If you’re studying creative writing, chances are that the idea of publication has crossed your mind once or twice. Depending on what you write, you might want to pursue the accepted path of applying to agents, who will represent your fiction or non-fiction to large publishing houses. However, if you write poetry or are interested in making a direct approach, you may be interested in this blog post, in which I explain a little about the inner workings of a small indie publisher. Having worked for several over the last few years, I hope that this piece can give you some insight. Here are my absolute top insider tips from a small publishing house!
1.It’s definitely a labour of love
A lot of people at the head of small publishing houses have found themselves there because they were passionate about books, often as a writer, translator or reader. They knew someone whose work they were desperate to publish, or they saw a huge gap in publishing and felt called upon to fill it. Their desire to make a difference is what landed them where they are, rather than their business skills, systems management or design abilities. They either had to learn those skills themselves or hire someone to do those jobs.
2.Time is scarce
Those who work in the arts already probably know that they’re doing twice as much work as someone in the same role in another sector, and for half the pay. Small publishers are often built on part-time workforces, some of whom work freelance or remotely. If you’re going to approach a small publisher directly, bear in mind that this can mean a long wait for a reply. The best way to do this is to become well-acquainted with each publisher’ submission guidelines: If they only take submissions via a competition, or within certain ‘submission windows’, then you need to heed this. Sending an unsolicited submission at the wrong time, or when you’ve been asked not to, gives the publisher the impression that you haven’t taken them seriously.
3.Authors are assets
If you’re taken on by a small publishing house, then you can be sure that they definitely believe in your work and are going to do their absolute best to ensure it reaches as many people as possible. You’ll receive editorial support from someone who loves your work. Once you’re part of the stable and they’ve invested their time and money in you, then they need you as much as you need them – so make the most of it.
4.Team work is vital
Your publisher will have their own networks and be dedicated to entering you for prizes and finding you as many opportunities as possible, but their resources are likely to be limited. As a result, anything that you can do as an author is hugely valuable. Maybe you know someone who puts on a reading series or a literary festival, and could use your personal contact to get yourself a reading and sell lots of books. We’re always grateful to writers who make the best of their own networks as well. It means we can cover twice the ground.