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View Full Version : "Small Press" That's Really Self-Publishing In Disguise?



NickIandolo
01-21-2016, 02:02 AM
Hey Fellow Writers,

I have some questions about Small Presses that's been bothering me, and I'd like to invite a discussion about it.

First, up until recently what I thought of Small Press was an actual publisher who wasn't one of the Big 5. My best example, because I don't know too many current small presses, is when Frank Herbert got DUNE originally published in 1965 by Chilton who was primarily an automobiles manual publisher.

Now over the years, of course there are plenty of small presses that are legitimate businesses out there to publish writers' works. One of my books even made it as far as their acquisitions department before getting axed.

However, something has happened as of late that is causing me to wonder about small presses, or more specifically what the term small press is now being co-opted for.

Here it is:

Oh, and I'm not looking to offend anyone, I just want to get some thoughts and opinions here.

Last year, as a journalist for a local arts and entertainment magazine, I covered Rhode Island Comic Con—all 3 days from beginning to end.

I talked to a lot of people from cosplaying fans, vendors, artists, to celebrities, and of course writers. Most of the authors there were Independent (as they call themselves)/self-published authors, as I have frequently found at these comic cons.

Here's what I discovered this time around (I actually have been doing this for years but 2015 was the first year this dawned on me—whoops!):

A lot of Independent/Self-published and Non-Agented/Represented writers were selling their books, that looked great and professional, under the auspices of being published by a small press.

When I inquired further about these small presses, I was surprised to discover this:

That the author themselves were the owners/publishers of the small press that their books were published under!

I was like, what?

So I asked one of the authors, who wrote a series of witches and magic books, how her small press worked. Did she have an actual printing press in her basement? Employing graphic artists, editors, and binders?

She said no. She outsources all of that like you can do with Lulu.com (which I have done) and other 3-party print-on-demand self-publishing entities.

But she owns the ostensible small press on paper and in name only!

So what does that mean?

By the way, she's not the only one, I actually knew a Gothic author who writes for the same magazine that I do, who was also at that convention selling his books under his small press.

Whoa!

So my first reaction to this new-fangled publishing strategy (at least new to me) is that, and correct me if I'm wrong, is that this is a creative work-around to the self-publishing stigma.

Okay, before anyone gets upset, I too have self-published books, so I'm in the boat as many, many writers here. I think this stigma thing is a ridiculous too but here's my problem.

Literary agents and, I guess, Big Press publishers don't like self-published authors/books. Now I know that that is an arguable point of view here at AW but that's what I've experienced trying to get my books published.

My question here is wouldn't any literary agent and actual publisher see right through this so-called "small press" facade and write off the author as a self-publisher?

I applaud the resourcefulness of these small press author/publishers, and hope that their strategy is a winning one.

In fact, there was something else I discovered about the small press thing that I'm discussing here.

So one of the aforementioned authors with their own small press also published (through their small press) an anthology of short stories contributed by other mostly unpublished authors.

And the interesting thing that I find about that is that if I too had one of my short stories published in this small press anthology and I say to New York City literary agent, "Well, I was recently published in 'so and so small press'."

Wouldn't their response be, "Really? You mean to tell me that you're trying to sell me on you being actually published in some rinky-dink self-published anthology/small press trying to pass themselves off as a real publisher? Is that what you're trying to tell me? Pass!"

So part of me was like, "Darn! I need to set up my own so-called small press imprint!" Then a writer friend of mine was like, "Don't bother. Just concentrate on the writing. Let the business side sort itself out without gimmicks after your work is polished and ready to go."

What do you all think?

Is this small press/self-publishing tactic a real and effective way to get yours and other people's writing out there, or just a gimmick that literary agents and real publishers are going to see right through as smoke and mirrors?

Fruitbat
01-21-2016, 02:08 AM
I would call a self-publisher who then goes on to publish one or more other authors' books a "micro-press."

I could see someone who self-publishes their book then deciding to try to make a few bucks or help out a friend by publishing other authors' books too. And I could see someone who doesn't know or care about the details of how to self-publish appreciating this option.

The problems come in when the micro-press misrepresents what they have to offer, and/or when the author misunderstands what they're being offered.

As far as self-published authors listing themselves as a company, it's perfectly legal and they can do it. In fact, when many other self-publishers do this, they may even be putting themselves at a disadvantage if they don't. It would also leave an easy option open for them if they ever decide to include anyone else's books as well.

If it's not a publisher name you're familiar with and you want to know, you can probably just google the publisher name on the spot. If there's no website or not much on it, then you have a good idea that you're dealing with a self-published book or a micro-press.

Feidb
01-21-2016, 02:17 AM
A small press is a small press. They do all the work and pay for everything to get your book out there. They are NOT a self-publisher. They can also do that, maybe under a different name, but a conventional small press is just that. The issue with them is usually that they don't have the distribution of the big guns, so it's up to you to do the marketing, moreso than the big guns. That's not saying you don't have to do it with the big guns also, but you have more avenues and more of an initial push from there. With a small press, once the book is produced, it's pretty much up to you do get it out there.

The product quality can vary, especially the artwork, but you should look at their other stuff before you decided whether to go with them.

A self-publishing outfit just prints your book. You have to pay for editing, artwork and everything. A big difference. They may give advice and some will have better standards than others, but you have to shop that around also.

That's how I see it.

Polenth
01-21-2016, 02:55 AM
People using a small press/micropress name aren't always trying to hide that they're self-publishers. Some are upfront about it on their website. It can have advantages, like being a way to link together several pen names. I don't see it's an issue if it's made clear. When it's done to hide being self-published, that's rather more dubious. Readers may not notice, but other people in publishing will.

As an example, if someone offers me a book for review that they've self-published, I won't care either way what name is put down for publisher. But if they try to pretend they're the marketing director for sparkliecarrots press, sending a book by their top author, I'll reject that review request on principle. I don't like working with people who lie to me. But it's not being sparkliecarrots press that's the lie. It's how it's presented.

Personally, I didn't want to get into all that. My business name is my author name, so it's obvious what I'm doing. Should I ever want to turn myself into a micropress, it won't be the first time a press has had a person's name on it.

FionnJameson
01-21-2016, 06:27 AM
I'm only an LLC for tax purposes.

Curlz
01-21-2016, 05:08 PM
Did she have an actual printing press in her basement?...She said no. She outsources all of that ...
"Outsourcing" is a very regular (and totally legit) thing to do for any business. The Harry Potter books were "outsorced" for printing in a remote small village. There are no printing machines in the basement of the Big 5 either, illustrators are quite often freelance (some are pretty famous artists on their own), other jobs too.



...is that this is a creative work-around to the self-publishing stigma...Literary agents and, I guess, Big Press publishers don't like self-published authors/books....wouldn't any literary agent and actual publisher see right through this so-called "small press" facade and write off the author as a self-publisher?
The only thing lit agents and "Big Press" don't like are badly written books (trust me on that one.) And no publisher would diss an author just because of some name-calling issue. No agent will accept a badly written query just because the author ends it with some publishing cred. And no publisher would reject a fabulously written novel because of a grudge.



Is this small press/self-publishing tactic a real and effective way to get yours and other people's writing out there
Hit the nail right on the head there! Yes! Getting your work out there and being noticed is a real issue for self-published authors and there is nothing whatsoever wrong with doing something (perfectly legal) about it.


It seems this is not a discussion about "small press" but more about some outfits being "pretend" small press? The "small press" thing is alive and thriving, and very much legit. But anybody doing business with an entity they know nothing about, should first do their homework and check that entity out. Check their website, see what authors they have published, what sort of books, do they sell and how? This is just common sense in any business, not just publishing. If you buy a rotten sandwitch from a fake bakery you don't go around saying bakeries are a bad business altogether.

Perks
01-21-2016, 06:35 PM
Literary agents and, I guess, Big Press publishers don't like self-published authors/books. Now I know that that is an arguable point of view here at AW but that's what I've experienced trying to get my books published.

My question here is wouldn't any literary agent and actual publisher see right through this so-called "small press" facade and write off the author as a self-publisher?



I don't think literary agents dislike self-published writers. In fact, their initial interaction, assuming the query is baseline professional, is with the work, not the writer at all. So, small-press, micro-press, self-published works all have the same problem if they are queried to an agent after they've been published.

Of course, literary agents know that these publishing companies are owned and operated by the author. But I don't see how that would be a strike against a new manuscript that the agent wanted to pick up.

NickIandolo
01-22-2016, 11:50 PM
Hmm...

Thank you so much my friends for all of the great points of view and opinions!

I guess it comes down to being honest. If you're honest about having self-published a title under a self-owned imprint (i.e. small/micro press), and make a case to the literary agent/big publisher that the book does sell, then I guess that's okay.

For some reason, I felt like these perfectly fine authors were trying to game the system by posing as publishers.

Maybe it's just that I've had one too many bad experiences trying to get published and my sense of incredulity is pretty heightened.

But I'm glad there are a lot of positive views here about the micro press publishing model!

Thanks a million!!!:hooray:

Dawn Lee
01-31-2016, 04:42 AM
I just joined AW today, so forgive me for making this my first post, but the thread caught my eye.

There are a number of sound, legitimate reasons for establishing a publishing company. My publishing imprint (I don't call it a small press) owns the copyrights to all of my books and is listed as the publisher on my books' pages. This is primarily to ensure that my children, all of whom are listed as officers of the company, continue to get my royalty payments if I succeed in getting run over by a bus next week. If an individual indie author dies, Amazon has been known to remove all of thier books because it's a legal headache to pay royalties to a deceased person. I'm not being facetious, just succinct. Also, the publishing company allows me to employ my oldest daughter as my sales & marketing assistant and my mother, a retired CPA, as the accountant. If I were a sole proprietor, I'd have to list them as independent contractors and wouldn't be able to absorb some of their taxes or provide health insurance. For many indies, establishing an incorporated publishing company makes a lot of business sense, but has nothing to do with misleading anyone. Everyone knows I'm an indie, and that I wouldn't have it any other way. :)

juniper
01-31-2016, 08:54 AM
A lot of Independent/Self-published and Non-Agented/Represented writers were selling their books, that looked great and professional, under the auspices of being published by a small press.

When I inquired further about these small presses, I was surprised to discover this:

That the author themselves were the owners/publishers of the small press that their books were published under!


One reason I see this is so that the writers can say things such as, "So-and-So Press is publishing my book" or "I'm published by So-and-So Press." Sounds impressive to many people who don't know anything about self publishing or small presses, or anyone who doesn't google search the "publisher" name to find out more about it.

I've seen this first hand many times over at writers' conferences and other writerly gatherings. Doubt it would fool a real publisher or agent.

I also know someone who's self-published many of her own books under a small press name, but she makes no secret of the self-publishing. I'm not sure why she set it up that way, but she's not doing it to mislead others.