Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Small Publishers: 3 Steps to Finding the Perfect One For You

Last week WiDo Publishing's managing editor, Karen Gowen, busted some myths for us about small publishers. Check out the helpful interview here.

For many authors, small publishers are the perfect option. Perhaps an author doesn't want to work with a literary agent (not always necessary with a small pub), or pursue one of the Big 5. Maybe they don't want to go indie, or they want to be a hybrid author. If writers are looking for a publishing partner with a personal touch, small publishers can be a great way to pursue a traditional path.

But many authors haven't considered this option, or don't even know where to start. I haven't personally published with a small press, but my friends who've gone with small publishers have enjoyed their experiences. I've considered it and done a lot of research.

So how do you know which small publishers to pursue, and how do you know they'll be with you for the long haul? Hopefully this guide will help you.

1) Find out who they are.

  • If you write for children or teens, I highly recommend subscribing to Children's Writer Newsletter. It's $15 per year but worth every penny. Each issue has excellent articles about the writing craft. It lists publisher's names--the biggies and the small--along with editor names. There are SO many reputable publishers out there that many authors haven't heard of. Plus, they list publishers that might cater to niche markets. Niche markets might be a perfect place for your book.
  • Visit Agent Query for their long list of small presses.
  • Find the publisher's name of the books you're reading. It's possible it's a small publisher. 
  • Since you're reading this blog, it's likely you're a blogger. Many of our author friends, like Anne R. Allen and Alex J. Cavanaugh, have worked well with small presses. Start keeping a list of publishers you've heard about in the blogging community, especially those that match the genre you write in.
  • Google it. Run a search such as small presses for YA books, etc. See what pops up. Add more names to your list.
2) Research, research, research.
  • Visit their web site. Are they still in business? If so, how long have they been in business? Does the site look professional? Does it seem as if your manuscript would fit well with their list? Are their covers eye-catching?
  • Check them out on Preditors and Editors. Most presses are listed there, along with comments such as vanity press, recommended, not recommended, etc.
  • Search for the publisher's name in the Absolute Write forums. What are other authors saying about them? If there's negative chatter, make sure it's legit and not just bitterness being splashed on the web.
  • Contact the small publisher's authors. Most sites will list the books they've published. Google the author's name and send them a message via their contact page. Ask about their overall experience with the publisher. Was the publisher fair? Was the author allowed any creative input? Did the small press pay royalties when promised?
3) Submit.
  • Check each publisher's web site for their submission guidelines.
  • Follow those guidelines exactly.
  • Keep a log of your submissions. My submissions tracking sheets listed the date of submission, the publishing company, the editor's name, what I sent them (according to their guidelines), and a spot for results.
Once you've found the perfect small press, researched the heck out of them, and submitted your work, the best advice is guessed it, write the next book!

Friends, have you submitted to small presses? Published with one? Any advice you'd like to add? Please share!

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?

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Perfect Publishing Path #IWSG

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My oldest son recently began applying for early decisions at his top university picks. Amazing that we're at this point in our lives already, but here we are. *sigh*

In high school there's been a lot of chatter about which high schools are superior, which are inferior, blah, blah, blah. Same with college choices. Public, private, JC, small, large, etc. It's a lot of noise for teens to muddle through. Our son has a solid idea of what he wants to do, but we all know how solid those solid ideas can be, right? *ahem*

Anyway, my hubby gave our son great advice. He reminded him that he'll hear a lot about which schools are the best, what he should do, etc. But there's only one perfect school--the school that's right for him.

Hubby's sage advice reminded me of the publishing business. How there's been debate about which path is the perfect publishing path. But the same holds true--the only perfect publishing path is the one that's right for you.

Big publisher, small publisher, indie publishing, hybrid publishing. We're all taking our own twisted paths in this crazy business, and my journey will not--and should not--look like yours.

I don't know about you, but I'm sooooo grateful to be a writer in this day and age. A time when anyone who has the courage to put words to paper can see their work in the marketplace. We are not held back by anyone except ourselves, and wow, what a liberating feeling that is.

Whatever path you take, I hope you'll enjoy the ride. Because you'll be on your own perfect path--the one that's right for you.

Friends, do you get flustered when trying to decide which path to take? Have you set out on one path and changed courses? Please share!