Thank goodness for small, independent presses. Writers like me, who lack the Internet presence major publishing houses require, have a chance with them. .
March is Small Press Month. “Small” as in annual sales under $50 million - with fewer than ten titles published a year .If the Big Publishing Houses were corporate banks, the small presses would be credit unions. More accessible. Friendlier. Geared towards a particular neighborhood.
A database on the Poets and Writers magazine website lists hundreds of small presses, alphabetically and by genre: poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction. I found a small publisher for my memoir on a list from the Writer magazine. Both of these sources are reliable, which begs a distinction that must be made between small presses and vanity presses.
The small press (like larger university presses) accepts quality manuscripts – and rejects substandard ones. Small presses also distribute their books and pay royalties. Vanity presses are virtually printers. They accept all manuscripts and sell the manuscript-turned-book, in volume, back to the writer. End of contract.
Writing magazines regularly feature articles like “Bigger Isn’t Always Better,” by Jeff Reich. He says the less-is-more perspective allows a small press to focus “on quality not quantity.” Big Name Publishers like Big Name Clients. They often opt for celebrity over craft – and hire a ghost writer for the celebs who can’t write.
Small presses give writers like you and me a chance to tell our stories. Last year, after a number of really "complimentary rejections" from the likes of HCI and S & S, the independent start-up, Signalman Publishing, accepted my memoir, Staying Alive: A Love Story. Since publication the book was nominated for the 2012 Christian Small Press Association Book of the Year, received a 2011 Readers Views Award, and has been recommended by the American Institute of Health Care Professionals.Yet it didn't have a chance with a Big Publishing House.
Recently Signalman published a beautiful memoir by Jack Sheedy,a Connecticut writer who reviewed my book for The Catholic Transcript last year. As poignant and entertaining as Jack's, The Sting of the Heat Bug is, his story of growing-up- Irish couldn't make it through the likes of Random House or Penguin Books - because Jack, who has been writing for The Catholic Transcript for years, isn’t well known enough. An independent press like Signalman Publishers offers him the chance to put his story “out there” even though Jack is not trending on Yahoo. Not yet anyway!
John McClure, president of Signalman Publishing, says, “small publishers can and do release titles that offer the reader unique insight on a topic without the filter of commercial success blocking it.”
Yet, small presses can be profitable. Only after corporate publishers repeatedly rejected Paul Harding’s Tinkers, did the new, unheard of Bellvue Literary Press (named after the New York hospital) publish the novel. Then Tinkers picked up a 2010 Pulitizer Prize.
Jack and I are available for co-readings and book signings in Connecticut. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like us to visit your book club or organization.