Thursday, February 22, 2018

A new press has requested my book

I’ve heard a lot of passes, some form letters, some helpful, a few full requests (that also ended in rejection) and almost all saying they love the concept but [insert rejection reason here].

An indie publisher has requested the full after requesting the query/25 pages, citing they are very excited to read it. After so many rejections, I feel apprehensive that they’re so interested.

Research revealed that they are very new with only two published books and a few authors. I started reading the newest book and didn’t like the cover or the writing. My fear is that they are trying to build a client base and not being as “choosy”.


I can see the changes I need to make, and in my heart of hearts know it’s not where it should be, where it can be. On the other hand, it feels pretty good to get what seems like a more serious request.

Sure, they could still pass, or worse - not pass - but I’m still anxious. I’m doing a pretty in depth overhaul based on agent feedback, and believe it will be better.

Is it worth it to go with an unproven publisher just to get my foot in the door? Or will they not be able to do the things a big publisher would do and my first impression to readers (and other potential agents/pubs) will fall flat?

What’s a newb to do?

This is my worst nightmare: a client excited to work with a new press.  One of my absolutely ironclad rules is "don't be first."  I like being third, or fifth.  In other words, let Ingenue Press learn the pitfalls of publishing on someone else's book.

The first thing to look for beyond ugly covers and books you don't like is whether Ingenue Press has distribution of any kind. In other words, can they get your books into wholesale accounts for you?

Look for clues like "bookseller's information" or "trade accounts" on their website.  If the ONLY button says "place order in shopping cart" and they charge you full retail, these guys are selling books off their website and not much else.

If you set up booksignings at a store, will they be able to furnish inventory at a discount? How long will that take? Do they make you pay for it ahead of the event?

With a small press, you're largely in charge of your own publicity and marketing. They must bring something to the table, something of real value to earn that hefty 85/15 split they get. Access to library sales, access to wholesale accounts, efforts for trade reviews are three BIG things you want to make sure they can and actually do. Google that book you don't like. See if there are any trade reviews.

As to what to do right now: you know your book can be better. Tell the publisher (if you elect to proceed) that you're in the middle of a revision based on feedback from readers. Ask if you can send when the revisions are finished. Generally a publisher is going to be keen to publish the best book possible, and absent some compelling reason like a hole in the catalog, they'll be glad to give you time.

Bottom line: Don't let your eagerness to be published blind you to a bad match.


Unknown said...

OP, what would be the advantage of this press over self-publishing? For an 85/15 split, what can/will they do for you as compared to doing it yourself? 85 is a big percent if they don't have the infrastructure to support you.

Janet, thanks for telling us what to look for in smaller presses. Publishing is so intricate. Good thing there are agents who understand it all.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

So, you’re miserable, lonely, and you meet someone who shows interest in you just the way you are. But on that day, because of circumstances, you didn’t have time to shower, and not only are you out of toothpaste, the dog chewed your brush. But on that day, the new person standing at the end of the bar is hot to want to get to know you. On that day you are sure s/he wants to date you and maybe even move in together.
New to the bar looks nice, sounds nice, smells delicious and seems to have a lot to offer besides a round of drinks for the regulars. But you are rightfully cautious. Something is off.
You wonder..when I buy toothpaste, a new brush and take a shower, when I cleanup, look my best and sit at a table instead of at the bar, who will approach me then?
OP, tidy up and choose a table that seats more than two.
Good luck.

Unknown said...

Is there a way for the public to see sales numbers for a publisher's current titles? That would tell a lot.

Jessica said...

This is an interesting question, OP. I intern for a brand new small press and I don't agree with the choices they made for their first two books. BUT that third book was a darn good one, so maybe Janet's rule is spot on :)

To me, small press is great if you have one or two stories in your heart and you want to hold a book in your hands. I will definitely go that route if something doesn't change in my life. But if you have many stories that won't leave you be, or you want to be an author full time, I say go the agent route. It's rough, an oftentimes unfair and confusing and heartbreaking, but what else can you do? If you want a career out of it, it's the best way. Good luck with whatever you decide, OP!

Melanie Sue Bowles said...

OP, You know your ms isn't where it should be, and you can see the changes you need to make? To me, making those changes and getting your ms as shiny as you possibly can should be your focus. Continue to do research and educate yourself about the business, but put your energy into your story.

My experience with a small publisher was very rewarding. I did numerous talks/signings at Indie and chain bookstores with the release of each title (nonfiction) and all I had to do was show up.

I recall one event in NC. My publisher was going to send 50 books. But I asked them to send 100 - I knew the expansive publicity the store was putting into my appearance. My editor balked, but ultimately trusted me and ended up sending 125 copies. We sold out in a few hours. My hand hurt from signing... but what fun.

Bethany Elizabeth said...

This is such a tricky situation--I feel your pain, OP. I think the most telling part of your post was that you didn't like the cover or the writing in one of the books. Did you not like it because the style wasn't your favorite, or did you not like it because it was unprofessional?

Indie publishers can be incredible--but it has to be a good fit. You have to trust them, and it doesn't sound like you're running high on trust.

And I know they say don't judge a book by its cover, but if a cover has an old nature photo someone dug out of their archives from 2002, a poorly-photoshopped main character slapped on top, and a title that looks like it was added with MS Paint... just realize that 'choosy' might not be so bad after all.

Craig F said...

For all of the horror stories about boutique type publishers, there are some gems among the chaff. Poisoned Pen is one such gem.

Be very careful and if you can have an attorney look at the contract. If they are really keen on you book you might be able to get an attractive contract, maybe even some marketing help.

Being careful is the key.

The Sleepy One said...

It's worth noting that Poisoned Pen, for example (which Craig mentioned) celebrated their 20th birthday in 2017. They've proven themselves over the years, but imagine being one of the first writers to sign with them.

I've known a few people who signed with a local small press with good intentions, and full of recent graduates of a masters in publishing program, that produced a couple of quality books (good design, well done social media marketing, distribution with a decent distributor, anyway), and then folded, leaving a few writers with scheduled books that never came out. (Rights reverted, but still--the heartbreak.)

If your only goal is to see your book in print, taking a chance could be okay. But if you want to build a career, I'd keep looking. My two cents, which won't even buy you a lid for a cup of a coffee.

Sherry Howard said...

OP, good luck, and proceed carefully. I considered a brand new press for my YA, which remains unpublished still. They were so enthusiastic that I loved them for loving my ms. A kind agent convinced me that I'd be better off self-publishing than taking that chance at that time. That ms is still collecting dust but I'm okay with that. I want to see it in schools, and neither that press nor self-publishing will get it there.

On the flip side, I'm thrilled with the small press I'm with for my picture and chapter books. I had an intellectual rights attorney vet the contracts, talked to other authors, held their books in my hand, and asked questions like those Janet mentioned.

The important thing to do is keep in mind your personal goals for THAT manuscript, as JR said. What's right for you may not be right for another author.

Lennon Faris said...

OP if you are unclear of the difference between a small press and a big one, I would do some serious research before deciding this. "Getting your foot in the door" isn't as great as it sounds if it doesn't get you fantastic sales records - if you have different plans for future novels (like getting an agent), it may even be a liability.

I'm not dissing small presses by any means but just like in self-publishing, I think the person subscribing to them needs to be fully aware of what they're getting into and not just choosing it as a default.

That being said, I get the excitement. It's your baby and someone likes it. Don't let emotions be your decision maker, though!

Bonnie Shaljean said...

Seriously - I would bypass this (there are just too many unknowns), and query AGENTS instead, who are familiar with all the pitfalls of the biz, not to mention how to negotiate financial terms to your (and her!) advantage. I really believe it's not worth the risk. You stand a chance of regretting it, and then you'd be stuck. If a new, small, non-established publisher sounds too enthusiastic, it always rings alarm bells in my mind - though that reaction may simply be from an overdose of Writer Beware. Sherry's suggestion of an intellectual-rights lawyer is essential if you do decide to go ahead.

This submission has already been rejected for a number of reasons, which is an alert-point right there. Were any of them constructive enough that you could learn something? And if they praised you, great - you can learn from that too - but don't read a lot into it: it may merely be a pleasanter style of refusal and mean nothing at all. The only true takeaway is that they turned down the book.

Unfortunately, however, I don't think any agent is going to want a project that has already been shopped around. So maybe put this one aside for awhile (easier to say than do, I know), start something new, and avoid any firm commitments at this stage. Best of luck!

Steve Stubbs said...

You wrote: "One of my absolutely ironclad rules is don't be first. I like being third, or fifth."

Business guru T. Harv Eker says the same thing. He made millions of dollars. Evidently great minds think alike.

OP wrote: "I can see the changes I need to make, and ... know itÆs not where it should be."

If it's not ready, I know where it should be, too. Be grateful it's not published and in the hands of cackling critics. I love reading reviews. One reviewer called Harold Robbins "the well known typist." Another said of Sidney Sheldon that he had been called a schlockmeister, "but that's an insult to schlock and meisters everywhere." Reviews have been called hate mail in print.

You have to give yourself permission to learn. I wrote several books that are exactly where they should be. I don't know where they are, but wherever they are, nobody can read them, so they are where they should be. I keep getting better, though.

Keep revising. Keep learning.

Anonymous said...

Know, too, that getting published by a small press isn't a step on the way to getting published by a large press.

BJ Muntain said...

The thing with small presses is you have to find one that fits. Different people have different experiences with small presses. Part of it is the expectations. If you expect a small press to help you with marketing, to have a fair contract, to put your books into stores and libraries, make sure that the particular small press you're dealing with will do all that. If you only expect them to put the book into print while you do all the work, make sure that's what they like, too. If you want them to help you develop your career, make sure that your goals and theirs are the same.

Most of all, get your contract looked at by someone who knows about publishing contracts - BEFORE you sign. Make sure you know what that contract says, and be ready to ditch the publisher if you don't think the terms are fair. Consult with a publishing lawyer, or go through a neutral writer's organization that will tell you what your contract says without hedging or a sales pitch. Be sure you know your obligations and theirs, and who controls what.

Go into this with realistic expectations and as much knowledge as you can before you ever sign a contract. And check the publisher through the usual channels - the Absolute Write Water Cooler Bewares, Recommendations and Background Check forum, and SFWA's Writer Beware.

First and foremost, though, is get that manuscript into shape. They may be excited, they may be small and looking, but if they're any good as a publisher, they'll reject a manuscript that isn't in good shape.

Anonymous said...

Everyone has made good points about what to look for in a small/indie publisher. But you can verify all that and make sure everyone involved has good intentions and great experience with publishing and editing and creating covers and whatnot. Good job.

But it won't make a bit of difference if the people in charge have no idea how to run a business. I've lost track of how many small publishers have gone out of business in the years I've been part of the writing world. Most of them had good intentions, most of them (not all) were run by good people. But they were insufficiently funded. Or they had unrealistic expectations about cash flow and ran out of money to pay employees. So they cut back and production suffered. Then they ran out of money to pay authors and royalties were delayed. Communications broke down. They got sued. Then they filed bankruptcy. Maybe authors got their rights back, maybe they didn't. I've seen this happen over and over and over again.

Most small businesses fail within a relatively short period of time (I seem to remember it's 3-5 years). I'm sorry, I don't have data on hand to back that up and I'm too busy to look it up. I'm not saying you should never take a chance on a small/newer publisher. We all want different things, for different reasons, and that might be the right path for you. Just try to educate yourself about the risks involved before you sign anything.

Colin Smith said...

So far I can't even get a French press interested in my work, so not something I'm concerned about at the moment. All the best to you, Opie! :)

(Wow--that comment was worthy of 2Ns!)

Timothy Lowe said...

I agree with Bonnie - hold out for an agent. The book can always cool off for awhile. Once you begin your career, it's defecate or get off the chamber pot.