If you are a querying author, chances are you’ve poured over agents’ manuscript wishlists, social media posts, and websites hoping to find perfect matches for your manuscript. And while that is what you should be doing, it’s not all you could be doing.
A lot of querying authors overlook small presses in hopes of landing a dream agent followed by a hefty advance from one of the big five. But if you are placing all your publishing dream eggs in that one basket, you could be missing out on finding the golden one.
What is a Small Press?
A small press is a publishing house that releases under a certain number of titles each year (ten to thirty with ten being industry-standard) and has much lower annual sales than their larger counterparts due to their shortlist. Small presses are fully staffed with line editors, developmental editors, proofreaders, illustrators, designers, and more. What authors may even find more appealing is that small presses generally accept un-agented manuscripts.
Why You Should Query Small Presses?
Literary agents might receive hundreds of query letters a week on top of the authors they are already working with. Because their time is so limited, most don’t give feedback on query rejections.
But I’ve found this isn’t necessarily the case with small presses. In fact, it was query feedback from a small press that helped me to eventually land my publishing deal with a different small press.
Presence in Publishing
It is estimated the big five owns anywhere from 60-80% of the 700-900 million books sold annually. (The big five keep these numbers on the down-low.) This means, at best, there are 360 million sales available to small presses which are more than happy to claim them!
More Willing to Take Risks
Small presses typically have less to lose with debut authors or experimental projects because they offer little to no advances. Additionally, since most best-selling authors are highly-paid, small presses must take those risks to find their top talent. Small presses are also more likely to publish works in niche markets that the big five may avoid.
Closer to the Creative Process
If you sign with a small press, you as the author will likely have more creative input during revision and book cover than you would with an agent and a large publisher. Small presses are less likely to focus on market demands than pushing creative boundaries.
One Stop Shop
If you are blessed to score a literary agent—Congratulations! But…that doesn’t mean a publishing deal. That agent will need to sell your book to an editor at a publishing house.
On the other hand, if you land a deal with a small press—your book will be published. It may not have the backing of a multi-million dollar publisher for marketing, but you will have likely have an amazing journey to your debut!
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