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Using a Small Press: Advantages and Disadvantages

With the advent of the internet and more sophisticated desktop publishing tools and distribution methods, a gap opened up in the marketplace only a few years ago. Authors, who had traditionally relied on larger publishers to get their work known and into the hands of readers, now had the option of publishing their books themselves, and giant corporations like Amazon seemed to offer the promise of getting their work out to readers across the planet. There was a boom in self-publishing which continues today and which has flooded the market with fiction of all kinds, shapes, sizes and qualities.

But many authors didn’t want to undertake the tasks of editing, proof-reading, formatting and publishing their own work, not to mention the ongoing job of marketing and selling it to strangers. Hence the gap; and hence the plethora of small publishers which sprang up to fill it.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of using a small publisher as opposed to either traditionally publishing or self-publishing? Here are a few - you may think of others:


1. A small publisher brings you more of what every writer craves: attention. Because a small press usually consists of just one or two people, they can’t deal with vast amounts of work and keep their workloads more or less manageable. That means that they retain a closeness with their client writers that big publishers just can’t.

2. Because of that closeness, there’s also a better attention to detail. If they edit your work and you want to discuss something with them, its more likely that a dialogue will take place rather than a ‘take it or leave it’ attitude. Small presses are more likely to want to retain your original author’s vision for the piece rather than bend it towards some kind of market-friendly template.

3. Speed is a factor too. Big publishing houses, simply because they are big, are also slow as work is passed around from person to person, each one taking their time. If you’re working with only one or two people, you’re likely to hear back from them much faster.

4. If you’re considering self-publishing, a small press has the advantage of doing all the editing, proof-reading and formatting for you — tasks which are time-consuming and can distract you easily from writing.


1. Though a small publisher can give you attention, a large publisher has more resources to acquire reader attention. Large publishers have connections with established outlets that small presses can’t hope to attain. So your book will probably be seen by more people. That isn’t always as positive as it sounds, though: more people doesn’t equate to the right people.

2. While a small press can give attention to detail, larger publishers often have specialised expertise in things like cover design or professional formatting. And market-friendly templates aren’t always a bad idea. (The difference is that a large organisation is, almost by definition, less personal. They are more likely to try to force you into a mould which they think works, rather than be in listening mode to try something new.)

3. Big publishing houses do all the editing, proof-reading and formatting— and they have the people to do it over and over again, catching more errors and making the thing look better and better. But, having said that, it’s still quite easy to find errors in books produced by famous organisations. So going big doesn’t mean your work will be entirely error-free.

4. Small presses can’t often afford royalties — or only small ones. And paid advances for work are usually out of the question.

In conclusion, using a small publisher is really an extension of publishing the book yourself. You save a great deal of time and hassle and get the benefit of having someone else view and admire the thing - but the chances of you reaching a viable audience are small. It’s really the first step on a longer road towards professional authorship: you can gain recognition, some readers and a great deal of confidence from being published by a small press, and that can serve you well on your journey.


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