Last spring, I wrote about the value of the small press. Today, I would like to bring that post back from the archive–and also add a few notes. I’m publishing the Jacob Maresbeth Chronicles with a small press, COOPERATIVE PRESS, and I have a friend who recently switched from a large press to a small press for her latest Young Adult novel. Why? For one thing, it offers a more personal approach, first name basis with the editor, and frequently more input from the author about aspects of the publication. There is one thing more, however; contrary to what you might think, small and indy presses are risk-takers. They are willing to do more avant-garde, cutting edge material (whereas big houses often tend to run with known quantities, aiming for the bell-curve rather than the fringe). Hic Dragones, with whom I am publishing some short fiction, recently released Aimee and the Bear, for instance, a novel that pushes the limits and offers some real bite in unexpected ways. So, let us celebrate the small press!
What is a small press?
From the pages of SFWA (Science Fiction Writers of American), “A small press is a publisher that’s independently owned (i.e., not part of a bigger conglomerate, as with large publishing houses like Penguin or Random House), and has low annual sales income and profit. Traditionally, small presses also released limited numbers of books–10 or fewer a year–but digital technology has made publishing cheap, and these days many small presses have substantial publishing lists.” SFWA provides a wonderful breakdown of things to consider before choosing one–including your own aims and scopes–but today I will be focusing primarily on what they can offer a new writer.
In the industry you will regularly hear talk of the “big six.” These are the major publishing houses and their subsidiaries, places like Random House. They are well recognized, but of course, very difficult to “break in” to. After all, they are spoiled for choice. A small press does everything a large press does–only, obviously, smaller. That used to mean smaller print runs, but as SFWA points out, that is less and less of an issue in our digital age.
Why a small press?
- Often more flexible and more personal
- Without shareholders and other overhead concerns, they are often willing to take risks on new authors
- They often promote a particular genre or niche, rather than a general audience. There are, for instance, presses who intentially seek out romance, mystery, sci-fi, LGBTA or other niche-market works
- A mixed blessing: they will often accept un-agented submissions. (I still think agents are very necessary, but this is good to know if you aren’t having luck finding one).
There are, of course, pitfalls too. You want to look for a small press with a good list of books. You can also find information about small presses on databases like this one from Poets&Writers. Today, I am going to feature a few.
Akashic Books is a Brooklyn-based independent company dedicated to publishing “urban literary fiction and political nonfiction by authors who are either ignored by the mainstream, or who have no interest in working within the ever-consolidating ranks of the major corporate publishers.” They also have a blog. Some recent titles include:
- Venice Noir, edited by Maxim Jakubowski
- Long Island Noir , edited by Kaylie Jones
- A Mind of Winter, by Shira Nayman
- Letters to Kurt, by Eric Erlandson
THAMES RIVER PRESS
I became familiar with TRP through the work of Stephanie Smith, author of Warpaint. Stephanie will be featured here next week, and her book treats women’s issues, identity and sexuality. TRP is interested in providing a wide variety of texts to a multifaceted and global audience, which means you can find texts here that may not appear on other market lists. For instance, they publish Crime Fiction and Romantic Fiction–but they also publish Historical Fiction and Literary Fiction. Literary fiction–that is, books with literary merit, books we might consider ‘literature’ rather than trade fiction: poetry, reflective texts, etc.–is not always easy to find or easy to sell. Warpaint is literary fiction–so are many of the classics you read in high school and college. TRP has a good list of texts in this category, including the poetry I featured recently, Love if We Can Stand It.
TRP also publishes nonfiction and children’s fiction, and accepts unsolicited manuscripts–information to be found here.
Hic Dragones is a Manchester-based small press and events organizer, founded in 2011 by Hannah Kate. We publish dark and unusual fiction, and our ethos is ‘intelligent… but a bit weird’. Now run by Hannah and her partner Rob Shedwick, Hic Dragones has published an anthology of dark tales of female werewolves, and the debut novel by Whitefield author Toby Stone, Aimee and the Bear. In 2013, published another anthology, this time a collection of weird fiction set in ‘impossible spaces’ and featuring work by Ramsey Campbell and Simon Bestwick amongst others. They will also be publishing the debut novel by Beth Daley, a graduate of the University of Manchester’s creative writing PhD. In addition to publishing, Hic Dragones runs interdisciplinary academic conferences in Manchester. The programme thus far has included events on adaptations of Alice in Wonderland and the Wizard of Oz, a two-day conference on monsters and an international conference on cannibals and cannibalism.