Thoughts on being a small publisher in a world of mega publishers.
Getting a book published is hard. Starry-eyed first-time authors dream of being published by one of the Big Five: Penguin Random House, Simon & Shuster, HarperCollins, Hachette, Macmillan. A worthy goal, but in many cases, unrealistic. Recently the Big Five tried to become the Big Four when Random House proposed buying Simon & Schuster. The Justice Department said no. When large companies combine they put forth the verbiage about economies of scale, how it will help consumers, competition and so on. Think about the airline mergers and those of cell phone providers. What has your result been? According to Richard Howort, in a New York Times essay from August, 2022 publishing “evermore trends toward an industry narrowly engineered to produce repeat best sellers.”
Fewer large publishers mean fewer places for writers to emerge. But that is already the case. New authors need to focus on small publishing houses. Often unknown until they appear on a search list, these imprints are willing to take a risk on an author and on topics the bigger houses shy away from. Some of these stories are important but the large publishers ignore them. Heavy by Kiese Laymon, his story of coming of age in Mississippi, was published by a small imprint. I heard the author Pam Mandel say she submitted her manuscript fifty-nine times before a small publisher took a chance.
Consider this: In a smaller publishing house you will get more attention. You will be big star in a small sky. Your project is important to them and will not be marginalized by the next big-name book. Do not think a big firm will lavish money on you and your book. They will not. You will be better served by fewer people at the smaller publisher who will fight for you and your work.
There will always be a home at the Big Five for the next celebrity tell-all or political tome. But where will smaller books about ordinary people emerge? A small publishing house is not a step down for an author. It can be the gateway to continued success. By presenting your idea or manuscript to a small publishing firm the odds of your book being on a store shelf are better. And your local bookseller will be delighted to have you come in, do a reading, and sign some books. They will promote you to inquiring customers. Who knows, you may have a second book in you.
Check out our Submissions Guidelines if you are interested in submitting to Villa Magna Publishing.