You can begin to build your writing career with independent publishers. They see you, hear you, and are willing to work with you.
Publishing your book through a prominent New York company is an incredible feat; however, your chances of receiving an offer for signing and printing are slim. You may get rejected for myriad reasons, one of which is the potential profit margin for your book. Ultimately, big companies care about what your book can make for their brand. Alternatively, independent publishers (also known as small publishing companies) offer a means to publish with a company that may have goals that align with your own.
Researcher Melanie Bold (2016) conducted a study where she interviewed fifteen small publishing companies located in the Pacific Northwest and Canada that publish a variety of genres. In her interviews, Bold investigated the challenges of being an independent publishing company. Highlights from her discoveries fall into four categories.
The majority of Bold’s interviewees agree that independent publishers’ local focus can work to the publishers’ benefit because it can afford them“a niche or a unique selling point and give a platform for regional voices” (Bold 2016, 93–94). This focus seemed to give regional publishers a unique identity that enabled them to uniquely position themselves for selling their books in larger markets.
Many of the publishers Bold interviewed started their business as a hobby. Therefore, these small companies are known for their loyalty to their authors and products. They value good relationships with authors and sincerely believe in the author’s potential for growth and quality of work. Although independent publishers love working with new authors, publishers encourage authors to use their services as a stepping stone to seek big opportunities.
Representation of Diversity
Independent companies care about who they represent. They believe in giving all types of authors a voice. Unfortunately, big publishing companies’ strict rules may not provide much room for diversity since their priority is profit. Yet, interviewees propose that diversity adds perspective to the publishing world (Bold 2016, 92).
Publishing Industry and Support
While small publishing companies do not earn as much revenue as large publishing companies, they have built up strong support systems in their communities. These support systems have tight networks among independent publishers and bookstores and can offer many types of support, whether that be financial aid or a helping hand. Additionally, online publishing (e.g., selling e-books on Amazon) helps independent publishers stay afloat despite financial difficulties.
Bold (2016, 99) concludes that “independent publishers provide a solution to the plethora of authors that are rejected by the larger transmedia conglomerates.” Your manuscript does not have to be classified as “bad” to be rejected by a large publishing company. Often a rejection means that the manuscript is simply not seen as profitable in the eyes of those companies. Though your manuscript may not be accepted by a large company, other options are available.
Like Bold’s study finds, independent publishers care about your diverse perspective and quality work. These small companies will likely cultivate a good relationship with you by promoting your success and supporting you through the publishing process. As you prepare your work to be published, reach out to these small companies and consider working with them.
To read more insights from the independent publishers interviewed, read the full article:
Bold, Melanie. 2016. “An ‘Accidental Profession’: Small Press Publishing in the Pacific Northwest.” Publishing Research Quarterly 32 (2): 84–102. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12109-016-9452-9.
—Camila Roldan, Editing Research
FEATURE IMAGE BY ALFONS MORALES
Find more research
Take a look at Avery Andros’s Editing Research article “When to Print and When to Publish Electronically” for a comparison of print and online publishing.
Read Mikaela Wilkins’s Editing Research article “Why Freelance Editors Shouldn’t Be Afraid of Working with Self-Publishing Authors” to learn why working with self-publishing authors can be a good thing.
Read Amanda Buxton’s Editing Research article “Preferences for Internet Publications” to learn the printing direction publications should consider taking.