Saturday, August 20, 2011

Choosing a Small Press (part 3/3)

Douglas Smith and I sat down to talk about short stories and publishing with a small, Canadian press. Doug offers so much information and insight in his answers, that I've decided to break them up over three days.

Today is Day 3. Click here for Thursday's "Publishing a Short Story Collection" and here for yesterday's "The Road to Small Press." 

Krista's question: What are three things that people need to consider before going with a small press?

First is reputation. If you're considering a small press, check out their authors and contact at least three of them. Ask them about their experience with the press. How involved were they in the publishing process? Did they get cover input? What about the quality of the editing and copyediting?  What about promotion?  Where were they reviewed?  Scan the awards ballots and see which presses are showing up regularly. And check out some of their books, especially their covers, and their author list. Any big names on their list? Would you like to be included on that list, or have you not heard of anyone that they publish?

Second is distribution. See my comments above. For the time being, print distribution into bricks and mortar bookstores is still very important. So you will want to understand exactly what distribution deals the press has to get your book into bookstores. And I'd include their business model in this as well. Do they only do limited print runs? Do they do paperback editions (cheaper for readers) or only hardcover? Do they produce ebook editions?

Third is the degree of authorial involvement in the publishing process. I mention some of this under the first point, but if you're considering a publisher, then they should be able to tell you how much you'll be involved with key decisions in the process, especially the cover.

Notice that I didn't mention money. I'm not saying that the money isn't important, but I'd suggest that you worry less over an advance and instead ensure that you understand their royalty structure, especially for the eBooks. And most importantly, make sure that you understand what rights you are licensing and are comfortable with how and when those rights revert to you.

Okay, I'm way beyond just "three things," but I have to mention another key option that any writer with a backlist of short stories needs to consider in 2011, and that is self-publishing a collection as an ebook or even as a POD book plus ebook. I haven't done an e-collection yet, but I have put up most of my backlist as individual ebook short stories, available through all the big e-tailers and now also on my own web site. I can easily put out an ebook collection of just my fantasy stories, or my SF stories, or only my Heroka stories. It's all under my control.

It would take too much space to discuss indie publishing here, but it's become fairly simple to self-publish a book, whether it is a collection or a novel. If you want to know more about that world, I would strongly recommend Kris Rusch's "Business Rusch" blog series and Dean Wesley Smith's "Think Like a Publisher" blog series.

Krista, I hope that this has been of some interest and help to any writer out there who is considering publishing a collection. Thanks for the invitation to be on your blog again.

Doug is an award-winning Toronto-based author of speculative fiction, with over 150 short story sales in thirty countries and two dozen languages, including appearances in Amazing Stories,Weird Tales, InterZone, The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror, Baen's Universe, Postscripts,On Spec, The Third Alternative, Cicada, and anthologies from Penguin, DAW, and others.

His newest collection, Chimerascope (ChiZine Publications, 2010), is currently a finalist for the 2011 Aurora Award. His first collection, Impossibilia (PS Publishing), was a finalist for the 2009 Aurora Award.
Doug was a finalist for the international John W. Campbell Award for best new writer, and has twice won Canada's Aurora Award. A short film based on his story "By Her Hand, She Draws You Down" toured festivals in North America and internationally in 2010 and 2011, winning several awards.
His website is and he tweets at   


  1. I agree with everything Doug says, but with my usual caveat that anyone considering self-publishing has to arrange for the same services a publisher would provide, which not only means cover art but editing and book design. Most self-published novels and collections are rubbish because the author tries going it alone. Professional quality artwork, book design and editing are what ensure a quality product. Putting out anything less not only ensures low sales, but places one at risk of damaging their brand (i.e., your name or pen name) for the long term. Same with interviewing potential small press publishers -- if they do not provide decent covers, book design, and editorial support, look elsewhere.

  2. Good points, all, Doug. Especially about the money. I used to feel intimidated by the guys who bragged about their advances as if anyone in writing who couldn't match 'em were just wannabes. If there's anything good about the chaos in publishing, it's the breathing room for good small presses and the good writers who work with them. There are many valid ways to be a writer.

  3. Robert, I totally agree. I get into a lot more of the issues for writers to consider in the self-publishing world in another recent interview (podcast) with John Mierau ( but my main recommendations align with yours: a writer needs to hire the services they can't do themselves (and needs to realize that they can't do them at a pro level). And those critical services are: editing, copy-editing, cover design (it's not just picking artwork, folks), and interior book design as well. Being a writer is one thing. Becoming a publisher is a different animal. I again recommend Dean Wesley Smith's blog that I mention above re this.

    Douglas Smith

  4. Thanks, Lynda. Many writers don't even understand what an advance is, and that in most cases it would be all they would ever see for a book, given that most royalties from NYC (a) suck, and (b) are "net" of a generally poorly or undefined set of publisher expenses. Print publishing is about velocity. If the book doesn't sell well out of the gate in the first few weeks, it's dead. It will disappear from the limited (and dwindling) shelf space in bricks and mortar stores.

    With ebooks, velocity doesn't matter. Shelf space is infinite for the etailers (or close enough) that ebooks don't need to disappear from electronic stores after x weeks or even x years. So an ebook will continue to sell and continue to earn. It's the long game with ebooks--which is another reason why it is a dumb idea to pay anyone a percentage to publish your ebooks for you. But that is a topic for another blog.


  5. Exactly! This is why I've hired a team of people: Editor, Graphic artist, formatter, and I do tons of promotion. Its very important to match the quality big-publishing-houses offer to compete.

    Self-published authors often have unique ideas and real, raw talent. But they also need to balance that with standard quality.

    I have done a good job ;)