Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Publishing News: Small Presses Get Big Boost

Marcher Lord Press, the "premier publisher of Christian speculative fiction" founded by Jeff Gerke in 2008, announced that one of their authors, Jill Williamson, won the prestigious Christy Award, the highest honor bestowed upon Christian writers. This award isn't big just for Jill, author of By Darkness Hid, but it is a huge plume in the cap of the two-year-old press and a boost to small presses in general.

As large publishing houses get more swamped and harder to please, smaller presses have cropped up like spring flowers. Some fill a void, like Marcher Lord Press, and others were developed primarily to publish the founder's work (I've seen a few; they shall remain anonymous). New authors shouldn't rule out small presses as a viable alternative to the giants in the industry, but they need to do their research before signing the bottom line.

Among the things to consider:

  • The contract--what is your cut? What is expected of you? Of them? Are you signed on for just one book or for the rest of your life? Understanding your contract is vital. Several agent and editor sites give an idea of boilerplate and pitfalls. If you intend to work this end by yourself instead of through an agent, research and know what you're getting yourself in for.
  • Where will your book be distributed? Amazon and B&N at the very least, but smaller presses are also getting their books into chain stores like Hastings, WalMart, K-Mart and Target.
  • Look through the other books published by the company. Do the covers look professional? If possible (and on Amazon, it usually is), look at the type, illustrations (if applicable) and page set-up. Professional and appealing?
  • Read a few of the books before you submit and judge the writing as you would your own. How do they measure up? You want your book published by a company who puts out only the best. I've read small-press novels that shouldn't have gotten past a critique partner, much less an editor. If a publisher puts out mediocre books, their philosophy centers around quantity instead of quality. Be careful of the company you keep.
  • Contact some of the authors and shower them with questions. One thing about us writers, we are willing to help each other out. Present a professional letter with specific questions, and you're likely to get a response.
Any good market guide can provide the names of small presses. If you're interested in the Christian Market, The Christian Writer's Market Guide, by Sally E. Stuart is the must-have for your bookshelf. Aside from the book is the Christian Small Publishers Association, which has a directory of small houses (Port Yonder Press isn't on this list, but we too are a small press for edgy Christian and family friendly fiction of all genres). And, of course, there's always internet searches.

Congrats to Jill and MLP, and reputable small presses everywhere!
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  1. Great post, Linda! Just a clarification: we should be in Sally's upcoming CWMG but I've chosen not to list with the CSPA because of the fee they charge with what I see as being very little benefit. Again -- fine post -- and I hope this note helps in some way.


  2. Thanks for the clarification, Maggie. I'll fix it in the post, just in case folks miss the comment.

  3. I love, love, love that MLP is doing so well. Hooray for Jeff! Hooray for Jill! Hooray for spec fic and small presses!

  4. Very exciting. Jeff is a great guy and I couldn't be more happy for him and for Jill, of course. She is a really good writer.