Sunday, May 22, 2016

Things to consider before working with a small press

Just over a year ago, my first book, Winell Road: Beneath the Surface, a middle grade sci-fi adventure, was published. Well, to anyone who doesn't follow me on social media, this book is no longer published. Yep, didn’t even make a year. Play the violins...

I won’t babble on about why Winell Road is no longer out there in the world – that blog post might come later in the year. I’m still healing from the disappointment, as well as looking to get it back out there. But I thought maybe I’d let you in on some things I’ve learnt about publishing with a small press.

1.      Think sooooooo carefully before signing a publishing contract. Take your time, seek advice. If you have IP lawyer friends, ask them to review the contract. If not, join a society of authors who often have their own contract vetting service. If it costs, pay the money. It might be the best thing you ever pay for. I rejected more than one contract based on advice from a lawyer. Best move ever! Don’t consider yourself to be less worthy than authors with agents who will negotiate contracts on their behalf. Oh, absolutely DO NOT do this. You are as worthy and you must make sure you sign the right and best contract for you. Give yourself some credit.

2.      I took a chance on my publisher, they were brand new, so there weren’t any already contracted clients to speak with about their experiences. This was my choice, and one I did sweat over for a while. However, if the offering press is established, research them.

a)      Are their previous clients happy? And I don’t necessarily mean successful, because success is a personal thing that differs from one author to the next.

b)      Are their books well-edited and presented, professional? Readers will immediately be put off by poor quality books riddled with mistakes.

c)      How do they handle themselves on social media? Are they professional? Are they even on social media?

d)      Where are their books for sale?

e)      Google the press. What comes up?

f)       Are their books priced competitively?

g)      How are they actually earning their share of the profits?

h)      Do they have plans for growth? What’s in their future?

And so on. Put some time and effort into your decision BEFORE you sign.

3.      Decide what you want, and this relates to how you interpret success. If you want your book in all the big bookstores around the world and to make thousands of dollars, depending on the offering press’ size, the small press route probably isn’t the way to go (and you’re expectations might be a little high if you’re a first time author). Small presses will do their best to stock you in bookstores (well, some do), but print runs can often be VERY expensive for the press with not that many stores ordering Print-on-Demand books, thus not a viable option for them. With POD commonplace in the modern world of publishing, maybe being content with your book available to the world online and in local bookstores is enough. Only you can answer this question.

4.      What can this small press do that you can’t do yourself? It’s all well and good saying you want a supportive team to back you up, that you can’t do it on your own, but what kind of back up are you wanting exactly? If it’s purely someone to chat with via email every now and then and tell you you’re great, then super, but can’t a friend or your mum do this? If the back-up you require is a team of people who are also marketing and promoting your book, looking for opportunities to get your name out there, evaluating sales and evolving with the industry as time goes on; people that although might have a unique take on publishing, still have realistic expectations and ideas, then you need to go back to points 2 and 3. Research, think, decide.

5.      And this point should go without saying: Is this small press expecting money from you? Asking you to pay for editing, cover design, etc? If so, then they are not actually a small press, they are a self-publisher or vanity press. If this is something you’re happy with, again, ask yourself what this company can do for you that you can’t do yourself. Will sourcing your own team of reputable editors, designers, formatters, publicists and so on work out cheaper and be a far more personal, hands-on, and ultimately more rewarding experience for you?

6.      Most publishers, big and small, expect authors to be their own marketers and publicists these days. It’s the way it is. You need to put yourself out there, look for opportunities too. But if you’re doing ALL of this yourself maybe stop and ask yourself why you haven’t self published. Being an author is a business, and if you’re giving some of your profits to someone who is just sitting back with a cup of tea, probably not even watching the progress or reception of your book, then alarm bells should be ringing. It’s great that they might have produced this lovely looking book, but if it’s not reaching the hands of any readers, then what is the point?

Whatever you decide, just make sure your expectations are realistic and do your research. Don’t be afraid to ask questions – this is your career. You need to be with someone that loves your book as much as you love it, someone who appreciates and understands this industry and who is willing to try new things to reach new readers. Signing with a creative team who say all the right things is great, but they need to back this up with results, an exciting approach, and their own grounded expectations.

As a writer, you’re likely (or certainly should be) a reader. Think about what you like in a book.

My checklist: Quality. Affordability (not free – I never download free books (unless it’s a buy book 2 get book 1 for free type deal)). Accessibility.

I would not advise even considering a small press unless they can deliver on these three points straight away.

I hope that helps some of you in some way. Good luck.

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