If you’ve decided that it’s all just too much or will take too long or is too uncertain to try for a NY Big Boy Publisher, your next choice is a smaller, independent publisher.
Now indie publishers can range from large companies with dozens of employees to a “mom&pop” publishing company run by just one or two people. Some may have an agreement with a distributor, some may not. Some give advances, and some do not. Some actually require submissions strictly through a literary agent, so you’re back to trying to find one of those.
In this day and age, nearly every indie publisher will have a website. On this website will be their submission guidelines. Follow them. Here again is where you have to do some research and follow simple directions.
If they publish solely paranormal romance, don’t submit general fiction.
Common sense, really.
You’ll also want to follow the same instructions for writing a query letter, as if you were writing one for a Literary Agent. It’s still a good idea to know something about the publisher, their acquisitions editor, and what they like.
When you leave the realm of Literary Agents and NY Big Boy Publishers, you have to start watching out for total scams. There are *many, many* people out there who want to prey on your dreams. Don’t let them.
Things to watch out for:
- ANY PUBLISHER who asks for money upfront *is not* a traditional publisher. They are a vanity press trying to pass as a traditional publisher. A traditional publisher takes on a huge part of the financial risk, that’s why they get such a big cut (at least 80%).
- Traditional publishers pay the editor.
- They pay the proofreader.
- They format and lay out the book.
- They deal with the Library of Congress and the US Copyright office.
- They pay for the ISBN numbers.
- They pay for the print runs.
- They send out review copies at their expense (both printing & shipping).
- They help you set up book signings & should have a nice release party for your book.
- They, hopefully, have distribution – or else your book isn’t going to be available in stores.
You will get X# of copies of your book for free, but you will have to buy other copies from them for your own purposes/events. This should most definitely be at least for 50% of the cover price.
- If a publisher says something like: “The more books you buy from us, the more it will help us out.” RUN! Very fast in the opposite direction.
- This indicates that they do not have the working capital to invest in a proper print run without your (the author’s) financial help.Here’s how it works:
- Publishers get books printed for a fraction of the cover price. A paperback book of about 250 pages, 8.5×5.5 in size, should cost between $1.50 and $3.50 per book to print, depending on how many is in the print run.
- For a small print run of 1000 books, that’s $3500. If they’re charging you 50% of the cover price (say, $14.95), you’re paying that for 235 books.
- They just got 765 books without *any* financial risk of their own.
- Yet, they’re taking at least 80% of the sale price from the print run you funded.
You might as well publish it yourself if this is the case.
However, again, if you just want to see your book in print and not worry about any of the publishing aspect… if you don’t plan on doing much promotion or if it will just be an after-work hobby for you, this type of publisher can work for you.
Just know what you’re getting into.
- Same as with the Big Boys, and every other option, promoting your book is up to you. With the independent publisher, they, too, might have an in-house publicist at your disposal. That’s a good thing. It also means they make enough to have employees, another good sign that they are a viable business.
My advice: unless a publisher gives you an advance, even if it’s a small, token advance, they’re not going to have the capital or the incentive to really push your book.
Be sure to check out Predators & Editors before signing anything. It’s certainly not comprehensive, but it’s a start.
Are you an author who has been published with an Independent Press? Tell us your story.
Would you consider an Independent Press before self-publishing?