It occurs to me that people out there might be interested in reading about my journey as an author whose books are being published by a small press So I thought I’d give a quick run-down concerning this method of publishing—a middle ground between self-publishing and landing a contract with one of the big 5. So far, it’s an enlightening experience, and I can’t say enough about how supportive Bellastoria Press has been. That said, it’s definitely a lot more work for me, most of which I actually enjoy doing. Here are the ways in which my publishing journey for Listen to the Wind is different from my previous journeys with Simon & Schuster and Bloomsbury USA Children’s:
1. No advance
I admit, it was nice to get those chunks of money on signing a contract and then on delivering the finished manuscript. But one of the reasons small presses can be successful is that they keep costs down by offering a more collaborative approach to the entire process, from cover design to pricing to, well, everything.
2. You contract your own proofreading and copyediting
Publishing is not a moneymaking business. That’s why the big houses are so focused on finding those hits that sell millions of copies, because the average published novel is a money-losing proposition. Small presses can only survive if they don’t have to support a large in-house staff, or foot the bill for things that the author can arrange for. My publisher recommended a proofreader/copyeditor (they don’t get a kickback for this), and I was delighted with the job she did.
3. Timing of publishing is more or less in your hands
Depending on what else is going on with the small press, because they don’t have a huge catalog of books coming out at strategic times, the path from contract to available for purchase is often much shorter. Since my trilogy has been waiting for a home for years, I’m thrilled that the first volume of it will be coming out in six weeks. Squee!
4. Design control—need I say more?
I’ve been very fortunate with the cover and interior design of my novels, that is the truth. However, I’ve heard from other writers that getting the right cover design can be a problem, and that if they disagree about the cover, it can be hard to convince the publisher to change it. I had already been toying with the idea of self-publishing this trilogy and a friend offered to help me with a cover design. Which is GORGEOUS. I had no push-back at all about keeping it.
5. An inside look at the whole process
Who knew that you needed a long list of keywords for your e-book? Or how long it takes for a book to be printed, or what’s the correct file format for cover art? And I never paid much attention before to that page of small type before the title page that has all the copyright info and the legal disclaimers, or the impact of the size of the book and the number of pages. It all takes time and care, and it’s giving me new respect for the people one never sees at publishing houses who do all the little things.
6. Involvement in marketing is not an option, it’s essential
I probably did way less marketing and PR for my books (especially the last one, which came out while I was cofounding a tech startup) than I should have. I relied on the overworked publicist to get me what she could, which wasn’t much. The big houses, for obvious reasons, put their PR and marketing muscle into books they’ve paid big bucks for. None of it is cheap. If I had an unlimited budget, I’d do way more than I plan at this point, but I now know that those plans are not a nice-to-have, but a must-have. If I don’t shout about my book, no one else will (except the publisher, of course, as much as is possible without a budget at all).
Which brings me to my inevitable conclusion: self-promotion is vital, however unnatural it feels to a writer. So I’m asking you, if you get this far, please sign up for my newsletter on the Web site devoted to the trilogy!
Am I scared? I’m petrified. But I also believe it will all be worth it.