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Writers and Editors (RSS feed)

Small Press Publishers

Small presses: A troubled sector

Small Press Distribution (1969 – 2024) "After 55 years, Small Press Distribution (SPD)—one of the last remaining independent book distributors in the US—was shutting down immediately, with no advance notice or transitional support." Against all odds, a tiny distribution service in the back of Berkeley’s Serendipity Books grew to help authors attain some of the literary world’s crowning achievements. Alas, "several years of declining sales and the loss of grant support from almost every institution that annually supported SPD have combined to squeeze our budget beyond the breaking point....Our inventory of 300,000 books is in safe hands, having been transferred to our SPD Next partners Ingram Content Group and Publishers Storage and Shipping (PSSC) over the past several months. You will need to contact Ingram or PSSC to discuss distribution options and the return or disposition of your books."
---“The Small Press World is About to Fall Apart.” On the Collapse of Small Press Distribution (Adam Morgan, LitHub, 4-3-24) "Distributors are perhaps the most opaque and byzantine part of the publishing industry. When you buy a book on Amazon or Bookshop.org, it’s usually the distributor—not the publisher—who ships you a copy from its warehouse. When bookstores, libraries, and schools order books for their brick-and-mortar locations, they use online catalogs populated by distributors. Even further, most distributors (including SPD, before it vanished) employ sales teams that work to get copies in Barnes & Noble, independent bookstores, and other retail outlets like gift shops. Without a distributor, presses like Black Lawrence and Noemi are completely cut off from their main sources of income—and for some, SPD might have been the only affordable option left."
How to Evaluate Small Publishers—Plus Digital-Only Presses and Hybrids (Jane Friedman, 6-25-18) "Small publishers often have little or nothing in common with each other; each has unique contracts, distribution power, and quality, not to mention title count and revenue. That said, small presses can be alike in that they take pride in their status (and often rightly so) and call themselves “independent publishers,” to emphasize their creativity or more personal approach, and to differentiate themselves from corporately owned behemoths."
The Key Book Publishing Paths: 2022-2023 (Jane Friedman's excellent chart). Should you self-publish or traditionally publish? This infographic will help you determine the best choice for you and your project. Six categories analyzed: The Big Five, Other Traditional, Small Presses, Self-Publishing and Hybrid, Indie and DIY, and Social (serialization, fan fiction, social media and blogs, Patreon/patronage). A realistic description of small presses (albeit hard to read in small type).

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Small Presses (Writer Beware) See Submitting to a Small Press: Issues to Consider and Evaluating a Small Press (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers Association)
Preditors and Editors list of book publishers and distributors lists many small presses and tells you which ones to avoid, and why.

Publishing With a Small Press: Straddling the Indie-Traditional Gap (Eliot Peper on Jane Friedman's blog, 7-19-23) Small presses often have more flexible contract terms than the Big Five. Small presses run the production and distribution processes for you. Small presses often have more flexible contract terms than the Big Five.

    "Traditional publishers typically offer somewhere between 5-15 percent gross royalty to authors and 25% net royalty on ebooks. I received a 50/50 net royalty split and retained many subsidiary rights to my work. If you have specific priorities you want to negotiate, you’ll probably be able to find a healthy middle ground."
Better Than Fall Back: The Small Press Option (Shirley Showalter on Jane Friedman's blog, 7-30-13, updated 7-19-23) Several mini-articles, worth a look.
Small Press Distribution: An Interview with Brent Cunningham (RealPants.com)
Complete Guide to Small Press Publishing: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly of Small Presses for Writers (Kate Sullivan, TCK Publishing,
3 Unique Research Methods for Identifying Small Publishers (Rosalie Morales Kearns on Jane Friedman's blog, 7-19-23) Browse review venues that specialize in small-press books. Identify awards for small-press books. Check bestsellers and new releases through book distributors that specialize in small-press books. With many useful links.

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How Small Presses Are Welcoming More Women Into Publishing (Aaron Calvin, Pacific Standard, 12-14-16) Dorothy, YesYes Books, and Graywolf Press have made it their mission to publish more women — and reform an industry that more often celebrates the achievements of men.
Against Conglomeration: Nonprofit Publishing and American Literature After 1980 (Dan Sinykin and Edwin Roland, Post45, 4-21-21) In 2008, Zadie Smith imagined "Two Paths for the Novel." The next year, Mark McGurl published The Program Era, about how creative writing programs changed American literature.... The editors of n+1 responded by proposing that the two paths for the novel were MFA or NYC: creative writing programs or New York publishing....By missing corporate conglomeration, they miss the whole. The two paths paved by the period — which subsume and reorient realism or avant-garde, MFA or NYC — were commercial or nonprofit. 1980 marked the start of this era. Under tremendous financial pressure, commercial and nonprofit publishers split in their approaches to literariness. Writers of color, who make up a disproportionately small fraction of literary production, do not align easily along the intersecting axes of conglomeration and literariness. This literary order — organized around conglomeration, literariness, and diversity — lasted twenty-seven years, from 1980 to 2007. It ended with the financial crisis and the emergence of Amazon as a major player in publishing....In 2003, Graywolf broke from the indie distributor that connects small presses across the US to partner with Farrar, Straus, and Giroux. "It is a step away from the band of 'small presses' and into that virtually empty gap between us and the substantial independent/literary presses"...
5 Ways Small Press Publishers Offer Opportunities for New Authors (Emily Wenstrom, The Write Life, 8-30-16)
3 Unique Research Methods for Identifying Small Publishers (Rosalie Morales Kearns on Jane Friedman's blog, 3-19-2020)
The Big, Big List of Indie Publishers and Small Presses (Nonconformist Authors, The Nonconformist, Medium, 9-14-19) 150+ proofs that indie is beautiful.
24 of Our Favorite Small Presses (Powell's Books, 3-14-18)
20 Small Press Books You Might Have Missed (Ruth Minah Buchwald, Electric Lit, 8-29-19)

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