Monday, September 16, 2013

Prejudice Against Small Press

Book publishing as an industry is experiencing dramatic changes. Ebooks and Amazon have dramatically changed how we buy books and how we read them. I was first published in 2005 by a primarily ebook publisher. Needless to say, I didn't sell many books. Ebooks were not yet widely accepted and people didn't have the devices necessary for reading them. Brick and mortar bookstores often didn't carry books by small, independent publishers, often because it was difficult to return books to these smaller houses. It was very difficult to get a book published by an indie book publisher "out there."

Fast forward eight years. Many small electronic and POD publishing houses have opened and shut down. I have had several books and several short stories published by a number of publishing houses. My books are up on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Ereaders are widely accepted and utilized. But still, it is very difficult as an author published by a small house to get reviewed by the big review journals. Midwest Book Review is one notable exception; they encourage the submission of small press publications. Other review journals seems to make it as difficult as possible for small press publications to even be considered. There seems to exist a very real prejudice against small press works, which are often disparaged as poorly written and barely edited. In addition, there are some writer's organizations which refuse to allow those published by small press to participate. The message by the "establishment" of book publishing would seem to be that there is no place at the table for small press. Recently, I considered applying for membership in a writer's organization. However, the organization included the following information on their site:

"Books featured on ... have been published by traditional publishing houses or reviewed favorably
in traditional journals (School Library Journal, The Horn Book, Book Links, Kirkus Reviews,
Publishers Weekly, VOYA)."
I am not including the name of this organization because, to be honest, I would have loved to be a
part of this group. They do a great deal in terms of marketing and promotion for their members. It also
includes a super cool group of authors. But the bottom line is the organization does not consider those
published by small press to be legit. Therefore, as an author, I don't count. Ouch. It becomes a Catch 22.
That is, my novel cannot be reviewed by the well known journals because it is small press and I can't
join certain promotional groups for the same reason.
Now, many of you may be thinking, why not just give in to the man and submit to the traditional
houses? I have. I went that route and will likely do so again. Over the years, I have had three agents who
have submitted  my works to the large publishing companies. I have followed all the rules and sat and  
waited for responses for months on various submissions. Once I had a near miss. The publishing house
in question got back to me and said that if I made the requested changes to my manuscript, they would
probably offer me a contract. So,I made the changes, which eviserated my story, and then they rejected
the story anyway. A few years ago, I made the decision that writing my stories and making them
available to readers was what was important to me. The who and how of it, less so.
I went to small press because I believed in the integrity of my stories. (That sounds better than I went
small press because I'd failed with large press.) I am no longer willing to make sweeping changes to my
stories with which I don't agree. Sure, I listen to my editors. Absolutely. That's part of the contract that I
sign with the publisher. But I also believe in my own artistic integrity and I am much less willing
to compromise at this point in the game.
So, where am I going with this? There are a limitless number of books out there. Self publishing has
opened Pandora's Box in many ways. I agree with the "establishment" that there is a lot of rubbish out
there, but there also may be some diamonds mixed in with the dross, and it is incredibly short sighted
to simply exclude all small press publications. Some would argue, myself among them, that much of
what is published by large press is rubbish as well. But now, I'm being catty. And, the floodgates will open.
The "establishment"can seek to hold back the deluge, but it will and is coming. Ebooks and small press are an
opportunity and offer options to readers as well as writers, not vermin to be stamped out.
The bottom line is that I am published by a "real" publishing house and I will continue to fight to get
the word out on my books. I believe that much of this prejudice against small press is about fear.
The big companies don't want to lose money and they have relationships with the review journals and
the writer's organizations, who want to keep the hoi polloi out. As a member of the hoi polloi,
I would argue that we bring a great deal to the table, including some genuinely wonderful stories
which deserve to be read and reviewed.