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Wednesday, April 29

Marketing and the Small Press

By Alex J. Cavanaugh,

Part of the How They Do It Series

There has never been as many publishing options for writers as there are right now--Big 5 house to small press, indie or self publishing. Every option has its benefits and horror stories, and it's up to the writers to decide which path best works for their careers. To help a with that decision, please join me in welcoming Alex J. Cavanaugh to the lecture hall today, to talk a little about the pros and cons of marketing with a small press.

Alex has a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and works in web design, graphics, and technical editing. A fan of all things science fiction, his interests range from books and movies to music and games. Online he is the Ninja Captain and founder of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. He’s the author of Amazon Best-Sellers CassaStar, CassaFire, and CassaStorm.

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Take it away Alex...

Marketing is a big responsibility for an author. If we go the route of agent and big press, some of that weight is lifted from our shoulders. If we self-publish, it’s all up to us. But what about the small press?

There’s a lot of misconception about small presses. How much marketing do they do? Will the author be responsible for most of it? Would it be better to secure a big publisher, along with an agent, and let them handle book promotions?

The first thing writers should know is that no matter what, we still have a hand in marketing. It will be expected of us. We need to anticipate that and be prepared. Even if we aren’t sending out review copies and buying ads, we’ll still be making appearances and using social media to promote ourselves.

It also depends on the small press itself. Recently I asked twelve authors to list the pros and cons of small publishers at the Insecure Writer’s Support Group site. Some stated they received very little assistance with marketing and some said they were fully supported.

With the ease of self-publishing now, some might wonder if there are any benefits in going with a small press. There are advantages and disadvantages, and every writer has to make the decision which side carries more weight. Knowing that it also depends on the small publisher means we have to do our research as well.

Below is a summary of the basic advantages and disadvantages we might encounter with a small press.


A limited budget

A small press won’t have a huge budget for marketing. They might have enough for a few review copies and that’s about it. Ask up front what they intend to do to market the book and what it will take to keep that marketing going. Because it’s not just what they do before the book is released–it’s what they do afterwards. Some of this information will be in the contract, but the rest is up to us to discover, either by asking directly or asking other authors with that press.

A limited budget might mean we need to assist with reviews. Or set up our own blog tour. We might not get the bookmarks and other swag authors with big presses enjoy. We won’t get the same product placement in bookstores or ads in magazines and other publications. We’ll have to be willing to take up the slack for the sake of our book.

Less influence than larger presses

The bigger presses have a lot of weight behind them. They can secure the best reviewers and draw far more attention than a small press. Size, financial backing, and reputation play a huge roll. A small press usually hasn’t been around as long and can’t lay down as much marketing cash. They are David against Goliath.

Without that strong influence, our books won’t receive the same amount of press. We won’t be invited to as many conventions and conferences. Our books won’t receive a spotlight. It will be up to us to make them shine wherever possible.

Author expected to do a lot of the marketing

While we can’t escape marketing completely, a small publisher will expect us to spend our own money to promote our books. We might have to contact reviewers and send out books. We might have to set up all of our own appearances. Any advertising is at our own expense. Bookmarks, book trailers, etc. – if we want them, we might have to pay for them.

It takes money to make money, and without a lot of financial backing, our books will struggle to find their audience. We’ll have to use the creativity that went into writing the book and funnel it into unique marketing ideas.

Lest you think it’s all doom and gloom, there are advantages:


Small presses are willing to try new things

One thing I learned early on is that the bigger presses have a standard procedure and they tend to stick to it. Smaller publishers are more willing to deviate from the established path and try something new. They will work closely with us and give our books’ promotional plan a personal touch. They understand that every book is different and their authors aren’t just a number.

Sometimes this comes across as tossing spaghetti against the wall to see what sticks. But when you know your book won’t sell well under conventional methods, this approach might be what it needs to succeed.

Willing to work with author on promotions

They are more open to marketing ideas from their authors and willing to support different ventures. They might be limited by budget, but they will assist with special promotions and giveaways whenever possible. We are able to send them leads for reviewers and blurbs and suggest other marketing leads and ideas.

Not every small publisher will go above and beyond, but most will listen to our ideas and do what they can to drive more sales.

Willing to hang longer with an author or title

The big publishers expect success right away and will only market a title for so long. Small presses understand that it’s sometimes a slow burn. Most won’t give up on an author or title that doesn’t make them millions. As long as we keep promoting and driving sales, they will also continue to market. Even when sales are moderate at best, they are open to continued submissions from the author.

This might cause an author to slack off efforts, assured of a home. But if we keep writing our best and put everything into marketing our titles, we’ll continue to grow.

I’ve experienced all of these things to a certain degree with my own small publisher. But the pros have far outweighed the cons. A perfect example would be my first book, CassaStar. Its sales weren’t stellar, but when I submitted my second manuscript, they were still willing to take a chance on a sequel. They were also still promoting my first book, and I continued to be active with social media. Not long after signing for the second book, and about a year after the first book’s release, CassaStar hit the Amazon Best Seller charts, racing to the top of the science fiction category. Had my publisher not continued to support me and my book, that never would’ve happened.

In terms of marketing, is a small publisher a good fit for you? Weigh the advantages and disadvantages and decide for yourself. Either way, be prepared to market!

About Dragon of the Stars

The ship of legends…

The future is set for Lt. Commander Aden Pendar, son of a Hyrathian Duke. Poised to secure his own command and marriage to the queen’s daughter, he’ll stop at nothing to achieve his goals.

But when the Alliance denies Hyrath’s claim on the planet of Kavil and declares war on their world, Aden finds his plans in disarray. Entrenched in battle and told he won’t make captain, Aden’s world begins to collapse. How will he salvage his career and future during Hyrath’s darkest hour?

One chance remains–the Dragon. Lost many years prior, the legendary ship’s unique weapon is Hyrath’s only hope. Can Aden find the Dragon, save his people, and prove he’s capable of commanding his own ship?

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