The Small-Press Experience

Publish date:

A little over a year ago, my first novel was published. After countless revisions, querying it to an inch of its life, finding an agent, leaving an agent, finding a publisher, content edits, line edits, etc., etc., my little-story-that-could became a full-fledged, published novel. For months after its release, the question which seemed to be on everyone’s mind was, “Is it everything you thought it would be?”


Column by Angela V. Cook, author of INTO A MILLION PIECES
(Jan. 2015, Red Adept Publishing). Like most writers, she’s been
making up stories for as long as she can remember and can’t
imagine a life that doesn’t involve creating worlds. Angela loves
to write novels for teens, because it’s a great outlet for her sarcastic
personality, immature sense of humor, and love of romantic firsts.
Her idea of the perfect day involves a quiet house, a good book,
and a piece of cheesecake. Or two. Follow her on Twitter

Like a thirty-something, curvier version of Cinderella, I wish I could clasp my hands over my heart, bat my eyelashes, and say dreamily, “Oh, why yes! It’s absolutely lovely!” But the truth is, it isn’t. I don’t mean that in a negative way; it’s just different than how I imagined it would be.

(How to help an author promote their new book: 11 tips.)

The biggest shock for me has been how hard it is to get people to buy my book. Before my release day, I had all sorts of ideas on how I was going to promote INTO A MILLION PIECES. With all I had planned, I expected copies to fly off the proverbial online bookshelves. Everyone who read the book would leave a review, people would then read these reviews, and an endless buying cycle would be set in motion. Reality check: it is DAMN hard to convince people to buy a book written by a virtually unknown author and published by a small press.

Marketing a debut book is a full-time job in and of itself—especially when you’re published by a small press. Because no matter how great that small press is, they often don’t have the money to sink into marketing. Therefore, getting the word out about the book often falls on the author.

During the months following my release, I hustled reviews, wrote guest posts, answered dozens of interview questions, and participated in book giveaways. All of the hard work did pay off—but only to a point. I received some great reviews, but the sales were nowhere near what I expected. Things got even worse when I had to take a break from all the marketing due to some changes in my personal life. My book seemed to fall off the face of the earth. The reviews stopped coming in and sales plummeted.

Image placeholder title

How to Blog a Book by Nina Amir discusses
how to slowly release a novel online to generate
interest in your writing and work.

This post isn’t meant to be anti-small-press. Not by any means. Despite my less than stellar book sales, my small-press experience has actually been very positive, and I have no regrets.

As a busy mom, who also works full time outside the home, starting with a small press was the right decision for me. I appreciated the fact I wasn’t given hard and fast deadlines during the editing phase. And of course, I loved having a say in the cover art. Also, because my publisher only contracts one book at a time, I avoided the pressure of having to rush and write my sequel.

So yes, there are pros and cons when it comes to signing with a small press. Authors really need to think long and hard about what they want from their publishing experience. Those authors who dream of their debut selling thousands and hitting best-seller lists probably shouldn’t sign with one of the little guys. Not to say the aforementioned can’t happen if they do, but it’s rare, and when it does happen, it’s often because the author put forth a lot of time and money.

(Learn how you can support and help a new author with their book release.)

I haven’t given up on my dreams of signing with one of the “Big Six.” I want what every other writer wants—to be successful in every measure of the term. I would love six-figure contracts and huge marketing budgets, but with that comes a lot of responsibility on the author’s end. At this point in my life, I don’t think I could handle the stress of signing with a large publisher. I have too much going on between work and family. So for now, I’ll stick with the freedom and flexibility of my small press. Slow and steady wins the race, right?


Check Out These Great Upcoming Writers' Conferences:

Screen Shot 2014-12-17 at 3.39.23 PM

Your new complete and updated instructional guide
to finding an agent is finally here: The 2015 book
GET A LITERARY AGENT shares advice from more 
than 110 literary agents who share advice on querying, 
craft, the submission process, researching agents, and
much more. Filled with all the advice you'll ever need to
find an agent, this resource makes a great partner book to
the agent database, Guide to Literary Agents.

Other writing/publishing articles & links for you:

Lacie Waldon: On Writing What You Know ... But Keeping it Interesting

Lacie Waldon: On Writing What You Know ... But Keeping it Interesting

Debut novelist Lacie Waldon discusses how her agent encouraged her to write what she knew, but then her editor made her realize that what she thought was boring might not be the case.

Pedal vs. Peddle (Grammar Rules)

Pedal vs. Peddle (Grammar Rules)

Learn when to use pedal and peddle with Grammar Rules from the Writer's Digest editors, including a few examples of correct usages.

Marissa Levien: On Pinning Down Your Novel's Middle

Marissa Levien: On Pinning Down Your Novel's Middle

Debut author Marissa Levien discusses how she always knew what the beginning and the end of her science fiction novel The World Gives Way would be, but that the middle remained elusive.

Drawing the Line for Withholding Secrets in Young Adult and Middle-Grade Novels

Drawing the Line for Withholding Secrets in Young Adult and Middle Grade Novels

Middle-grade and young adult author Ren Koppel Torres shares the top tips for how you can keep secrets from your characters and readers.

Payal Doshi: On Letting Rejection Bring You Clarity

Payal Doshi: On Letting Rejection Bring You Clarity

Middle-grade author Payal Doshi discusses the sometimes-disheartening process of querying a novel and how she used rejection to fuel her passion for writing.

writer's digest wd presents

WD Presents: Writer’s Digest Conference Announcements and More!

This week, we’re excited to announce that our 2021 Annual Conference will be virtual, registration is open for our 2021 in-person Novel Conference, and more!

Rajani LaRocca: On Letting Your Synopsis Guide Your Writing

Rajani LaRocca: On Letting Your Synopsis Guide Your Writing

In this article, middle-grade author Rajani LaRocca discusses how the synopsis for her newest release, Much Ado About Baseball, guided her writing process.

From Script

Adding Your Personal Connection to Your Stories and Building Your Brand As a Writer (From Script)

In this week’s round up brought to us by, Script’s Editor Sadie Dean interviews Dickinson creator/showrunner/EP Alena Smith, learn how to divide and conquer as screenwriter in the business and creating fruitful relationships. Plus, a brand new Script Talk video interview with writer/director/actress Djaka Souaré about her journey as a mentor and mentee in the WOCUnite and #StartWith8Hollywood mentorship programs.