Author Topic: Self-publishing vs a smaller publishing house?  (Read 1029 times)  

Offline sophia ann

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Self-publishing vs a smaller publishing house?
« on: January 05, 2018, 07:58:36 AM »
Bit of a random thought but....

Whats the difference between self-publishing and going with a small publishing company? I mean if youre doing okay at self-publishing, why would you change to a small publishing house that basically dose the same thing? Or do they offer something different? I get why authors would change if it was a bigger publisher, they would offer better marketing and such. But a small, possibly indie publishing house? What would be the point? Is anyone here with a smaller publishing house and if so what else do they offer you?


Thanks


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Online Bill Hiatt

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Re: Self-publishing vs a smaller publishing house?
« Reply #1 on: January 05, 2018, 08:13:58 AM »
Bit of a random thought but....

Whats the difference between self-publishing and going with a small publishing company? I mean if youre doing okay at self-publishing, why would you change to a small publishing house that basically dose the same thing? Or do they offer something different? I get why authors would change if it was a bigger publisher, they would offer better marketing and such. But a small, possibly indie publishing house? What would be the point? Is anyone here with a smaller publishing house and if so what else do they offer you?


Thanks
Disclaimer: I am alluding to the experience of people I know, not my personal experience. I've never been with a small publisher (except for the occasional short story in a cross-promotional anthology). I did research what small publishers had to offer when I was considering moving that way, however.

There is a psychological appeal for people who want that trad pub validation so that people will view them as a "real" author. (There is still a lot of prejudice against indie authors, so you can see why someone might go with a small publisher just to avoid that.)

Also, people who really want to write and let someone else take care of the business end completely might find that approach appealing. However, these days a lot of small presses still expect the author to do a fair amount of promotion. The small press approach might still be handy, though, for someone who doesn't have the cash for professional editing and cover design, since those are normally taken care of by the small press.

I know one or two people who like working with a particular small press because they have a good relationship with the editor. Having that feeling of support and the collaborative experience is important for some people.

There are few things small publishers can do that indie writers can't do on their own, but, as I've said, there may be psychological or financial reasons for making that choice.



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Offline sophia ann

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Re: Self-publishing vs a smaller publishing house?
« Reply #2 on: January 05, 2018, 09:02:15 AM »
Disclaimer: I am alluding to the experience of people I know, not my personal experience. I've never been with a small publisher (except for the occasional short story in a cross-promotional anthology). I did research what small publishers had to offer when I was considering moving that way, however.

There is a psychological appeal for people who want that trad pub validation so that people will view them as a "real" author. (There is still a lot of prejudice against indie authors, so you can see why someone might go with a small publisher just to avoid that.)

Also, people who really want to write and let someone else take care of the business end completely might find that approach appealing. However, these days a lot of small presses still expect the author to do a fair amount of promotion. The small press approach might still be handy, though, for someone who doesn't have the cash for professional editing and cover design, since those are normally taken care of by the small press.

I know one or two people who like working with a particular small press because they have a good relationship with the editor. Having that feeling of support and the collaborative experience is important for some people.

There are few things small publishers can do that indie writers can't do on their own, but, as I've said, there may be psychological or financial reasons for making that choice.

Ooo this is so interesting... thank you for replying!


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Offline SophiaQuinn

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Re: Self-publishing vs a smaller publishing house?
« Reply #3 on: January 05, 2018, 09:37:15 AM »
Honestly, I don't think that much. Unless you land a deal with a big 5 traditional publisher, you're not going to get much in the way of promotion or distribution (the two things a publisher can do better than an author). You can also get locked into a release schedule that's faster or slower than you would like, end up with covers you hate, sign away all your rights without realizing it, and otherwise get entangled in TERRIBLE contractual clausesa friend almost signed a deal with an indie publisher (a larger one that many people have heard of) and the contract included clauses that said if they cancelled the deal, SHE would have to reimburse THEM for any "promotional expenses" they'd put out for her book. This is a straight-up shady move, and that's just the tip of the iceberg.

If you DO sign with an indie, read Preditors and Editors and have a lawyer review the contract. Don't get so charmed by that psychological boost of "having a publisher" that you shoot yourself in the foot.

Edit: Also, many indies offer no advance (i.e. no money up front) and take the lion's share of the royalties, basically leaving you high and dry.
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Re: Self-publishing vs a smaller publishing house?
« Reply #4 on: January 05, 2018, 09:58:11 AM »
There are some "small presses" that are nothing more than Random Dude with a KDP Account (and probably one at Warrior Forum as well) who do little more than format, slap a home-made cover on, and take half your royalties.

There's also a bunch of e-book oriented small presses that usually just slightly predate the whole KDP thing and hire editors, professional cover designers, and all that. I'm thinking of places like Ellora's Cave or Loose Id. You know what both of those have in common? They went bankrupt. One responsibly and one flaming out. The problem is most of these presses are competing directly with indies, but it's hard to have a corporate infrastructure and not price yourself out of the market. Also, many of these are still the work of one or two people and even if they're profitable, if one of them flakes or gets hit by a truck, you can find your stuff in limbo.

Offline Mark Gardner

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Re: Self-publishing vs a smaller publishing house?
« Reply #5 on: January 05, 2018, 10:10:35 AM »
As someone who is devoutly in the self-pubbed camp, I have signed contracts with small presses. Thus far, with my most recent contract excluded, I've been disappointed with every small press I've signed with. I'm confidant that had I self-pubbed those books, I'd be making more money in royalties right now, the books would rank better, etc. Here are a few reasons why I personally still consider small presses:

1. Advances. Since I won't do a contract for a new book without an advance, this is a major deciding element for me. Sometimes, I need to buy a water heater, or a new dining room table, and that advance money up front takes the burden off of my shoulders.

2. Industry connections. While this is less likely with smaller small press than with medium to large, the ability of a small press to have a presence at a comic fest or convention and/or book festival/fair. sometimes they cover the hotel, sometimes they cover airfare, sometimes they cover food, sometimes they give you a stipend. I can attend just about any event in the continental  United States for $1000 - $1500. A small press will sometimes cover these costs to get me on panels, and in-person book signings. Often it's to attend an event that is "in their back yard" so to say. Also, some small presses will/have made inroads with other segments of the industry - there could be more opportunities as an author published by a small press.

3. Up-front investment. If an indie is really watching their expenditures, they can have an expected production cost of $1000 - $3000 for a property. Many who are just starting out, this is a daunting investment. A small press can absorb this cost, usually with in-house personnel, or existing contracts.

4. Validation. Any author who claims that validation doesn't mean anything to them is lying - either to you, or to themselves. The level and type of validation just depends on where they are in their career. I so want to be nominated for a Hugo, even though it means practically nothing in the publishing industry. Many other authors that I respect who have won the Hugo keep telling me that a Hugo or Nebula win, let alone a nomination, would have marginal effect on my career, but it's my dream, so I'm sticking to it.

5. Time. Some people just want to write, WRITE, WRITE, and not worry about anything else other than writing and creating. Me personally, I like the business end of writing as much as I like the art, so I grok that side of it.

I'm sure there are other reasons why an indie author might pursue a small press, but I think that these five are the major reasons.

Offline Missy Wilkinson

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Re: Self-publishing vs a smaller publishing house?
« Reply #6 on: January 05, 2018, 10:31:19 AM »
I'm going to echo what Bill said and argue that the decision to publish with a small press is largely ego-based. At least it was in my case.

I published with a small press in 2015 because I still bought into that whole SELF-PUBLISHING MEANS YOU FAILED thing. And it was an awful experience. I lost money. One of the press co-owners actually went to jail for writing hot royalty checks in excess of $10,000 to an author. Then the press went bankrupt and folded. I got my rights back, but they're still selling my book and profiting from it. I don't have the time or inclination to fight them.

ANYWAY. Long story short. Unless you are signing with an established, respected or academic small press, don't bother. I had to do soooo much self-promotion. Even though my press had a 13 year track record, it went downhill because it was sold to crooks shortly after I signed my contract.

Also, this kind of thing is becoming more and more common, sadly.

Offline Jim Johnson

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Re: Self-publishing vs a smaller publishing house?
« Reply #7 on: January 05, 2018, 11:09:53 AM »
Might be an element of confidence issues too. Some writers I've known submit to small presses because they want the validation of some editor somewhere liking their work enough to publish it, want someone else to do the 'grunt work' of covers, editing, packaging, marketing, etc. And the same authors are afraid of submitting to the big traditional houses or don't have the confidence to do so, so maybe think the smaller presses are going to be easier to get into.

Different strokes for different folks. The more I work my indie thing, the more I can't imagine working with a small press. A smart indie can do or sub-contract anything a small press can do, and doing it myself means I don't have to share income with them.

Online CLStone

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Re: Self-publishing vs a smaller publishing house?
« Reply #8 on: January 05, 2018, 12:12:56 PM »
A couple of additional thoughts: Think of all those authors who come to you and ask you how to publish even on KDP and have no clue at all. :) They can write, but don't ask them how to format or upload. Instead of bugging you, a small press can be a solution.

Depending on the small press, also, they can sometimes have access to programs you won't have access to. Like being in KU and wide at the same time. Most indies don't have this, some small presses do. Also, some have stronger leeway into Kindle Daily Deals, etc. You lose in royalty percentage but you may gain in visibility. Maybe. That will depend on a lot of factors.

Or sometimes you're very busy and you want to sometimes just write and let someone else take over for a series regarding covers/branding and launch, etc. Some publishers do offer promo options but also do nice launches as well.

It highly depends on the publisher, of course. You want to look at their books, see what they are doing, ask questions. Like trade publishers, a small publisher can be something to utilize if it fits into your strategies.

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Offline SteveHarrison

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Re: Self-publishing vs a smaller publishing house?
« Reply #9 on: January 05, 2018, 02:36:51 PM »
My decision to go with a small press was because I couldn't interest a large publisher or get an agent. I also wanted an independent third party to agree my novel should be published and back that up with cash.

I got lucky with my publisher and have no regrets. The editing, design, promotion and other services they provided were top notch and they have been very supportive since the book came out. Not to mention the friendships I have made with the other authors in the publisher's 'stable.'

Like all writing issues, methods and considerations, the choice self-publishing or traditional publishing is one of personal preference and one may be more suitable for an individual author than the other. Trad worked for me (and it got me an agent), but maybe I would have been better off self-publishing. Don't know and don't care :)

Offline Carol (was Dara)

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Re: Self-publishing vs a smaller publishing house?
« Reply #10 on: January 05, 2018, 08:12:30 PM »
When I used to write for small presses, they supplied cover art, editing, formatting, and handled digital distribution. The better presses sent out ARCs to bloggers, provided promo graphics, and worked with their authors to provide tools for promotion and interacting with readers. (These tools were usually just the publishers' forums, blogs, social media, etc.) Authors were strongly encouraged to get out there and hustle and the publisher supported their promotional efforts however they could. But because they were small, most of their marketing efforts went toward promoting the press, rather than individual titles. I don't regret starting out with the digital first presses, because I gained confidence and experience there at a time when self-pubbing wasn't right for me yet.

As to why a writer might choose the above over self-publishing, personally, I've found self-publishing more profitable and satisfying. BUT. People often email me these days and ask how to self-publish. When I launch into a brief explanation, I can feel their eyes glazing over. They've written a book from the heart and want to see it published. They don't have the budget for hiring artists and editors, or the time to research categories and keywords or to learn about preparing and uploading files. They don't expect to devote regular time to marketing and they don't plan to write multiple books per year. They aren't prepared to launch into publishing as a full-time or even part-time business.

In those cases, I think the writer would (sometimes) be best served to sell to a small press, if they can find a reputable one that invests in quality covers, editing, and provides some degree of marketing support. I wouldn't expect to make a living at it, unless they're writing in a hot niche and get in with a publisher who really specializes in that area. But where the goal is to see the work in its finished form, make it available for purchase, ensure a quality product, while risking no money and a limited amount of time in the process... In those cases I believe there's still a place for small presses. The tricky part is separating the reputable from the other kind. 

Offline JA Konrath

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Re: Self-publishing vs a smaller publishing house?
« Reply #11 on: January 05, 2018, 08:17:12 PM »
The only reason you hire an agent, or sign with a publisher, is if they can help you earn more money than you can on your own.

In the case of a publisher, if they are known for their marketing and promo, if they can get you on awards short lists that you respect (disclaimer: I don't respect any awards, but YMMV), and if they can earn enough to cover their cut plus give you something more, go for it.

If you do sign anything, make sure you have a literary lawyer look at it, and that you have an escape clause. No one should have your rights if they aren't making you money. Those days are over.

Offline Mark Gardner

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Re: Self-publishing vs a smaller publishing house?
« Reply #12 on: January 06, 2018, 06:17:15 AM »
Hey, Chicago Jack, whats up, man? Reversion clauses. All my contracts have this now. I have a title that should be hot, but the small press that I signed with is doing no marketing whatsoever. I pulled down some nice money for a few months while I self-pubbed it. Now, through the small press, I make quarterly what I should be making weekly. This title is languishing now, and I don't want to finish writing the sequel, because I know that it's not going to earn what it should.
If you do sign anything, make sure you have a literary lawyer look at it, and that you have an escape clause. No one should have your rights if they aren't making you money. Those days are over.

Offline Moe D

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Re: Self-publishing vs a smaller publishing house?
« Reply #13 on: January 06, 2018, 06:25:16 AM »
I'm chiming in to say much of what's already been said. If you plan on going with a small press, do a lot of research. Speak to some of their authors. A good friend got a 5-book deal with a small press and it's been a nightmare. No marketing support at all but she's been expected to do all the marketing with little or no guidance. Other than a book cover and some editing, she got nothing from this deal. She could have done it herself and got 70% in royalties.

Offline robert eggleton

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Re: Self-publishing vs a smaller publishing house?
« Reply #14 on: January 06, 2018, 07:32:54 AM »
Historically, self-publishing is vanity publishing that has gained wider acceptance. 
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Offline Al Stevens

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Re: Self-publishing vs a smaller publishing house?
« Reply #15 on: January 06, 2018, 07:48:27 AM »
Look at the rankings of other titles from the small press's catalog. Look at their covers. Read the Look-inside samples to see how their editing and formatting go. Those are the skill sets where an experienced publisher can usually outshine a DIY (self) publisher. Finally, see whether you've heard of any of the authors in the publisher's stable. These metrics represent a publisher's qualifications and abilities to publish successful works.

Don't do it for some phantom, useless validation. That and four bucks will buy you a latte.

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Re: Self-publishing vs a smaller publishing house?
« Reply #16 on: January 06, 2018, 07:59:03 AM »
I've always done far, far better with a publisher than by self-publishing, which is really just another name for vanity publishing. But most of my experience has been with Big Five publishers (Doubleday and HarperCollins) and a significant university press. The exception was a regional publisher whose firm I largely launched, and whose owner was a longtime friend. He eventually overexpanded and went bust, but the books were picked up by a larger regional publisher, so that turned out all right.

You get a much more professional product, in part because you get dispassionate eyes upon your book. The downside is going to be the digital version, which will be priced high while bringing a poor royalty (typically 10 percent of NET, which at best works out to 5 percent of list -- figure 80 cents on a $16 book, where you might have gotten $3.25 on a $5 book).

My traditionally published books have always sold in the tens of thousands (hundreds of thousands for those Doubleday novel, which went into mass-market paperbacks and a movie). My self-published books have sold in the hundreds for the most part, with maybe two or three in the thousands. So you can see why I am not among those who sneer at "trad" publishers.

What you should be finding out is how many books this guy has sold, and how long he or she has been in business.
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Online Speaker-To-Animals

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Re: Self-publishing vs a smaller publishing house?
« Reply #17 on: January 06, 2018, 09:43:37 AM »
I've always done far, far better with a publisher than by self-publishing, which is really just another name for vanity publishing.

That's really both insulting and inaccurate.

Among other things, vanity publishing implies a type of scam where a "publisher" has a business model of making their money by charges to authors rather than sales of books. That in no way describes what modern indies are doing.

And a mass market paperback from a big NY house is pretty much the peak of traditional publishing, so I'm not surprised you did exceptionally well. And last I heard, according to the Author's Guild, the standard ebook royalty rate was 25% not 10% which would be a royalty more typical of print.

Offline Sam Kates

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Re: Self-publishing vs a smaller publishing house?
« Reply #18 on: January 06, 2018, 11:38:25 AM »
I've always done far, far better with a publisher than by self-publishing, which is really just another name for vanity publishing.

Seriously?
 
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Offline Carol (was Dara)

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Re: Self-publishing vs a smaller publishing house?
« Reply #19 on: January 06, 2018, 12:27:41 PM »
I think it's important to compare like with like. A self-published book which only sells in the dozens is comparable to a very small press published book that only sells to friends and family of the author. A highly successful trad pub book selling in the hundreds of thousands should be compared to books from the higher tier of indies earning six figures yearly. Household name trad authors would have to be compared to the seven figure authors of the indie world.

None of the above is comparable to subsidy or vanity publishing, which typically involves the author paying a few thousand dollars for a product that isn't usually of any outstanding quality and could have been created for significantly less if the author had approached individual freelancers (artists, editors) instead of buying a publishing package from a vanity press. In those cases, the author has a very long way to go for any hope of ever earning back their expenses. This model has survived for so long because, in the old days, the author didn't have (or know of) many choices. Nowadays, with author services being very affordable and online distribution easily available, there's rarely any reason to pay a middle man for overpriced services.

Offline LilyBLily

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Re: Self-publishing vs a smaller publishing house?
« Reply #20 on: January 06, 2018, 01:10:27 PM »
I've always done far, far better with a publisher than by self-publishing, which is really just another name for vanity publishing.

That's insulting and ignorant.

Historically, self-publishing is vanity publishing that has gained wider acceptance. 

That's insulting and ignorant, too.

First, you're assuming that any book turned down by major publishers is low in quality and does not deserve to be called a book under any circumstances. This simply is not true. Publishers turn down books for sales reasons based on a national/international sales paradigm that today is limping along in tatters. People in the biz were talking about the death of the mass market paperback long before the rise of the ebook, and that was based on shrinking points of sale, not on a shrinking audience for that kind of book. It's not surprising that ebook genre novels took off, for the simple reason that readers still wanted those kinds of books. Since trad publishers did not rush to fill that need at a reasonable price via the new technology, others did. As access to quality editorial and production pros has increased, so has the average technical quality of self-published books. 

Second, the actual victims of vanity publishing are a far cry from knowledgeable self-publishing pros, and you are choosing to ignore all the efforts we self-publishing pros make to ensure that we produce a quality book indistinguishable from one that is traditionally published. We use the same editors (the ones laid off by trad pubs as they merged), and the same cover designers, and so on. We also have learned a vast amount about marketing that most traditionally published authors know zip about.

Third, the majority of self-published fiction books are genre novels, and those seldom got reviews or respect no matter who published them until and unless an author graduated to the big leagues with original hardcovers and million-copy print runs, a la Nora Roberts, Sandra Brown, Robert Jordan, Frank Herbert, etc. 

Fourth, if you're hunting for validation and old-school respectability, you have to make the effort to find the kind of small press that publishes books that get noticed and that get reviews. Having done that, you may or may not get royalty checks for a dollar or two now and then. If respect is all you want, go for it. In some genres, such as sf and fantasy, your books may appear at every convention in the dealers' room and you may sell a few copies by hand if you're on a panel. That is very gratifying, no doubt. Is it any less vanity publishing by anyone's definition? 

In my opinion, going with a small press is the essence of vanity publishing. You either know the press can't sell many copies of your book, or worse, you don't know and you don't care. You've decided that sales will not be your metric, only respect counts. That's vanity.

Offline Kristy Tate

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Re: Self-publishing vs a smaller publishing house?
« Reply #21 on: January 06, 2018, 01:24:09 PM »
Two of my friends (one indie, one with a small publisher) wrote a book about the pros and cons. You can see it here:
https://www.amazon.com/Aspiring-Author-Guide-Publishing-Career-ebook/dp/B075R59C7X/ref=sr_1_4?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1515273679&sr=1-4&keywords=greta+boris

Offline Sam Kates

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Re: Self-publishing vs a smaller publishing house?
« Reply #22 on: January 06, 2018, 01:43:50 PM »
In my opinion, going with a small press is the essence of vanity publishing.

Wow. I self-pub and I'm with a small press. I must be incredibly vain.  :(
 
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