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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Researching Small Presses

It's a brave new world in publishing. Traditional wisdom used to be that you must get an agent in order to land a publishing contract, but the e-book revolution has opened the door for independent authors and publishers to compete with the Big Six Publishers. Although there is nothing wrong with getting an agent and going the traditional route, that's no longer the only option for serious authors.

Who should submit directly to publishers?

Submitting directly to publishers may be a good choice for you if you have a quality product that beats to it's own drum. Smaller publishers are often more likely to take a risk on something new or different. Direct to publisher submissions are great for:
  • Emerging genres like New Adult
  • Genre blends or anything that is "hard to shelve"
  • All things quirky, offbeat, and innovative
  • Novels that appeal to niche markets
  • LGBT & Multicultural
  • Romance & erotica
  • Anything of quality that never found a good agent match
  • Anyone who has self-published or is considering self-publishing
Where to submit?

In my experience, the search for a publisher was more complicated than the search for an agent. The available databases are not as reliable or complete. Not all publishers accept unagented submissions. And not all publishers may be right for your work. This may change as direct to publisher submissions become more common. Here are some places to find publishers:

Sapphire Star Publishing

Also, don't forget to try a good old-fashioned Google search. This is how I found my publisher, Curiosity Quills Press. I Googled "New Adult Publisher" and guess who I found? You may also try "publishers accepting unagented submissions" or a similar search to find lists created by other bloggers. Here are two such lists right here:

How do I know if they are good?

Before you query and certainly before you sign, you should research potential publishers. 

First, make sure they're not scammers. You can make sure they're not rotten by looking for them on websites like this:

Crescent Moon Press
Better Business Bureau
Writer Beware Blog
Absolute Write Water Cooler
Publishers Marketplace
Predators and Editors

If they are a traditional royalty paying publisher (meaning they pay you and never the other way around) and they don't have bad press all over the web, then they're probably at least not a scam. But of course, this is your baby we're talking about. You need to make sure they're right for you. Here are more steps you can take:
  • Google search. Simple but effective.
  • Talk to one of their authors. Authors are just like you and me (in fact they are exactly like you and me) and most will be happy to answer your questions. If you don't feel comfortable approaching one, stalk their authors' blogs and Facebook pages to make sure they are happy campers.
  • Use advanced search on Amazon to search by publisher. It's a simple way to see their whole catalog. Make sure you like their covers and that your book would fit in their catalog.
If you're offered a contract and don't have an agent, you'll probably be really happy but also completely freaking out. Here are more steps to handle your inevitable freak out:
  • Repeat the steps above. :)
  • Talk to your friends who have publishing contracts and compare terms (if they're comfortable with this)
  • Have a lawyer review the contract.
  • Read How To Be Your Own Literary Agent: An Insider's Guide to Getting Your Book Published  
  • Take your time. A good publisher won't rush or pressure you.
  • Ask questions. A good publisher will be happy to answer any questions you have. It also gives you a preview of how easy it is to work with them and get your questions answered.
  • Follow your gut and do what feels right.

I've been through the process of signing with a publisher without an agent, so feel free to ask any questions in comments!


Ink in the Book said...

Hi Sharon! Hope things are going well for you:)

This was a great post and you brought up a few points about small publishers and why to check into them that I find very helpful. Thanks!

Huntress said...

I don't know many people who haven’t tried the agent route. This business is one of the busiest, most frustrating, confusing...and most rewarding process I can think of.

It is easy to get lost in the herd of queries and submission that don't follow the guidelines or are rude. Everyone hopes their manuscript beats the odds.

Great advice and info! Thanks.

Lara Schiffbauer said...

Excellent post! Thanks for the excellent links. It's always good to know all options in this time of changing publishing landscape.

Rachel Schieffelbein said...

Thanks for all the great information!

Charity Bradford said...

Great post Sharon!

Lisa Regan said...

I really would recommend contacting an author privately and directly for info on a publisher. In my experience, the information found in forums and such are usually inaccurate. By way of example, there is a small press thread on one forum where people who have no affiliation whatsoever with the publisher are saying their distributor is so and so when in fact it is not. I am always shocked at how much misinformation there is on forums. So I recommend going right to the source, as it were. Also, with the ever-shifting market there are some big publishers who "don't have it in their budget to take chances on new voices" so you're right--a small press is more likely to take chances on new authors. Great post!

Karen Jones Gowen said...

Totally agree with Lisa in above comment. Forums are a horrible place to get accurate information! And most reputable firms don't even bother counteracting the attacks that can be made there under guise of pseudonym poster names. Going direct to the authors is an excellent idea, or checking out the author blogs as you suggest.

This is such an excellent post! Thank you for a complete and thorough analysis of a timely topic.

Carrie-Anne said...

Small presses are also potential good matches for people who write above or below current approved-of lengths. My adult historicals all tend to be very long, intentionally so, and I was really surprised last year to discover that many people nowadays won't even consider something of saga-length. It also goes for people who deliberately wrote a novella or even a novelette.

Sharon Bayliss said...

I totally agree. It annoys me when people who have no information whatsoever about a publisher answer questions about them on forums!

Sharon Bayliss said...

Good point!

Victoria Smith said...

Great info Sharon! And thanks for mentioning the alley :D

Carrie Butler said...

Heck yes! As Victoria said, thanks for mentioning the Alley. :)

tlbodine said...

Another excellent source for publisher listings for people in the SF&F community is Ralan.com. They list indie and traditional publishers for short stories and novels in all of the speculative fiction genres.

Duotrope.com also has a good selection of book and short story markets (as well as anthologies) and it lets you track your submissions/queries too.

farawayeyes said...

So much information that is absolute 'news' to me. Thanks.

Tara Tyler said...

thanks for all the info! you guys are putting so much into this!

beware of publishers asking for money up front. they may publish your book, but they are more of a kinkos. you pay for their editing, marketing etc services.