Seeking a Publisher? Don't Overlook The Smaller Presses

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

     The manuscript you've been working on for eons is finally finished. Beta readers have critiqued it. You've revised it multiple times and are ready to send it out to publishers. Now what do you do? Do you submit to agents or directly to publishers? Where do you begin?
     Every author dreams of being picked up by their number one agent, you know, the one with all the connections to the major publishing houses; the one who represents your favorite author; the one who can get you a huge advance and a book tour throughout the United States. Yes, that one. It could happen for you and I sincerely hope it does, but if you are like most authors, rejection will be your experience. Along the way you'll need to be persistent, do a great deal of research and submit multiple times before finding that perfect manuscript to publisher match.
     On the way to finding that perfect match, don't overlook the thousands of mid-sized and small presses out there. It might be the best choice when first starting out. Years ago, after my fourth rejection from major publishing houses, I turned to a small press and found success.

 If I Were A Road was followed by If I Were A Table and then The Great Bridge Lowering. The year was 1980 and 1981. All three books are still being used in classrooms. This year, 2018, If I Were A Table was updated with more modern illustrations. It's the same great book with a different look ready for another thirty plus years. That same small publisher went on to publish five more of my manuscripts.

Unless you've created a classic, it's safe to say it would be unusual to have three books on the market for over thirty years with a major publisher.

Small to mid-sized publishers often accept unagented manuscripts. No agent necessary. Their submission guidelines, however, will be similar to larger publishing houses so it's important to study those guidelines and follow them completely.

That means knowing:
     1. Proper manuscript format.
     2. The components of a proper Book Proposal.
     3. Details of a great synopsis?
     4. The difference between a Cover Letter and a Query Letter.
     5. Whether to send a partial manuscript or full manuscript.
     6. Whether to email or snail mail the manuscript.

After you've isolated several publishers you feel are right for your manuscript, it's time to look further. study their list of published books. Note how many they publish a year? Email a couple of their authors and ask what it's like to have them for a publisher? Are they, the editor/publisher easy to work with? Do they respond to questions? Are royalties paid on time?

One concern not only with small publishers but all publishers is their viability to stay in business. Do your homework before you submit. It's easier to do it prior to acceptance than after. Once you hear "yes" from a publisher, you will be too excited, relieved and happy to even think about checking them out or turning them down.

After you've isolated several publishers you feel are right for your manuscript, it's time to look further:
1. Study their list of published books.
2. Note how many books they publish a year.
3. Email a couple of their authors and ask what it's like to have them for a publisher? Are they, the editor/publisher, easy to work with? Do they respond to questions? Are royalties paid on time? Ask what the pros and cons are with working with the publisher? Would they choose that publisher again?
4. Note how many years each publisher has been in business.
5. Do they pay an advance? (Many small publishers do not. That's not necessarily a bad thing.)
6. What kind of marketing do they do...catalog, Internet, bookstore, conferences? 

Throughout the 30 plus years the three books mentioned above have been on the market, they were cancelled from one small publisher and then picked up by another who several years later went through Chapter 11 reorganization and opened up with a new name. That publisher has been going strong ever since.

Don't give up on your dreams. Do your homework and be persistent. A small publisher may not be what you imagined when you envisioned seeing your name on a book, but one could be your ticket to years of success as a published author.

Leave a comment before June 10th and I'll put your name in a hat to win a copy of either Spivey's Web or We Bought A WWII Bomber. 

Check out more from Sandra Warren at
Instagram: sandrawarren_author




Gretchen Griffith said...

Great advice, Sandra. My first book was with a small, regional publisher that was a perfect fit for my manuscript. Working with them was a wonderful experience as they talked me through several issues of what they were doing as they published my book. I learned a lot.

Joan Y. Edwards said...

Dear Sandra,
Great advice to writers! I am proud of you and all you have accomplished because of your persistence and your resourcefulness!

Never Give Up

Carol Baldwin said...

Linda Phillips is experiencing what you are saying, Sandra. Her latest book is coming out soon from Light Messages and already received a star review from Kirkus. They'll be on m query list for sure. Good for you that your books are still being used. That's fantastic.

Cat Michaels said...

As an Indie, I happily bypass this process. If I were to trad publish however, it would be with a small press. Good to know just in case -:D

Sandra Warren said...

Thank you Gretchen. Yes, sometimes small publishers will take the time to explain things in greater detail. I'm glad you found success with your first small publisher.


Sandra Warren said...

Thank you Joan! I appreciate your comment and support.


Sandra Warren said...

Carol, I'm glad you're open to all publishers. You never know which one will fall in love with your story. Good luck with your manuscript and your search.


Sandra Warren said...

I too have been an indie publisher but I wasn't when I first started out almost forty years ago. Gosh, did I say that? I'm older than dirt. Ha! Ha!

Thanks for your comment.


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Hi! I’m Sandra Warren, a writer with very eclectic writing tastes. I’ve been fortunate to have publications in multiple genres including children’s, gifted education, parenting, how to, poetry, journal, educational activity guides and biography as well as audio and video production. I'm a city gal recently transplanted to the mountains of NC where glorious mountain vistas inspire latest renderings.

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