I was absolutely thrilled to find out that I have more clients on this month’s bestseller list in Locus (though my copy hasn’t reached me yet). C.E. Murphy’s Thunderbird Falls nabbed the #3 spot on the trade list. And Jim Butcher has copped first place on both the hardcover and mass market lists for Proven Guilty and Dead Beat, respectively. Way to go, guys!
Interesting things to discover while you’re linking to books: Clarkesworld apparently does not carry Luna titles. Huh. However, they do have signed hardcovers of Dead Beat (I linked to the paperback above).
Meanwhile, elsewhere on the internets, at least one person apparently believes that small press publication might not be good for your career. I have no idea who said this or where and since I heard it from a friend of a friend who might have seen the original post, I could even be far enough down the telephone line to be mis-reporting. I’m definitely talking out of school with no reference points, but the idea caught my attention. Completely independently of that discussion, I would love to hear opinions on that issue. And if I get through this pile of marketing/editorial/correspondence (which is currently taller than my manuscript reading pile!), I will see if I still have time to offer my own. But, as a hint, I have at least one client that completely belies that theory.
ETA: Also, go read Jay Lake’s The Banzai School for Famous Authors. Some good thoughts there. And ones that I would do well myself to remember.
Opinions about small press publication vary. Some people think you should just aim for the big markets, others that small press publication doesn’t hurt if it’s a prestigious part of the small press. (I once said disparagingly to someone that it was OK to have small press publications as long as it wasn’t something like Turnip Monthly – I made this up on the spot and they then informed me icily that their main job was as a gardening correspondent. Surgery to remove my foot from my mouth was thankfully successful).
Like most people, the bulk of my short story career, which is about 50 stories IIRC, has spanned both small press and magazines like Asimov’s. I’ve never found this to be a drawback – on the contrary, in fact, as a number of those stories have featured in TYBSF/Fantasy etc either as honourable mentions or as part of the TOC.
I think a lot of it depends on the small press. I doubt it’s going to hurt you*, unless you find yourself in the mindset of only writing for small, low- or non-paying markets and never try to move beyond that. (And even then, if that’s what you want, then go for it!)
And some of the small presses can help. There are some very highly respected ‘zines and publishers that don’t pay much, but get a lot of critical attention.
My guess is there are a lot more small presses that simply won’t do anything for you. Won’t hurt, but won’t really help, either. A lot of my early sales were like that. They helped the ego, maybe paid for a burger at McDonald’s, but did nothing to help me in a career sense.
*I wouldn’t include Publish America and similar scams in this category. Even there, a PA title isn’t going to ruin your career.
Congrats to C. E. and Jim. 🙂
As for small press… I think it depends. If you’re talking about vanity publishing, then I don’t think it’s a great thing, but I don’t quite see how it can hurt your career long-term. But small press can be many different things, including e-publishing.
I don’t agree with those who say that everyone should go for the Big Name publishers straight off. There is some material that is not commercially marketable, with rare exception. If you’re writing gay romance, for example, you’re more likely to be published with a small or e-press than a mainstream publisher. Is this a bad thing? Not necessarily. At least in romance, there are plenty of authors being published now who started out in small or e-press.
It’s not quite as true in other genres, but there are still some things that just won’t be accepted by big markets — like a 60k SF novel. A small or e-press is more likely to print it than a big market.
Still others would say “Well, if you can’t sell it as it is to a big market, then change it so it will,” but I think this can be incredibly foolish. Sometimes, a piece just isn’t right for a big market, no matter how much you rewrite.
Thank you! 🙂
I just came across your blog a week ago and have found it educational, humorous, and resourceful. Thank you for taking the time to write your it. I appreciate it.
What caught my attention today was the “Current Music” you post at the bottom of each daily blog. What makes it particularly interesting to me is that a friend of mine includes in his story lines the name of the vocalist or group along with a couple of lines of lyrics that are buzzing around in a character’s head in a particular scene. I’ve only seen it a couple of times in one of his novels; however, it’s just another piece of information that shows the reader something about who the character is.
All this verbage is just another way of saying your “Current Music” adds a bit insight into who you are as well. I just think it’s cool, that’s all.
First off, I’d make the distinction between short stories and novels.
If you have a novel, and it *isn’t* targetted at a minority niche, why _woulnd’t_ you try to place it with a major publisher? (That’s a real question, not just a rhetorical one.)
Beyond that… I’m not opposed to a small-to-medium publisher that has a professional attitude towards publishing – paying advances, editing/marketing/success in getting books into bookstores – but I do feel that the danger of going with a really small publisher is that it’s very difficult to use as a step in your career. If you’re not making money from it, or making only pocket money from it, how can you eventually move from ‘hobby’ to ‘full-time writer’? If the press does not chose its mss very carefully (or if they aren’t offered quality mss because they don’t offer writers very much) how are you going to get that exposure and convince people to take a chance on your book? I’m willing to look at something produced by TOR or DAW or Baen *whatever the book* is because I trust their selection processes; I’m not willing to do the same for every small publisher out there. And that means that being published by many a small press does not seem to differ very much from publishing something yourself – if you get the same kind of editorial input/marketing help/royalties, *why not* go all the way?
And that, of course, throws up a familiar set of questions again.
Hmm… I guess I should look into carrying Luna books. Thanks!
I was hoping you might think that. My clients there (so far) are C.E. Murphy, Laura Anne Gilman, and Anne Kelleher. I can pass on your contact info to their head editor if that would help.
Thanks! I’ve already emailed someone there. If I don’t hear anything by Friday, I’ll check in with you for that contact information.
You beat me to mentioning the double chart topping by Jim Butcher. 🙂
Yes, yes, I still have to read more than the first of his Dresden novels, especially with an Sci Fi series in the works.
I don’t think there is a hard rule about small press – my experiences with small press have been mixed. I think that what matters is distribution. If the small press has big distribution and a good promotional team, then it can be a very good experience. On the other hand, little or no distribution means few sales and your book can stagnate. Not a good thing.
Check distribution and sales before signing with a small publisher would be my advice.
The Long Tail
Small Press may be the best future for most writers. One thing the Internet does very well is that it makes it easy to find exactly what you’re interested in–it creates niches. Which is where a small press can best survive.
Chris Anderson talks about this trend as “the death of the common culture” in his book THE LONG TAIL. The idea is that its harder for TV to have a smash hit. And its harder for a movie, and music, and books, too. But big publishers, studios, labels need those big hits. And what they’ve got is a diversification where we’re all out there looking for exactly what we want and we don’t want to settle for anything less.</p
That means you love books with vampires and ghosts set in Maine with time-travel, that’s what you go looking for. And you can find it somewhere on the ‘Net. A small press can make a successful business of producing a specific type of book, whereas a large publisher needs to have a high sell-through. This makes it hard for large publishers to cater to highly selective markets; they have to go broad, when readers are looking for specific.
But large publishers are starting to see an advantage here–they can look at small publishers for what’s successful, then they can buy the rights to take something out on a larger scale. (This happened with MJ Rose’s book, and I think that’ll happen more often.)
Hollywood has already found this a very profitable way to produce movies, which is the whole independent movie production cycle we now see. They let someone else take the risk, produce a movie for less money, and if it’s viable, then the larger studio can leverage its marketing and distribution to take it broader. Large publishers can do the same–let small press take the risk, produce a small run, if it looks good, then a large publisher can look to take the book out in a bigger way.
You can see the same thing happening, too, with the music business–bands are doing their own CDs and small labels are being successful, and the larger labels look to them to find the next possible thing they can take bigger.
Small publishers used to be at a disadvantage because a large publisher could more easily get better distribution. The Internet has changed that, and is going to keep changing it. A small press, because it has less overhead, can also afford to offer authors better splits and deals. So I think we may be shifting to the advantage going to small presses–and for an author who can market themselves on the Internet, this may prove to be a more viable way to make a living.