“Submitting to a Small Press” / Julie Musil Interviews WiDo’s Managing Editor

IMG_4672Have you ever considered submitting to a small publisher? Were you confused about their place in the industry, or what they bring to the table? Author Julie Musil interviewed Karen Jones Gowen, Managing Editor at WiDo Publishing,  for her  blog to shed some light on small publishers and bust some common myths.  The post has been reprinted here with Julie’s permission.

Julie Musil: What are some common misconceptions about small publishers? Can you do a little “myth busting” for us?
Karen Gowen:

“A small press can’t do anything for me I can’t do as well or better for myself.” A common misconception, that doesn’t take into consideration the cost of time and money it requires to do it all yourself rather than sharing the load with professionals who are willing to invest in your work.

“Small publishers can’t get my book in a bookstore.” If a small publisher has the right distribution channels then your book can certainly be in a bookstore. However, remember that ultimately the bookstore chooses what it puts on its shelves and with millions of books to choose from, they need to have a reason to stock yours. This is why we encourage our authors to promote themselves and their books the first 90 days of their launch, in partnership with their local bookstores.

“They might go out of business.” Any company, large or small, can fail for any number of reasons. It’s important to do your research and feel confident about the publisher you choose. And be sure there’s a clause in your contract where the rights will revert to you should they go out of business.

“If my book doesn’t do well it will hurt my chances of getting an agent and a big contract later.” This really doesn’t apply in today’s publishing market. Many authors are going hybrid, trying all kinds of ways to publish and market their work, and a savvy publisher will understand this. One of our top-selling books, Waxing Moon by H.S. Kim, was previously self-published with poor rankings and sales. It frustrated the author who decided to submit it to WiDo. Our submissions editor saw how with a better title and cover and professional editing, her book could get another chance, and that’s exactly what happened.

“All publishers are out to cheat the author and make money on their hard work.” Any publisher who cheats their authors will not stay in business long. It’s a partnership, where if the book sells, both parties benefit. If a book does not do well, the publisher has lost money on their investment while the author has lost their investment of time and hope. It is disappointing but there are no guarantees. Ultimately it’s the marketplace that determines how a book will sell. Some think it’s the publisher’s fault if the book doesn’t do well. This is a short-sighted view which won’t help one’s career. Better to just move on and write another book. A legitimate publisher has strong motivation to see a book make money, and both author and publisher will share in the success.

Julie Musil: What are some of the benefits of working with a small press vs. pursuing a Big 5 publisher or going indie?

Karen Gowen: A major benefit over going indie is you’ve got someone else financing the editing, typesetting, cover design, etc. rather than having to pay for these costs yourself. Plus you’re dealing with professionals who have done it all before. This takes a lot of pressure off the author, allowing you to focus on your own marketing efforts as well as on the next book you want to write. And a small press can have the same distribution channels as a large one—distribution that is not available to the self-published. WiDo distributes worldwide through Ingram and Baker & Taylor, the two largest distributors to bookstores, both brick and mortar and online.

The benefits over using a Big 5 publisher are personal contact, quick turnaround time, and your book getting a longer chance to find its niche rather than mid-listed after 30 days if it doesn’t sell right out the door. Books submitted to WiDo are often published within a year to 18 months of signing the contract. Our editors don’t have a huge backlog of work and can give personal attention to each author they work with. Each book and author is treated equal to every other one. Some books may do well right after launching, others might take longer, and unfortunately, there are books that never really find an audience. But we never give up on any of them because we know how good they are.

Julie Musil: What should authors look for when researching small presses and ultimately submitting?

Karen Gowen: The first thing to look for is how the money flows. If the company charges for any services, or deducts production costs from author royalties, then the money flows toward the publisher. If the company takes care of all book production and pays a fair royalty on sales, then it flows toward the author. This is what you are looking for: the money is to flow to you, not to the publisher.

Then there’s the contract. If you don’t feel good about it, don’t sign it. Have a lawyer look it over if you’re not sure. Check what kind of books the publisher has released and how well do they fare in the marketplace. Also, how happy are the authors with the publisher? There will always be books that sell better than others and disgruntled writers upset that theirs haven’t done as well as they expected, but the overall picture should be a positive relationship between author and publisher, with both working together to give the book every chance at success.

Julie Musil: What is WiDo on the lookout for? What would you like to see in your inbox?

Karen Gowen: If you’ve checked our submissions guidelines and submitted accordingly, then after that we want to see something fresh and original, either in concept or writing style and preferably both. Some recent examples of work we’ve published which fits into this category are the following:

The Opposite of Everything by David Kalish—dark humor about a man diagnosed with thyroid cancer and fumbling in his relationships.
Drinking from a Bitter Cup by Angela Jackson-Brown—a young girl with everything going against her finds the inner strength to rise above her challenges.
The Convict, the Rookie Card and the Redemption of Gertie Thump by Becky Lyn Rickman—a hilarious look at a small town busybody who gets caught up in other people’s lives despite her resistance to helping anyone but herself.
The Magic Wakes by Charity Bradford—a well-woven blend of sci fi, magic and romance in the New Adult genre.
Red-tailed Rescue by John Irby—a heart-warming prairie tale about the friendship between a troubled girl and a red-tailed hawk, told from both points of view.

These are just a few of the amazing books we’ve published recently. As you can see, they have one thing in common—fresh and original storylines—with the added bonus of being extremely well-written and having strong, identifiable characters.