In addition to this week being Read an E-Book Week, the entire month of March is Small Press Month.
Although e-books don’t necessarily come from small presses, many do. In the early days of e-publishing, the large, traditional publishers didn’t publish books electronically. Most large publishers didn’t show much respect for the new publishing method, having the attitude that only print books were real books.
Even print books from independent publishers (small presses and self-publishers) have often been considered to be something less than real books.
Small Press Month was created to honor independent publishers and introduce readers to the quality and diversity of books published by small presses.
Since an individual or small company can set up an independent publishing business with a relatively small investment, not all published books are equal in quality. However, small publishers who take their business seriously can and do produce books equal in quality to those produced by large, mainstream publishers.
Independent publishers can often be more flexible than their mega-conglomerate counterparts. Acquisitions decisions in large companies are based on expected sales and return on investment. Small publishers are more apt to take a chance on a unproven author or an unusual storyline. They can be less strict about the exact number of words in a book or the sell-through history of a previously published author.
To writers, that means more opportunities to have their out-of-the-ordinary stories published.
To readers, it means more opportunities to find new and unique voices.
Oh, those big publishers that thought e-books weren’t real books? Most of them are now publishing books electronically. They’ve discovered that there is a growing demand for books that can be delivered immediately at lower prices, books that don’t take up valuable space in crowded apartments, books that don’t fill up the landfills.
Small presses pioneered e-books, and now the mega-corporations are reaping sales from the seeds planted and nurtured by independent publishers.
Not all small presses publish the same way. Some publish print books only; some publish e-books only; some publish both. Many specialize in niches too small to be of interest to the large publishers.
Several of my clients exemplify the greatness of small presses. I’ll give you two examples:
- Grace Anne Schaefer writes The People of the Frozen Earth series about prehistoric Indians. Although many things about the civilization of native people two thousand years ago remain a mystery, Grace Anne has been careful to use the information that is available and avoid writing anything that doesn’t fit with what is known. In spite of the success of Jean Auel’s books, traditional publishers aren’t especially interested in books set in this time period. Grace Anne knew her readership would come from people interested in Indian culture and history, so she and her husband formed GASLight Publishing, LLC and are self-publishing her books. They sell books primarily at Indian pow-wows. Recently Grace Anne got a comment on her blog from a reader who was amazed the books were self-published because they were as professionally written, edited, and published as any book the reader had seen from a traditional publisher.
- David Bowles writes The Westward Sagas historical novels. The books are stories about his family, and everything is consistent with known history and genealogy. David does extensive research to ensure that his facts are correct and fills in the gaps with his imagination. His target audience is the 10,000+ descendants of the ancestor who is the hero of the first book in the series. While that is too narrow and small a niche for a mainstream publisher, it is ideal for an independent publisher. David publishes his books through Plum Creek Press, Inc. and has received awards and outstanding reviews for his work. Although some buyers of his books are readers interested in history and genealogy, most come from his target group of family and descendants of other real people who are characters in the book.
You may not be interested in prehistoric Indians or the history and genealogy of an American Revolution patriot. Whatever your interest, though, you can probably find excellent books from independent publishers on the topic.
Sherman Alexie, the public face of Small Press Month, says:
The small presses represent what is most brave, crazy and beautiful about our country and our literature. So let us all sing honor songs for the independent publishers.