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View Full Version : Agents thoughts on pub with a small press



dreamwriting
04-13-2012, 03:34 AM
Would publishing with a small press lower your respect/chances in the eyes of agents when submitting for future works?

If so, say you know you've made a mistake publishing with a small press and can admit to it. Would that help you in their eyes at all?

authorilinca
04-13-2012, 03:44 AM
It might just be me, but I tend to think people who go with small press are the people who just want their stuff out there. And I've read others say that agents are laughing at indie authors and small press authors because they all "play fame" and get big-headed when no one actually knows them.

I could be wrong, though. Just throwing it out there. I think if you ever intend on getting into the big game, you need to have some massive patience and a ridiculously thick skin until you get in.

Mr. Anonymous
04-13-2012, 04:23 AM
good sales increase your chances.

Bad sales decrease your chances.

A fantastic book will *likely* be taken on by an agent regardless of your past publishing experience (or lack thereof.)

RKLipman
04-13-2012, 05:33 AM
good sales increase your chances.

Bad sales decrease your chances.

^ THIS.

authorilinca
04-13-2012, 05:58 AM
or yeah, what they said. They likely know better than me LOL

Colossus
04-13-2012, 07:11 AM
I've wondered about this myself. I published a couple of books with modest success, but mostly because I didn't have a promotional machine behind it.

I counted it to a good experience, learning a lot about the business in the meantime. I would think that the only bad publishing experience to list would be to list anything self-published that didn't do squat.

waylander
04-13-2012, 10:33 AM
It is really all about the work you are now offering them.
If you've been edited before then it will be slightly reassuring to the agent that you won't have a hissy fit if they ask for changes.
You may be asked to adopt a pen name to distance your current work from the small press books.

elindsen
04-13-2012, 10:40 AM
I would have to strongly disagree that agents sit and laugh at indie presses. First it is a business. Does Emeril laugh at Mickey Ds? No. There have been plenty of indie authors that have made it to the big time. Agents and editors are always on the lookout for the next big thing. Even if it comes from small press or epublishing.

Terie
04-13-2012, 11:08 AM
I would have to strongly disagree that agents sit and laugh at indie presses. First it is a business. Does Emeril laugh at Mickey Ds? No. There have been plenty of indie authors that have made it to the big time. Agents and editors are always on the lookout for the next big thing. Even if it comes from small press or epublishing.

Most agents and editors aren't interested in already published books unless the sales numbers huge.

Most agents and editors don't give a rat's patootie about credits with micropresses because they don't know micropresses and therefore don't know which ones are good and which arent.

I heard a Very Big Name agent speak not long ago, and she said that putting micropress credits in your bio is essentially pointless; it won't necessarily hurt you, but it won't help, either. So that's a pretty good answer to the OP's question of whether it lowers or raises an agent's respect as one submits future work: neither one.

elindsen
04-13-2012, 05:15 PM
No, agents usually do not want "second hand" stuff. But the notion that they sit and say, "John Doe was published through Sevred press..." laugh laugh laugh is dumb. Like you said, they are too busy to know of the micropresses so how can they laugh and disregard what they don't know?

Sheryl Nantus
04-13-2012, 05:38 PM
It also depends on the "small press".

Samhain, for example, has had books on the USA Today best-sellers list. But for all intents and purposes it's still viewed as a "small press", I believe.

Not all small presses are the same. A one-person operation that can stall if the owner catches a cold is very different from one with many employees.

Just a thought.

kellion92
04-13-2012, 05:41 PM
I've seen quite a few friends/acquaintances publish through small press or self-publish to modest success, then get a bigger publisher deal later for another book. It's about the prospects of the next book -- if it's appealing to larger publishers, it will appeal to larger publishers.

Poor sales affect later deals, but I think that pertains more to apples to apples situation. If you have a major publisher book sells 200 copies despite lots of support, it will be hard to sell the next one. If you have a self-published or small press book that sells that many, I certainly hope that an agent, editor, or bookstore will understand that another book with distribution and marketing might do better.

Jamiekswriter
04-13-2012, 05:45 PM
What an agent may do, is google the book and see what the reviews say and how the author handles the reviews -- if at all. More to see if the author is someone the agent wants to do business with. If he/she is a drama llama that goes off on any neutral or bad review, that's going to count against them.

I think it would also depend on the quality of the small press book. If it's bad story telling, or has lots of grammar/spelling/continuity errors -- that might make an agent pause to wonder if it's worth taking on a client that has a history of sloppy work.

However, if the new book that the agent is considering is stellar -- that might not matter so much.

bearilou
04-13-2012, 05:46 PM
It also depends on the "small press".

Samhain, for example, has had books on the USA Today best-sellers list. But for all intents and purposes it's still viewed as a "small press", I believe.

Not all small presses are the same. A one-person operation that can stall if the owner catches a cold is very different from one with many employees.

Just a thought.

Yes. All of this.

There's a difference between saying 'this has been published with a small press' and saying 'I have other books published with a small press'. As was stated upstream, you may be asked to change your pen name to distance yourself from that as you start off with a brand new 'brand name'.

I have every intention of doing this as some of my work I have a very strong suspicion that it will not sell to the big 6. And what I want to get published is niche and I believe it would be better served with a publisher that handles it, which happens to be smaller presses.

The stuff that I'm writing for broader appeal will be shopped under a different name to differentiate between the two. If an agent wants to scoff at me for doing so... :Shrug: probably not someone I want to work with anyway.

dreamwriting
04-13-2012, 07:40 PM
Wow! Thank you everyone for your replies! I wasn't sure if I wanted to get onboard with a small press before trying for the big.

About the agents laughing at small presses, I recently saw something online where a popular agent compared indies to a youtube video where people were being made fun of for thinking they were as good as the pros. That's what brought up the question for me. While I like to believe most agents aren't like that, I'm thinking there are the few who do and I started thinking twice about going the indie route.

ios
04-13-2012, 08:09 PM
About the agents laughing at small presses, I recently saw something online where a popular agent compared indies to a youtube video where people were being made fun of for thinking they were as good as the pros. That's what brought up the question for me. While I like to believe most agents aren't like that, I'm thinking there are the few who do and I started thinking twice about going the indie route.

I'm not sure if by indie you mean small press or self-pub, but instead of thinking twice about going that route if you've already done your homework and think its the best route for *this* book, I would think twice about about ever going with that agent. An agent who blanket makes fun of indies (whether it is small press or self-publishers) is an agent who is not one who treats others with respect. And I wouldn't trust that agent to treat others with the proper level of respect necessary for doing business.

However, I do agree with what others say. I wouldn't go with a small press or self-publish route with a book in hopes of getting enough attention to get that book republished by the commercial NY houses. If your ultimate goal is to get that book with NY houses, then submit to them instead.

Jodi

Deb Kinnard
04-13-2012, 08:52 PM
My experience is a bit different. I've worked with two agents and neither ever dissed me for going small press. In my niche market, agents are familiar with the smaller presses out there, and though the sales numbers will never knock their socks off, they've not tut-tutted about my sales.

Indie and small press publishing aren't the same, and any agent who seems to think or say they are should be (gently, civilly, professionally) re-educated. That said, this industry is changing and going through panic-spasms about how to think about independent publishing. There is a lot of fear out there in pub land and agency land, because nobody really knows how this business is going to look even two years from now.

bearilou
04-13-2012, 08:55 PM
Indie and small press publishing aren't the same

Now I'm confused.

What exactly is Indie publishing?

authorilinca
04-13-2012, 08:59 PM
Indie is independent. Self-publishing
Small Press is just that. A small publishing press.
(or so I've understood)

And I agree with ios. If an agent can't respect one, why would he/she respect anyone else? I think all agents know how hard it is for writers to become the authors we want with the big companies and won't really shoot down people - unless someone is playing all high and mighty fame and I'm-better-than-you-because-I-know-what-I'm-doing-more-than-an-editor-or-publisher. I think I would laugh at that person, too...but that could just mean I'm a terrible person deep down. Or something.

Deb Kinnard
04-13-2012, 09:00 PM
^ This. Yes.

RKLipman
04-13-2012, 09:34 PM
Indie is independent. Self-publishing
Small Press is just that. A small publishing press.
(or so I've understood)


Disagree STRONGLY. "Indie" publishing was a term long before self-publishers attempted to co-opt it, and it has - in the parlance I've always seen - referred to publishers who were independent of the Big 6.

This includes places like Samhain and Tanglewood and Entangled. It also includes places like Sourcebooks and Kensington.

Self-published means self-published. That's not a good or a bad thing, but it bothers me when people try to co-opt terms they think are more flattering.

authorilinca
04-14-2012, 01:48 AM
^ ah well, see, I haven't seen that explanation! Ya learn something new every day ;-)

Jennifer_Laughran
04-14-2012, 03:50 AM
Disagree STRONGLY. "Indie" publishing was a term long before self-publishers attempted to co-opt it, and it has - in the parlance I've always seen - referred to publishers who were independent of the Big 6.

This includes places like Samhain and Tanglewood and Entangled. It also includes places like Sourcebooks and Kensington.

Self-published means self-published. That's not a good or a bad thing, but it bothers me when people try to co-opt terms they think are more flattering.

You are quite correct, of course, but I am afraid the ship has sailed on getting pissed off about this word usage.

(It won't stop me from continually getting pissed off about it anyway! But I also still rail against the non-word "relatable" which is so much in use in common parlance, that it is now a word. *KILLS*)

Deb Kinnard
04-14-2012, 06:29 AM
The term I'm beginning to loathe is "traditional" publishing. Er, no. If it's a book, my view is that it's published. E- or print, both fine, both are books. My rant and I'm stickin' to it.

mscelina
04-14-2012, 06:41 AM
Disagree STRONGLY. "Indie" publishing was a term long before self-publishers attempted to co-opt it, and it has - in the parlance I've always seen - referred to publishers who were independent of the Big 6.

This includes places like Samhain and Tanglewood and Entangled. It also includes places like Sourcebooks and Kensington.

Self-published means self-published. That's not a good or a bad thing, but it bothers me when people try to co-opt terms they think are more flattering.

QFT. Indie publishing is not necessarily small press, in just the same way that self-published does not automatically mean e-published.


You are quite correct, of course, but I am afraid the ship has sailed on getting pissed off about this word usage.

(It won't stop me from continually getting pissed off about it anyway! But I also still rail against the non-word "relatable" which is so much in use in common parlance, that it is now a word. *KILLS*)

Irregardless. That's all I have to say about word rants.


The term I'm beginning to loathe is "traditional" publishing. Er, no. If it's a book, my view is that it's published. E- or print, both fine, both are books. My rant and I'm stickin' to it.

True again, but the distinction between published and self-published does have to be preserved. For everyone other than a handful of authors in the past few years, self-publishing does not lead to pots and pots of sales.

I have an agent, and I work with several agents as a publisher, who've submitted their authors' work to me with nary a qualm or quiver about the small, independent press we are. The publishing industry is changing, and it's changing very, very fast. I seriously doubt there's an agent anywhere who's sitting back and laughing at the small press publishing history of any author.

Starchaser3000
04-19-2012, 09:24 PM
In THEORY, is it possible for a multiple volume self published series to be picked up by a traditional publishing house even if one or two volumes have already been self published? That is if said self published book series has already attained a niche following or multiple positive reviews and modest media/web exposure first.

Mr Flibble
04-19-2012, 09:39 PM
In THEORY, is it possible for a multiple volume self published series to be picked up by a traditional publishing house even if one or two volumes have already been self published? That is if said self published book series has already attained a niche following or multiple positive reviews and modest media/web exposure first.
In theory? Yes. Michael Sullivan (for one example) did just that with his Crown Conspiracy series. Though I think you'd maybe need more than a 'niche' following. Multiple positive reviews? Depends on who from tbh.

Is it likely to happen? No more likely than you getting a deal through the normal channels. Possibly (not sure of figures here) slightly less likely.

JSSchley
04-19-2012, 10:09 PM
It also definitely depends on genre. For example, I've been watching from afar as an online acquaintance climbs the ranks of erotica publishers. Each micropress and its readership folded into her next book, and she's progressed from some very small presses and now has novellas coming out with Harlequin Carina with some regularity.

So, if you're in a genre where small press is common, it will help. How do you know if you are in that genre? Do your research.

Starchaser3000
04-19-2012, 10:18 PM
Yeah I know who Michael Sullivan is. That guy is an experienced writer. With the years he has put into his craft, I'm not surprised by his current success. Me on the other hand, I barely started wanting to become a writer a few years ago. Currently trying to submit my work to writing contests.

I think if I can get an honorable mention or a top 5 finish, that would be good enough to use that as a marketing tool to get more than enough readers to buy I would hope. Its hard to be positive in promoting your book online without inadvertently sounding like an obnoxious self promoting jerk Haha.:D With credentials that alone speaks for itself if those things could be attained.

rac
04-20-2012, 05:01 AM
I've read about e-books that have had substantial sales that are picked up by major publishers. It seems to be happening more often. Traditional publishers are now closely watching what e-books are doing.

Mr. Anonymous
04-20-2012, 09:30 AM
I think if I can get an honorable mention or a top 5 finish, that would be good enough to use that as a marketing tool to get more than enough readers to buy I would hope. Its hard to be positive in promoting your book online without inadvertently sounding like an obnoxious self promoting jerk Haha.:D With credentials that alone speaks for itself if those things could be attained.

Writing contests are great to enter, but if you think winning a contest will dramatically increase your readership because you'll be able to use that as a blurb which will lead to a substantial increase in sales, I'd say that's perhaps an unrealistic expectation (unless we're talking about like, Writers of the Future or something, but even then...) I'd say look at how you do in writing contests/attempts to get short fiction published as an (imperfect) indicator of what level you're at with your craft. Once you feel confident that you're producing good work (and people are agreeing with that assessment) then I'd say start to look seriously for an agent.

Old Hack
04-20-2012, 09:40 AM
I've read about e-books that have had substantial sales that are picked up by major publishers. It seems to be happening more often. Traditional publishers are now closely watching what e-books are doing.

I think you might be confusing e-books with self-publishing, although it's not clear from this particular conversation. Just in case, it's worth remembering that self publishing and trade publishing (not "traditional publishing", please) are businesses; e-books, paperbacks, hardbacks etc are formats available to all publishers.

While a few self-published writers have been picked up by trade publishers after achieving success, far more have not. You hear about these signings in the news because it's news, it's unusual. And you're right that a few self-published writers who "have had substantial sales that are picked up by major publishers"; but note that word substantial. Very few self-published books sell substantial numbers. The last time I looked, the average number of sales was under 100 copies per title. Way under.

rac
04-20-2012, 09:38 PM
While a few self-published writers have been picked up by trade publishers after achieving success, far more have not. You hear about these signings in the news because it's news, it's unusual. And you're right that a few self-published writers who "have had substantial sales that are picked up by major publishers"; but note that word substantial. Very few self-published books sell substantial numbers. The last time I looked, the average number of sales was under 100 copies per title. Way under.

No wonder the writers I've read about who self-publish e-books that are picked up by hardcover publishers make the news. From what you've said, they are news!

JKRowley
04-21-2012, 08:09 AM
Winning writing contests can definitely benefit your credentials. Getting WIP grants can as well. Highlights, SCBWI, Writer's Digest and other organizations offer these opportunities and are a feather in an aspiring author's cap and should be mentioned in author bios and query letters. Agents and editors DO look for stuff like that when deciding whether or not to take on a project or author.

Sometimes I think those credentials are better received than small press publishing.

In the end, I decided to take an offer from a small press because I wanted to get my work out there to see what it would do. It seems to me nobody knows what is going on in publishing right now. The readers are ruling this ride and I want them to decide my fate.