BIG REWARDS COME IN SMALL PACKAGES
By Angela Miyuki Mackintosh
If you have a great book idea, or are working on your novel, it's only natural to have dreams of what the future will hold. Even if you haven't written a single word yet, you may imagine writing a bestseller and embarking on a glamorous book-signing tour, or chatting it up with Oprah on her couch. While it's natural to have BIG dreams, you will quickly find out through the writing process that it's a journey - an enlightening one - and the more knowledge you arm yourself with, the more realistic your goals will become.
One thing to consider is whom you'll want to send your query and book proposal to. Of course you should have an agent help you throughout this process, but you're still going to need to research publishers to find out the right one for you. After all, you've just spent a large chunk of your life creating your baby, now you're going to need to raise it, nurture it, and give it the best possible upbringing you can. This is the time to pull out everything in your toolbox: Writer's Market Guide, Jeff Herman's Guide, and online writing groups and resources.
Doing your homework pays, and for Cherie Rohn author of THIEF! (Barricade Books), the proof is in the pudding. Having done extensive research over the years, she finally settled down with a small publishing house that she can be proud of. "A new author can receive more hands-on attention from a smaller press since there isn't so much in-house competition," Cherie advises. "Through my years of continuing research, I learned that naïve new authors suffer from the belief that publication marks the end of the author's work. Nothing could be further from the truth. The author now must change hats and become the best book marketer in the world."
WOW! learned just how dedicated a small press can be when Alisha Lore, a publicist from Barricade Books, queried us to do a feature on Cherie. At the time, we were up to our eyeballs in queries, but a few kind e-mails later, Alisha had convinced us that this interview was not to miss. Of course she was right, but without her persistence, we might never have paid attention to this wonderful opportunity. Cherie further reaffirmed this fact. "Slick and I were very lucky that Barricade Books signed us to a publishing contract. This small press, which champions first amendment rights, doggedly works to promote THIEF! In fact, it was Barricade that made this interview with WOW! possible."
Now, I'm not recommending that you go with a small press if you have loftier aspirations, but don't discount them either. So this Valentine's Day, if your significant other gives you a box the size of a dishwasher and a pair of yellow gloves, you may realize that the smaller things are, the more valuable they can be.
WHAT'S A SMALL PRESS?
As writers, we know who the multinational publishing conglomerates are. Or even if you don't, you've probably heard of them or read one of their imprints. They have consolidated into approximately five publishing firms, which possess the multitude of brand names they've acquired over the years. (More about them in our next issue, The Big House, in March) But who are the little guys, and what defines them?
This may not be as easy to explain as it sounds; there are still many schools of thought on the issue. Some define small presses as anything other than those five publishing firms, some call them Independent presses, some define them by numbers, and some define them by their cultural point of view. So, as you can see, it varies. But here are a couple of simple definitions that may work for you:
- A "Small Press," in loose definition, can be defined as a publisher whose print runs do not exceed 5,000 or so per book, and who publishes fewer than 12 titles a year. This is a numbers definition.
- Another way to look at it is by character and spirit. A small press or independent press is a company that doesn't belong to a corporation; therefore, they don't have stockholders to answer to. They can make their own decisions when it comes to publishing and they don't have to go before a committee, or a board of directors. They bear all the financial risk, but also reap all of the rewards.
WHY GO WITH A SMALL PRESS?
Now you may be wondering, why go with a small or independent press? It all depends on what you are seeking as an author. For some, a small press might be a way to get your foot in the door to a big one. We know, for example, that the Big Guys tend to pay attention to awards such as the "IPPY," Independent Publisher Book Awards, and even 'scout' small presses for new authors. Yet, for others, finding the right small press is like finding the perfect home. Often small presses expand on a certain genre or niche, such as science fiction or horror, whereas the Big Guys only have a limited number of titles they can publish in that genre. Small presses tend to work closely with their authors, offer more editorial attention and author involvement throughout the publishing process. They also may offer long-term involvement or have a specialized audience of readers who may be perfect for your genre.
Whatever your goals may be as an author, be sure to examine their guidelines and look closely at their previously published material. Prepare your material carefully, do your research, and put together a killer query and a well-organized book proposal, whether you're submitting to a large house or a small one.
SMALL PRESSES IN THE BUZZ:
- Akashic Books is a Brooklyn-based independent company dedicated to publishing urban literary fiction and political nonfiction by authors who are either ignored by the mainstream, or who have no interest in working within the ever-consolidating ranks of the major corporate publishers. They were recently profiled in an article on Business Week Online.
- Allen-Ayers Books is a two-person operation. Recently, they received the Scribs World's Reviewer's Choice Award.
- This not-for-profit press received rave reviews from The New York Times and Publisher's Weekly for the English translation of Elias Khoury's novel, Gate of the Sun.
- Bancroft Press' author Scott Fugua won the prestigious ALEX Award for his urban novel, The re-Appearance of Sam Webber. Their writers have been, are, and will continue to be "in-the-trenches" journalists and other professionals - authorities who know and present their stories and subjects better than anyone in the country.
- A revolutionary nonfiction publisher that is always in the spotlight, testing the boundaries of the First Amendment, ultimately strengthening it and protecting our personal freedoms. In this issue of WOW!, not only do we interview Cherie Rohn, author of THIEF!, but we profile Carole Stuart, author and publisher of Barricade Books. They are all over the buzz meter!
- A small independent publisher of Canadian literary fiction, poetry, contemporary memoir and speculative. Tinka's New Dress, by Ronnie Burkett won the Melbourne Age Critics Award.
COFFEE HOUSE PRESS:
- Coffee House Press is an award-winning, nonprofit literary publisher. This small press has received numerous grants from various organizations including the NEA, the Mellon Foundation and Lila Wallace/Readers Digest.
- Big buzz for Honna Swenson, who is profiled in this issue's WOW! Plus, award-winning author, Mary Rosenblum, published her latest novel, Water Rites with Fairwood - and that's not to miss!
- Gival Press received a Silver award in Foreword Magazine for fiction - translation. They publish non-fiction (essays/educational texts), and poetry. To promote writing, Gival Press sponsors four annual contests for fiction and poetry.
GOOSE LANE EDITIONS:
- A Canadian publisher established in 1954! Goose Lane's author, Douglas Glover, won the Governor General's Award for Fiction, for his novel Elle. Note: They do not consider submissions outside Canada.
- This literary nonprofit publisher has been all over the buzz list, from innovative fundraising techniques mentioned on Publisher's Weekly's Indie News to the PEN Awards for author Percival Everett's novel, Wounded.
- Guernica Editions is a small Canadian-based press that produces works of fiction and nonfiction, which deal in one way or another with the pleasurable understanding of different cultures. No stereotypical visuals here! They have won many awards including the American Book Awards for their fine literature.
HARBOR HOUSE BOOKS:
- Harbor House, a Georgia-based publisher is a fast-growing small publisher who has received a Golden Eye Literary Award. They are always seeking to publish the best in original fiction. In 2004, Harbor House began renovation of an 1879 cottage in the heart of downtown Augusta, near the Savannah River. This cottage now serves as the corporate headquarters of Harbor House.
HOMA & SEKEY BOOKS:
- This New Jersey-based publisher focuses on Asia-related titles. Both translations and original English manuscripts are welcome. They received the Notable Book Award for Father & Son: A Novel.
LOST HORSE PRESS:
- Lost Horse Press is an Idaho-based nonprofit independent press committed to publishing poetry, fiction and creative nonfiction titles of high literary merit. Women on the Cross, by Pierre Delattre, won the ForeWord Magazine's Book of the Year Award for Literary Fiction. Lost Horse Press also publishes the annual winner for The Idaho Prize for Poetry - a national competition offering $1000 plus publication for a book-length manuscript.
- Milkweed Editions and Milkweeds for Young Readers - is a Minnesota-based nonprofit independent press who publishes with the intention of making a humane impact on society, in the belief that literature is a transformative art uniquely able to convey the essential experiences of the human heart and spirit. Pattiann Roger's Song of the World Becoming was a finalist in the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and Perfect, by Natasha Friend, was chosen as a Book Sense 76 Children's Book Selection.
NEW VICTORIA PUBLISHERS:
- This small nonprofit press out of Vermont, is a three-person operation that publishes mostly fiction with female protagonists. Mommy Dearest, by Jean Marcy, won the Lambada Literary Award for Mystery.
- Omnidawn has recently been buzzed in Poets & Writers, and has been reviewed in Publisher's Weekly, The Village Voice, American Book Review, and many other publications. They just can't stay out of the spotlight! Martha Ronk's, In a Landscape of Having to Repeat, won the 15 th Annual PEN USA Award in Poetry. This California-based press was founded by husband-and-wife-team Rusty Morrison and Ken Keegan to create books that are closely aligned with each author's vision. They look for "new wave fabulist and fabulist fiction."
POISONED PEN PRESS:
- An independent specializing in publishing high quality works in the field of mystery. This Arizona-based press was nominated for the LA Times Book Prize, and also was the recipient of several Edgar and Agatha nominations.
- Process Media, headquartered in Los Angeles, has created quite the beehive from all of its' buzz. This general trade publishing house is the collaboration of West Coat publishers Jodi Wille of Dilettante Press and Adam Parfrey of Feral House. Movies have been made, cultural trends inspired, and political crimes exposed as a result of this groundbreaking merger. Process synthesizes the sensibilities of the two houses and adds a unique flavor to new pop-culture and the publishing world.
SEVEN STORIES PRESS:
- Under the direction of publisher Dan Simon, perhaps no other small independent house in America has consistently attracted so many important voices away from the corporate publishing sector. Publisher's Weekly has previously named them as the fastest growing independent publisher in America. In 2001, they were also a finalist for the Firecracker Alternative Book Award for Independent Press of the Year.
SOFT SKULL PRESS:
- Soft Skull Press, a Brooklyn-based publisher, has been buzzed recently in Publisher's Weekly's indie news for digitizing political essays. They have also been said to be, "One of the most visible and respected alternative houses in the US...." by Quill & Quire (Canada).
**For more buzz and the latest news about small presses in the news, check out Publisher's Weekly.