Patience and the Small-Press

One thing that new writers have to grasp about the small-press, the arena in which most aspiring authors first get published, is that they are often just one-person operations, and pretty much run as spare-time hobbies. In other words, there aren’t teams of people making it all happen. Add in to that the fact that most of the finances come out of their own pockets as well ie. they don’t have the mega-budgets of the big boys.

Which means, quite simply, that they don’t have the budgets for large print runs, or for special editions, or for massive promotion, or for huge wine-sodden launch parties, although, having said that, any reputable small-press publisher will do their damnedest to put your book on the map and get it out there, to the best of their ability. Plus they will try to make the best use of the funds available. This also means that, if a writer wants their book to sell, then he/she must do his/her part as well in making people aware of their latest novel’s/anthology’s existence. If this means spending their own money sending it out for review to magazine and online ‘zines, for instance, then so be it.

And just because it is small-press, it doesn’t automatically mean that the end product will be shoddy, either. Many small-press publishers, like Ash-Tree, Morrigan Books, PS Publishing and Pendragon Press, just to name a few, produce some excellent publications, both in terms of editorial quality AND physical quality, with top-notch artwork on the covers and put together with high-grade materials. It’s in their interests to do so. Some of them may only be ‘hobby’ outfits, but their proprietors are still committed to producing a professional-looking product. After all, they’re not only selling YOU and your work, but they’re also selling themselves as a publisher, in order to attract both sales and talent. Not to mention that it’s a highly competitive market and they want their slice of it.

It also behooves the aspiring writer to remember that many of these publishers have a day job as well. Which inevitably means that their publishing timescales are often longer than commercial publishers’, and that very often that thing called real-life intervenes, resulting in messed up schedules. Release dates should be treated as tentative: they will do their level best to stick to them, of course, but if, for any reason, they see the need to extend the publication date, don’t have a go at them. Any publisher worth his/her salt will let writers know of any potential hiccups in progress and keep them informed. This isn’t always possible, of course, but they will try.

Rearranging publication dates happens quite often in the small-press world, a fact that writers have to live with. This is where patience comes in. Don’t get mad at, or snarky with, them: there may be perfectly legitimate reasons for the delay. If you are at all serious about having your work published you will work WITH them rather than against (unless, that is, things just drag on interminably beyond a reasonable amount of time). The publishers are just as miffed about the whole thing as you are, probably more so in fact.

Having patience also extends into waiting for a suitable length of time after submitting a story. You aren’t the only one who has done so, which means that the publisher has to read others’ submissions as well in their already tight time constraints. Translation: give small-press publishers room to breathe. See if there’s a guideline (in the submission criteria) as to how long, on average, they’ll take to get back to you. Wait until that length of time has passed before contacting them: if there’s no mention of a time limit, wait six weeks and then email them a quick note. But don’t hassle them: that’s very important. If you do that, then they might not be so amenable to look favourably at your next submission.

The thing is, just cultivate patience – it’s an essential pre-requisite in the writing business. These things take time, and can’t be rushed. If you are destined to make it, then it’s worth taking the time to work at it. And that means working WITH people and being prepared to do what it takes to get you there – being an arse certainly won’t help.

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6 Responses to “Patience and the Small-Press”

  1. Great piece, Simon….All I can say is THANK YOU!!!

  2. Very cool, brother. I’m going to link this one soon. I have a similar piece in the works.

  3. Well said, Simon. It’s really exciting becoming a writer, but excess enthusiasm can be problematic if it makes you impatient or intolerant with potential publishers. Best way I’ve always found is to remember that you’re dealing with real human beings, with real lives (this also applies to the ‘big boys’). Get it right and (if the talent’s there) your publisher will become one of your best friends. Get it wrong and – well, you’ll never know what you may have missed.

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