Is Papa Bear’s Chair Too Hard
Is Papa Bear’s Chair Too Hard?
By Leslie Varney
You know that the publishing world is in flux and, in keeping with the fact that technology is still in flux, will probably remain that way for awhile. You also know that the big publishing houses almost always take only what they know will be best sellers. So for many writers, small publishing is becoming not their only option, but their preferred. Let’s examine some of the reasons why a small publisher might be preferred to a large one.
Control over your vision: You know the artist you want to use for your cover, you don’t want an editor’s stamp on it, whatever. Smaller publishers are far more likely to give you latitude in the things that matter to you. It’s not that larger publishers don’t care, but the nature of their business means that they have to see you as a commodity and, as such, you have to be packaged in line with their ideas of what will give them the best return on their investment.
Your work isn’t mainstream: Maybe you’re a Dadaist, or maybe your book is the next metahistorical romance to breakout. The big guys aren’t gonna touch you and you know that, heck you even relish it! That’s cool, maybe you can find a small house willing to have some fun and take a shot.
Attention: You know you want it. And why not? You’ve been working on this puppy for (insert an ungodly high number) years and, if it’s any good, maybe you deserve a little attention. The thought process is that smaller houses have fewer authors, so they both have the time and the impetus to put energy into you. This may not hold true for all smaller houses, but I think the trend is spot-on for most.
Big houses, big stress: Let’s say you’re one of the lucky ones who gets accepted by a big publishing house; how wonderful! You probably spent a few years getting here, but you did it. Now your book has three months on the bookshelf before it get’s shipped back and both the publisher and the stores are onto something new. If your book doesn’t earn out of the advance, there’s not a lot of hope getting another published.
You don’t need an agent: Oops, I’m not supposed to tell you that because we ARE an agency. But many smaller publishing houses accept manuscripts directly from writers and some even have contests to try to get you to send in your stuff. Just remember, there’s a lot of small publishers out there and every house is different, from their culture, to how they edit, to how they market and handle sales, to when you get paid, to … well, on and on. An agent is the person who knows and understands those differences and helps you navigate the best choice. Yay, so there’s still a reason we exist!
For many writers, getting up onto Papa Bear’s chair is too difficult a climb. For others already sitting on the chair, it’s just too hard to be comfortable. Sometimes moving over to Baby Bear’s chair is where you’re going to find the fit is just right.