Karen Weisner.com
Karen Wiesner

Karen Wiesner is an accomplished author with 54 books published in the past 10 years, which have been nominated for and/or won 72 awards, and 15 more titles under contract. Karen’s writes in many genres, including reference titles such as her bestsellers, First Draft in 30 Days and From First Draft to Finished Novel {A Writer’s Guide to Cohesive Story Building}, available from Writer’s Digest Books. Her previous writing reference title focused on setting up a promotional group like her own, Jewels of the Quill. Karen’s inspirational gothic romance, The Bloodmoon Curse, is published by Samhain Publishing, as is her newest inspirational romance series, Family Heirlooms. Book 1, Baby, Baby, received a 5-star review and the Sweetheart Award from The Romance Studio. Look for SHADOW BOXING, Book 2, in January 2009. Visit Karen’s Web site at http://www.karenwiesner.com. If you would like to receive Karen’s free e-mail newsletter, Karen’s Quill, and become eligible for her monthly book giveaways, send a blank e-mail to KarensQuill-subscribe [at]yahoogroups.com.


What Small Press Publishing Can Do for You

Your sales will no doubt be small, possibly nonexistent, and you truly are on your own with promotion.

Is small press, non-subsidy, royalty-paying publishing a viable option for writers? Yes! The bottom line is that the line between small presses and mass-market publishers is becoming blurrier every day.

If the author has a work that’s proved a very hard sell (strictly because the material is deemed a hard sell to consumers by traditional publishers in terms of subject matter or length, not because it’s poorly written), then small-press publishers offer writers what mass-market publishing can’t or won’t: a way to get legitimately published to build a resume. Since, for the most part, small presses don’t focus on what will sell, the publisher is free to accept the books that they and readers love, instead of only those that might reap financial rewards. A resume full of rave reviews, awards, nominations, and good sales is something that mass-market publishers look at closely. I could quote you sheer numbers of authors who have started their careers with small presses and ended up with a big fat contract from a traditional publisher. It’s an excellent way to show them what you can do—something that you really can’t do if you’ve never had anything published before. With the state of publishing coming down to a bottom line of money, it’s essential to have that something extra to make publishers willing to take a chance on you.

Another benefit is that agents (who are absolutely necessary to even submit to mass-market publishers) will also be more willing to take a chance on you if you’ve got a solid resume that proves you’re worthy of closer inspection. You give yourself an incredible head start by taking the alternative route.

The biggest downside to writing for small presses is the obvious one. Your sales will no doubt be small, possibly nonexistent, and you truly are on your own with promotion. A traditional, mass-market published author can probably get away with no self-promotion for a long time. The unfortunate but all too true fact is that publishers don’t feel promotion is their job anymore. With 200,000 books being published each year, there’s far too much competition for any author to leave success up to chance. It doesn’t mean the publisher won’t assist you in your promotion, but the majority of your successes in the early and middle years of your career will be owed entirely to your success as an

effective marketer. You’ll have to build up a following on your own. But it can be done.

Traditional authors have “built-in” sales. People know these publishers, since nearly everyone has purchased at least one book by them. The books can be found both online and in book stores. The publishers don’t need to advertise their existence the way small presses do. Small presses don’t have that recognition and, therefore, no sales are built in. The books offered by these publishers are hard to find. Authors have to work to bring the readers in . . . and sometimes that means literally dragging them in, one by one. If you’re a small-press published author, you’ll soon discover that no self-promotion is not an option.

How can you turn the downsides of small-press publishing to your favor? First, branch out—use more than one publisher and be prolific. By branching out, 1) you can see which publisher is making the money, doing more promotion, working more closely with their authors, has a solid reputation in the industry and among readers, 2) you won’t go crazy while you’re waiting to hear word from one of your publishers; you’ll force yourself to push forward and concentrate on the future instead of the present, 3) you’ll be putting yourself in the position of power should one of your publishers with suddenly skyrocket into the public eye, 4) you’ll be making more money. Instead of waiting for one royalty check, you’ll have more, which means a better financial picture, and 5) you can sell more books per year. A lot of authors have been waiting all their lives to get published and have a stack of books needing minor tweaking. Now you’ll have the opportunity to send those out and see them published. Most traditional authors can’t boast five or more releases a year unless it includes re-issues.

I believe the advantages of working with a quality small-press publisher far exceed the disadvantages. I’d rather be published, multi-published, and have readers love my work and beg for more than languishing as I wait for a mass-market publisher to publish a single book.

If you’re exhausted trying to sell to mass-market publishers and you want readers—few though they initially might be—to have access to your work, consider the benefits of writing for small-press publishers.

We’ll talk more about how to market and promote a small-press published book in Part II of this article.