Sunday, September 23, 2012

Eenie, Meenie, How to Chose Your Publisher

Love my cows in Florida

Whether it's rural Florida or the Butternut Valley in upstate New York, it's country.

About a country gal with attitude!
Everyone agrees that the publishing industry is changing at the speed of light, but no one can predict for the individual writer wanting to get published what the best choice might be: agent and big publisher, small publisher, self-publishing.
I’m not going to discuss big publishers and their cumbersome requirement of having an agent before they look at your work. There wasn’t enough time in my life to do that for long, and this post has a similar urgency.  We want to get our work out to our readers soon.  Small presses are nimble enough to accomplish this.

I think it’s important to really know yourself to choose the right publishing venue.  If you’re a confident and adventurous soul who prefers to chart your own course, and you like doing things by yourself, then self-publishing is for you.  You can set your own schedule and decide if you want to hire an outside editor for your work.  You’ll have absolute control of the final manuscript and the cover.  You are the kind of person who enjoys seeking out clever ways of promoting your work, and you do this well.  You’re pretty much your own writer, editor, book designer, publicist and marketer.  You’re going it alone.  You love it that way.  No doubt for you.  Aside from what Amazon, Nook, Smashwords, Createspace, etc. take, the lion’s share will be yours.  And you might, like a very few others, make a boatload of money.  Too scary?  Try this.

Small Press Check List

When I talk to writers about small presses, I like to emphasize two things.  First, not all small presses are alike.  Do your homework to find out what they provide in the way of editing, publicity, or author input into cover design.  Second, researching the small press is most important only after you do a truthful assessment of what you as a writer need in your publisher.  Below is my recommended check list for accomplishing your writer’s self-assessment:

I am a shy person who enjoys writing.  I think I’m a good writer, but I’ve been told by my critique partner or writers’ group that I lack self-confidence;

I am willing to develop a marketing plan, but I may need some help doing this.  I have a presence on the web, but I know I need to do more.

My goal in writing is to write the best story I can, but I am open to making changes in my manuscript and will do so to strengthen my work.   

I like the idea of being able to talk to writers in a group to exchange ideas
about marketing as well as other issues in publishing.

I’m eager to get my work published, but don’t feel I can take the steps to do
this alone.       
I understand I must do most of my own marketing although I would like some support from my publisher.     

I need a personal relationship with my publisher, one where I can contact her and     
 expect a timely reply. 

I need my publisher to respect my opinions as a writer as I respect hers as the  publisher.

I’d like to share input about my book cover.     

I’m most interested in developing my career as a writer and having a publisher
who wants to grow me as an author.

I believe any small publisher would love to have a writer with most, if not all, of these characteristics.  Working with a small publisher like Oak Tree Press is a collaborative effort.  This is true of most small presses.  With Oak Tree the association between author and press is intimate and the other authors are supportive and friendly. 

If most of the items in the checklist describe you as a writer, you might find a small press will suit your needs.  It’s certain the press would see you as a writer to foster and develop as you are eager to create a platform to serve you over your writing career.  It should serve your publisher and readers as well.
Do you have other items you want to add to the list?


Anonymous said...

Leslie: Your comment re agents: There wasn’t enough time in my life to do [query agents] that for long really spoke to me. As a senior--and I don't mean high school--I'll be senile by the time I get responses. Recently I've sent queries directly to editors I've had contact with in the past. I'm trying to eliminate the hurdles. We're not content to wait outside the gates, our noses pressed to the window. Today, writers are storming the gates! All best to you, Sharon Love Cook, author of the mystery A NOSE FOR HANKY PANKY and THE LEGEND OF JUDGMENT ROCK AND OTHER MYSTERY STORIES.

Lesley Diehl said...

Yup, you're so right. I'm glad I didn't wait for the call. It did finally come, but just this year. If I'd waited, I'd have missed out on having four books in print. I'm a senior who feels the passage of time also. I want to do it now. Why deny your readers some great stories?

Holli said...

And not all "small" presses are created equal. OTP is getting quite an inventory for a small press. I used to prefer the term indie to small, but since self-published is now considered indie publishing, the term small press seems to be in favor to differentiate the two.

I also like the patience of publishers in smaller houses. I know a traditional big house would not give me the time I need to finish writing my books the way I need to, and would probably have canceled my series by now.

Lesley Diehl said...

True, true. I think Oak Tree is one of the best small presses.

Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

I love both my small presses, though not exactly alike,I didn't have to wait for an agent for either one, they both respond quickly to any question that I ask, I've met them both--in fact that's how I queried, in person.

Patricia Gligor said...

I love small publishers and I'm grateful for them. As Forrest Gump said, "and that's all I have to say about that."

Lorna Collins - said...

I also love both of my indie publishers. Having a personal relationship with the publisher is a real plus.

Melanie Jackson, author, editor, piano student said...

I enjoyed your post, Lesley. And it brought back memories. Years ago, before I found a publisher not requiring an agent, I had a fairly well-known agent in Toronto send my stuff out. Problem. It was a children's mystery, and the agent sent it to ... Harlequin Romance! Guess I wasn't important enough for them to read the ms., maybe? It's much nicer to deal directly with a publisher, I agree.

marja said...

Not having an agent makes me feel like I have a little control, and since I'm kind of a control freak, that works for me. I like both of my publishers, so I'm in a good place. However, I have an old stand alone story I did several years ago, and I'm going to try it using the Amazon program and see what happens. I appreciate what Sharon said about not having enough time in life to query agents. So true.

Sally Carpenter said...

The old process of sending queries to agent, waiting for a reply and then the agent contacting publishers is far too time and energy consuming. That worked all right in the past when a good writer could easily find an agent, but today agents and big publishers will not even look at a new writer. Small presses have the flexibility to work faster and get books on the market quicker.

Lesley Diehl said...

What I love about small publishers is that many of them actually take the time to read your work and make comments and suggestions that are helpful. This is especially true of Oak Tree. As some of you have indicated, Sunny has given feedback to writers, and they've used it to resubmit with great results.

Beryl Reichenberg said...

Hi Leslie, Being a shy senior I can relate to all of the items on your checklist. I too find contacting the big, traditional publishing houses a daunting experience with all the hurtles I must jump. Is the first sentence of my query letter strong enough to get the rest of my letter read, let alone my manuscript? Is it too long? Did I include the right information? Is my manuscript in the right format? etc., etc. You all know the drill. So, it is refreshing to work with a small press like OTP, especially as a relatively new writer. Beryl

Radine Trees Nehring said...

Great ideas, Leslie. For ideas about overcoming shyness when it hampers promotion of our writing, writers here might enjoy reading "Believing in Ourselves" at

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