I can sum up my experiences with a small press publisher in four words: my books, my way.
I won’t lie to you, I tried to go the traditional publisher route, but I got shut out. Several editors told me that they liked my books, but didn’t know how to sell them--meaning they didn’t know what genre they were. Science fiction editors told me my books didn’t have enough science fiction elements. Thriller and mystery editors said my books had too many science fiction elements. Commercial publishers thought the themes in my books were too literary. Literary publishers thought my writing style too commercial. Most said that the books would get published, but none wanted to take the chance.
Almost as soon as I started querying small independent presses, I found a publisher. And what a good fit! Second Wind Publishing is willing to publish novels that do not fit into the homogenized genres of the traditional publishing companies. Even better, the publisher loves my books. You can’t ask for more than that! Well, yes, you can. I was given final approval every step of the way, and I was allowed to submit my own cover designs for review. I’ve been told by readers that one of my covers is ugly, but still, it’s my ugly, not a cover that was foisted on me by an uncaring corporation.
The one drawback to being published by small independent presses, especially new ones, is the lack of a publicity department. But is a drawback in the long run?
Whether published by a small press or a major publisher, new authors have to struggle to get noticed in the clamor of the vast selection of new books being published every year. According to Bowker, in 2008, 284,370 books were released by the traditional publishers, and 285,394 books were released by small independent publishers, vanity presses, and self-publishers. That is a lot of books available each year to an ever shrinking reading population.
Suzanne Francis, author of Heart of Hythea, says: “It takes time to be noticed when you don't have the resources to splash your name all over the New York Times or whatever. With micro publishing you have to be in it for the long haul. Keep turning out new books and doing the odd bit of marketing. Sales increase slowly, and there will be a bump on your past books every time you issue something new. But the advantage is that nothing ever goes out of print. Big pubs may or may not market a new book, but chances are they will lose interest quickly unless you are Stephanie Meyer or Dan Brown. I'd love to see my books in a brick and mortar book shop, but realistically, they wouldn't be there long. I'm more interested in producing a body of work I can be proud of and that will be around for a long while.”
If, as I’ve heard, it takes three years for a book to find a niche, then books such as mine that need to create their own niches will take a lot longer. With a small independent press, there’s a good chance my novels will be available when readers find me. And when they do, they will find not a homogenization of my books, but my books the way I envisioned them.
Pat Bertram is a native of Colorado and a lifelong resident. When the traditional publishers stopped publishing her favorite type of book — character and story driven novels that can’t easily be slotted into a genre — she decided to write her own. Daughter Am I is Bertram’s third novel to be published by Second Wind Publishing, LLC. Also available are More Deaths Than One and A Spark of Heavenly Fire.