Guest Post: Finding Big Opportunities With a Small Press

Kendel Lynn, editor at Henery Press

Kendel Flaum, editor at Henery Press

For many aspiring writers, landing a contract with one of the Big 5 is the ultimate goal, a sign they’ve “made it.” But not all books belong with the big houses, some do better with the small ones. A small press offers substantial benefits with considerable opportunities. Rather than viewing them as a last resort, small presses should be given a first look.

Big Fish, Small Pond

A small press works on a different scale. The giant bestsellers that crowd store shelves generally belong to a large publisher. Those books grab the majority of resources—advertising dollars, catalog space, public relations. A debut author may have to swim upstream for many years before they gain notice. But in a small press environment, even a debut author can quickly become the big fish, the one who garners the notice, and the resources. A smaller catalog means more funds funneled into a debut. A significant launch for a small press may be considered mediocre at a big house—the author gets relegated to the midlist when compared to a stable of marquis authors. The small press then builds on the author’s success, garnering attention from industry insiders, readers, and peers they would never have received otherwise.

Embrace Agility, Reject Rigidity

A large house books their publishing catalog years in advance, coordinating schedules with multiple departments, resulting in a rigid timetable. A small press is more flexible and can often make room for a new project, especially one with a second or third book waiting in the wings. While a rigorous editorial process still follows and certain processes must remain, the fluidity of a small press team can get a book to market swiftly without sacrificing a project’s integrity. In the time it may take a large house to get a single book on shelves, a small press may release two or three in a series, thereby propelling an author’s career in half the time. Further, a small press has the capability to shift marketing and publicity strategies mid-campaign if something isn’t working. At a bigger publisher, there are policies, procedures and budgets that make shifting efforts next to impossible.

Multiple Strategies, Singular Focus

A small press is usually just that: small. They don’t utilize numerous committees and bureaucratic layers which allows for streamlined decision-making. Small press authors work closely with the entire team, receiving personal attention from high-ranking staff members. Members they know, members they trust, and members who can make immediate decisions. Authors needn’t worry their book has been sent up the chain to a committee they’ve never met, that their fate, from contract to cover art, will be handled by strangers not personally invested in the project.

More Cultivation, Less Pressure

A large house expects a quicker ascent to success. And justifiably so. With a substantial investment in advances, print runs, marketing, and distribution, they require a more immediate return on investment. Without it, an author may find the threat of being dropped hanging over their head like an anvil dangling from a frayed rope. Earn out or get out. Most small presses utilize a reduced cost production model which gives an author room to debut. The slow and steady approach provides opportunities for growth and sustainability, a solid foundation on which to build their career. A small press invests in the author, not just their book. They’re in it for the long haul.

When deciding where to submit, consider every option, large and small. A solid small press with an innovative strategy and measurable growth could one day become something bigger. In the end, choosing the right small press may be a better fit than the wrong large one.

Henery Press LogoKENDEL FLAUM is an editor with Henery Press (logo right), an award-winning publisher in the mystery/suspense genre. You can learn more at


9 Responses to Guest Post: Finding Big Opportunities With a Small Press

  1. tracikenworth Mar 11 2014 at 7:22 am #

    You’re so right!! I’m open to small press for the very reason that they allow an author to build their brand. It’s great they stick by their authors instead of dumping them because their numbers are low.

  2. Christa Mar 11 2014 at 10:16 am #

    I work for a small press in Canada so maybe I’m a little biased but there are a lot of advantages. Especially what you said about being able to work closely with every member of the team. It’s also a lot easier to keep our authors updated and to work with them to develop marketing and publicity strategies. I also feel that small presses are willing to take risks of some more unique titles, as there not always worried about the “blockbuster” books.

    Plus there are some small presses out there with such stellar reputation that being publishing by them alone makes me want to read the book (House of Anasi (literary) and Strange Chemistry (YA) come to mind).

  3. Day Mar 11 2014 at 3:00 pm #

    Thank you for the post, I never looked at it like that. I’, working on book 2 maybe I will check into a small publishing house.

  4. Michelle Ziegler Mar 12 2014 at 12:21 am #

    This is why I gave a small press a try. I havnt looked back! I’ve not seen it put quite so simply and clear before.

  5. Kimberly Giarratano Mar 12 2014 at 8:36 am #

    I’m pubbing with a small press and I’m having a great experience. I was able to give input on cover design (and it’s awesome!) and I’m getting a blog tour. My publisher does a lot to help promote her authors. I’m excited.

    Honestly, I don’t think the average reader knows if a book comes from Harper Collins or Penguin. The only down side is small presses have less money to get their books into big book stores or to advertise. But with the popularity of ebooks, small presses are getting a share of the pie.

  6. James Hellvig Mar 13 2014 at 8:32 am #

    Thanks for the insightful post. I did my debut with a start up and am very pleased so far with the results! I would certainly recommend others to submit to small publishers as well. Have a great week!

  7. Micki Morency Mar 20 2014 at 10:15 am #

    Great advice indeed. I’m working on my first book and will definitely look at a smaller press when the time comes for publishing. Still have a lot to learn in that domain. Simon and Schuster move over…

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