again, Julie! Your blog is always so packed full of helpful advice and tips. It's an honor to be here.

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    1. Karen, thank YOU for shedding more light on small publishers. Many authors are holding out on submitting to small pubs because they're unsure about the small pub's role in the marketplace. WiDo has been around for a long time. You guys obviously know what you're doing!

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  5. I really liked Karen's answers to question one, especially answer B. Thanks for sharing all this insight with us! And thanks to Julie for making it happen. :) Enjoy your holidays, ladies!

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    1. Sheri, you're right about bookstores. If a writer is holding out on submitting to a small pub because they're concerned about that, it's nice to know that WiDo, and possibly other small publishers, have a way in to brick and mortar. Thanks for the visit, and Merry Christmas to you and your family!

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  6. I work with three different small publishers and everyone of them has helped me be a better writer. I can't imagine a different career path at this point.

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    1. Susan, that's awesome! I've heard great things about many small pubs: personal attention, creative input, etc.

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  7. Fantastic interview. I learned a lot about the benefits of small presses from Karen. Thanks so much.

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    1. Natalie, I know, right? It's great to hear from a small publisher that's been around for a long time.

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  8. I've looked at small publishers a number of times, though it's just my bad luck that I've never found any small presses, on the lists I've seen, that are interested in historicals. It would be nice to publish through a small press, though. It's kind of surprising to me that so many new writers still feel they MUST get an agent, and don't even consider other options.

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    1. Carrie-Anne, double check WiDo's web site. I think they accept historical fiction!

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    2. Carrie-Anne, WiDo certainly does like historical fiction. Please submit!

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  9. Really great interview. I published with two small presses, and there are definitely both pros and cons.

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    1. Laurisa, both presses did an awesome job with your books! Great editing and cool covers :)

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  10. I've been with two small presses and both have been outstanding. With one of them, I had a great deal of input into the cover design and neither were problems during editing. And in my experience, there are so many creative small press books out there that would not have gotten a shot from one of the big 5. Small publishers will take risks and look at quality and not just quantity (sales).

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    1. Hensleybooks, you're so right. So many great stories that weren't give a chance were brought to life by small presses. Thank goodness!

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  11. hensleybooks, "And in my experience, there are so many creative small press books out there that would not have gotten a shot from one of the big 5. Small publishers will take risks and look at quality and not just quantity (sales)."

    EXACTLY. A well-run small press with a careful budget can afford to take risks with books they love and believe in.

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  12. Julie, this is VALUABLE info to have for any writer!! Thanks!! I definitely would consider going small publisher!!

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    1. Traci, I'm so glad it's helpful! Karen is always supportive and honest, which is wonderful.

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  13. Wow. This is a solid gold resource. Thanks to both Julie and Karen. Definitely bookmarking.

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  14. Having self-published and now working with a small press, I can see the various differences. It's taken some adjustment on my part, but it's been a good experience.

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    1. Angela, it's great that you've been open to all kinds of publishing--indie, small press, etc. I'm glad it's been a good experience!

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  15. I know a lot of authors who are very, very happy with their dealings with small publishers. And Karen is always awesome!

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    1. Jemi, I've heard the same thing. Well, I've also heard of authors getting burned, but to focus on the positive, so many authors love the personal touch of a small publisher. Research, research, research!

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    2. One more thought on this idea of having a negative experience rather than a positive: Any route you go can be negative. We have an author with us right now who had a negative experience with a Big 6 publisher and with agents, and this is why she chose a small press.

      Even doing your research and having a good feeling about the way you publish, it can be a bad experience. But that is okay because it's all about the writing and the learning.

      Don't ever think you only have one book in you. If you write a book and the path you choose doesn't work out as you would like then write another book and take another path until you find what does work for you and your career. Writers now have more than one option open to them and that's what is so wonderful about today's publishing environment.

      It's still very competitive-- even self-publishing is competitive with trying to attract readers, reviews and sales considering the millions out there-- but don't ever think as a writer that you only have one book in you.

      Keep writing, because writing is your art. Publishing and sales is something else that can kill your art if you focus too much on it. Do what's necessary to give your book the best chance in the marketplace then get back to the writing. Don't ever forget you are an artist and must keep the creative side of you fresh and alive.

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    3. Karen, thanks for the great comment. It's true. In publishing, and life, there are ups and downs. But nothing is wasted. We learn and grow as we go.

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  16. I so agree with Karen. In fact, I love small presses. They fill a need in this business. We have so many more great reads because of them. Loved the interview.

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