Monday, May 11, 2015

In Praise of a Small Publisher

Telling people I'm a published author often inspires this reaction--"So are you making a lot of money from your books?" In their minds, if you're a published author, you're in league with writers like James Patterson, Stephen King, Nora Roberts, and others who make a cushy living from their book sales. Their interest quickly wanes when they discover that your publisher is a small, independent company.

Let me define "small and independent"--this is a publisher that pays royalties (like the big guys do) but is not affiliated with big distributors. It's not the same as self-publishing or vanity publishing. There are drawbacks, as there are with almost any job or employer, but there are many benefits as well.

I've worked for a large retailer, Walmart, for many years, but I've also worked for small, "mom and pop" retailers as well. Being an author for, say, Simon and Schuster I'm sure brings a much higher paycheck with lots of exposure and a great deal of promotion--kind of like working for Walmart gives you benefits like paid vacations and holidays. However, like the retail giant, working for a big-time publisher also means that, when all is said and done, it's about the bottom line. If sales are down, regardless of whether it's directly your fault or that of the general economy, out come the pruning shears. Naturally, the management team (or the James Pattersons, if you will) are fairly safe; it's those of us further down the food chain that are usually on the chopping block and it doesn't matter how hard we work.

With a small publisher, there is a more direct correlation with how hard you work and how much success you have. A small publisher gives you the chance--yes, I'll publish your book, I think you've got something, but you have to be willing to work to make it a success. Some authors, unfortunately, only hear the first two parts of that sentence. They completely miss the part about working to make it a success.

"But I wrote the book!" they'll whine. "Isn't that enough?" Well, no, not really, unless just writing it and getting it published is enough. If you want it to be read and if you want it to sell, you need to do quite a bit of legwork (unless your name alone is big enough to sell it, but even the big-name authors had to do legwork in the beginning.)

A small publisher cares enough about you to give you the opportunities to find your audience. Like a parent helping a child learn to ride a two-wheeler, they hold you up until you find your balance and then they let you go to find your own speed and your own path. What this means is that a small publisher will rarely tell you what to write. Plain and simple, if they're willing to publish your book, they're willing to do it "as is". This doesn't mean that even if it's rife with errors or other problems they'll overlook them. They'll either work with you to fix it or decide not to accept it. What it means is that you're not locked in to writing the book "their way". It's YOUR, the author's, book, not the publisher's, and you're not expected to write to "spec".

A small publisher lets the author's true voice shine through. A small publisher gives a fledgling author the chance to let that voice be heard. A small publisher treats you like a real writer AND a real person. And a small publishing company becomes a family--other authors offer encouragement and support and we all work together for the good of the company and each other.

Oak Tree Press and Billie Johnson gave me that chance and, by extension, gave me the readers who love and appreciate my books. For that, I am eternally grateful and truly blessed.

It's all in how you define "getting rich" from the writing. By my definition, I'm a millionaire!

Publishers, big and small, gave me a chance to read stories I love!

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