David Takes on Goliath: Or How the Small Presses Are Taking on the Big Guys
For many aspiring authors, the dream of publication leads to one destination: Goliath’s front door, otherwise known as the BIG publishing house. We’re all familiar with the names of the titans of the industry: Penguin, Pocket Books, Random House, and St. Martin’s Press. The common perception is that if you can rise from the slush to be published by one of these companies, then you are all but assured of success. But are you? Is this truly the only way to become a success in highly competitive industry?
Before you answer that question, let’s take a look at a different model, the David to the Goliath, the much maligned and misunderstood small press. Quick, what is the first thing you think of when you see the words “small press”? Poor quality? Bad writing? Do you immediately think, “Well, they weren’t good enough to publish anywhere else, so they had to settle for a small press?” If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you are wrong. Small press does not equal bad writing, just as self-publishing does not equal bad writing. Small press equals a different mode of publishing. One that is becoming increasingly popular in the wake of the shake-ups coming out of the halls of the titans.
Listen up, writers, that sound you hear coming out of New York is David taking on Goliath—and winning. How is this possible? Because the small presses have an advantage that the big ones don’t—adaptability. While the bigger houses are crumbling under the same business models they have employed for decades, small presses are adapting to the new mode of communication. How? By offering readers another way to get their information, from traditional books that can be printed on demand to electronic books that can be downloaded to computers, e-readers—even cell phones.
Small presses have learned how to harness the power of the Internet. While the big houses are scrambling to get on board by offering digitized versions of their backlist, small presses are already offering digitized versions of their frontlist. And in this age of high-tech toys and instant communication where word of mouth is measured by the speed of a text message, that option could mean the difference between success and failure. People like to have a choice. Small presses offer that choice, not only in the form of the book you want to read, be it print or electronic, but in the content, as well. Small presses don’t publish according to trends and what is selling big now. Small presses publish quality works that might be a little too quirky, controversial, or genre-defying for other publishing houses.
This was one of the reasons I decided to publish with a small press. When my book couldn’t find a home with Goliath, but captured the interest of David, I chose to publish with David. And although the leg-work involved in garnering buzz for my book has been time-consuming and sometimes arduous, that decision has paid off for me. I had more control over the look of my cover than I would have had at a bigger house and my book was available for sale on Amazon.com much sooner than if a bigger house published me. In today’s digital age, that availability is paramount. It is my belief that this will be a key factor in the continuing battle between David and Goliath. Availability. Courtesy of the Internet, we are accustomed to having something delivered to us with the speed of DSL. So success might come down to a simple question of: How long are we willing to wait for a new book from a big house when a small press can offer one in a third of the time? What do you think? Are we, as readers and writers, still restricted by the old stigmas regarding smaller presses? Or are the small presses the way of the future?
Please leave a comment or question for Margay to enter to win a copy of NORA’S SOUL. To read the back cover copy of NORA’S SOUL, please see yesterday’s post. To learn about Margay, please visit her website.