Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Responsibilities of a Small Press Author

By Aly Brown, @AlyConnerBrown

Part of the How They Do It Series

Please help me welcome author Alythia Brown, who's here today share some insights into an often overlooked publishing avenue--the small press--and what it means to be a small press author.

Aly Brown is a newspaper editor and author represented by BookEnds LLC. She recently inked a deal with Feiwel & Friends / Macmillan for a nonfiction middle grade book on Alvin Submersible called The Last Unexplored Place on Earth. Release date 2023.

Take it away Aly...
Signing with a small press can be a great opportunity for most people. It gives you the experience of working with an editor and walks you through the process of getting a book out into the world. It’s also something you can share as relevant publishing history on the query letter for your next book. But many writers fail to think past the release date. What do small press authors need to do once the book is available for purchase?

I’m Sure You’ve Heard It Before… Marketing, Marketing, Marketing!

Small presses, indie presses, and boutique presses—whatever you’d like to call them—all have their pros and cons. The people behind the scenes are truly passionate about their work, but they just don’t have marketing budgets like the big guys. Smaller budgets for marketing means more on you, the author. The publisher may be very hands-on or you may hear crickets. No matter how much they manage to do for you, you still need to understand that you can’t sit back and expect to see sales soar. As my author coordinator friend wisely warned me: you’ll spend just as much time marketing as you spent writing the book. Blog tours, release parties, bookmarks, release day swag, and other marketing tools may be entirely on you to coordinate.

Want Your Book on a Bookshelf? Go Talk to the Bookstore Staff…

Because it won’t automatically appear in Barnes and Noble unless you know people. And even when you do, they don’t always have the power to bring your books into their store. When bookstores purchase books from mainstream publishers, they do so knowing they can return any unsold merchandise. With some small presses, the sale is final, so the bookstores are less eager to order your book if the purchase is a risk. If you’re dead-set on getting your title into a large bookstore, ask if they’ll sell them on consignment. You may not receive much in the way of money, but it will get people reading your book. Word of mouth is still very powerful!

This One May Kill Your Campaign: Upfront Costs

Some small presses can manage to pay their authors an advance—some cannot. You may or may not even receive any print copies to give to family. That means, if you’re attending a fair, school, book signing, or any marketing event, you will need to order the books out of your own pocket. If you don’t have the funds or help to do so, you will have a difficult time pushing forward with events. BUDGET for this aspect! While you’re knee deep in edits, begin the process of putting aside for books so you won’t need to delay your events due to tight finances.

Small presses can offer authors exposure and the opportunity to publish less-than-mainstream work. You may need to tackle more marketing and upfront costs, but the experience will help you grow as an author.

Are you currently working with a small press? What is your favorite (or least favorite) part of working with them?


  1. So great to be here again, Janice! Thanks for having me!

  2. Excellent points. It seems no matter how we publish--big, small, indie---authors are responsible for marketing.

  3. I haven't worked with a small press but I'm open to the idea of building a relationship with one if one were to accept my work...then again, I would have to query the press to get accepted or rejected so I guess I better start there lol!

  4. Working with small presses definitely has its pros and cons - there's a lot more onus on you to do your marketing, but you have a lot more contact with your editor and the people who run the press. I really appreciate the 'family feel' of it!

  5. Thank you for sharing your experience, Alythia. What do you think about hiring a publicist when working with a small press?