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Writer Wednesdays #2: Small Publisher, Big Opportunity

With #DVpit this week, it’s important to remember the world of publishing is a strange, wondrous entity. When you are in the thick of it, everything seems to move at a crawl, until those deadlines and release days sneak up on you. However, as a whole, the industry is constantly shifting, at differing levels. From market trends, to the emergence of self publishing, to the bloom of small trad presses and indie publishers, it is important to realize there is no one set route to publishing. It is a matter of finding what works best for YOU.

Whether you choose to pursue traditional or indie, each path comes with pros and pitfalls, which is why it is important to check out the process and mission statement of any agent or house you submit to, and see if their process meshes with what you want out of your writing journey.

Unfortunately a lot of authors don’t consider small traditional presses while querying. Small traditional publishers, small presses, indie pubs, and self publishing are usually lumped together as Indie, but offer vastly different publishing experiences.

Is a Small Traditional Publisher Right for You?

  • Performs the same duties as a big house: This means the full editorial and promotional package- content & line editing, proofreading, cover design, marketing plan, production & distribution, submission to industry reviewers.

  • Do not need an agent, but an agent is not a deterrent: Submissions are thoroughly vetted whether they come from an agent or directly from the author. Agents do seek out small trad pubs if they think it is a good opportunity for their client. Especially if they are niche.

  • Opportunity for small niche books & genres: I’m looking at you New Adult. There are so many fantastic books out there that are not picked up by larger traditional publishing. This is no fault of the story; but small trad has the benefit of taking on riskier genres, non traditional stories, genres that are still finding ground in industry.

  • Small Publishers aren’t afraid to think outside the box: Their marketing plans tend to be very flexible. It is important to remember, what works to sell one book might not work for another, but a publisher with a smaller roster of titles means they will concentrate on finding what does work.

  • Contracts tend to have more flexibility and often greater author royalties: Small Traditional Publishers do not always pay advances, though some do. They do however tend to have a royalty percentage that favors the author. Advances can be risky themselves. Some authors never earn out their advance, and sales can affect your next advance.

  • More Author Editorial Control: There will be a future post on the conversation of editing, but editorial control does not mean your content editors will let you walk off a plot cliff. They will help you shape your story to be the best it can possibly be.

  • A faster turnaround schedule- The process is not rushed, it is a matter of queue. With a tighter family of clients, this means publishing schedules are more flexible and do not have to juggle as many releases.

  • No two small publishers are alike: Many offer their authors differing experiences. As with anyone you would sign a contract with, do your research!

An Interview with Sword & Silk Co-Founders Laynie Bynum & Mary Beth Dalto-McCarthy

1.What experience is Sword & Silk looking to offer authors?

Laynie: A publishing house where they feel at home. Where they know that we love their work as much as they do. Where they feel free to express their ideas and trust that we will handle their books with the best care possible. But also, for those authors who we do not sign, I’d love to be a place of growth and encouragement. To help navigate the space between “aspiring” and “published”.

MB: We want Sword & Silk to feel like an extension of the time, effort, blood, sweat and tears authors have already poured into their stories. We know these projects are their babies, and we want to treat them with the respect they deserve. Through us, we hope to give authors that chance to take the next step in their journey and trust that we’re going to treat them like they were our own.

2.What knowledge and background experience do you bring to Sword & Silk as authors and professionals?

Laynie: Back in the days of old, before I discovered my passion for writing, I knew I loved the ins and outs business and marketing. I got a couple of degrees (business management and communications) and started working in the corporate world, but always longed to fit into the bookish world I loved so much. After interning at one publishing company, working pro bono at another, and serving as a marketing manager at a third, S&S gives me the opportunity to combine my two passions while helping others’ dreams come true.

MB: Having my own works published through various presses and houses, I understand what it’s like to be on both sides of the story, so to speak. After writing for so long, and dealing with my own edits and marketing with my own publications, I knew I wanted to help give back and possibly guide those who were less certain as they worked their way through the process. In addition to being an editorial intern, I have volunteered my time as a literary mentor and offered freelance developmental and content editorial services.

3.What do you hope to build on with Sword & Silk? What are some of the long term goals?

MB: I would love our reputation to precede us. I want authors to hear about Sword & Silk and automatically know they’ll be in great hands. I want to break down the barriers and misconceptions about small presses or indie publishes and truly be a house that shows all authors that we’re here for them and we’re not giving up on them, on our readers, on our staff, or the community as a whole.

Laynie: I have many, many dreams for S&S (ask MB, she’s the one who has to keep my feet on the ground). But they aren’t necessarily for me. They’re for our authors and our readers. Long term, I’d love to see us be a place people are excited to hear about. That when we announce another release, readers know it’s going to be good. I want to give our authors the best opportunities possible, and a lot of that will come with the growth of the company. The farther our reach, the farther their reach.

4.What would you say to encourage authors, either to finish their manuscripts or to take the querying plunge?

MB: Only proceed when ready. Finish the manuscript. Self-edit the manuscript. Take a break and do it again. Let friends read it. Beta readers. Critique partners. And look at it again. When you think it’s the best product you can have your name attached to, then start thinking about the querying process. But you also need to know what you’re getting yourself into. They say publishing is a marathon, not a sprint, and it’s true. From the spark of a manuscript idea to celebrating your book’s release date, have patience and you’ll get there.

Laynie: What MB said. As a baby author, I queried my first book WAY before it was ready. After a ton of rejections, I got beta readers and critique partners. I cannot even begin to explain how much that helped. Also, do your research. We’re honest and up front with what we can and cannot provide. The small publisher life isn’t for everyone. Make sure that’s the path you want to take before deciding between it, querying agents, or indie publishing. Ask questions! Talk to people! See their experiences. It goes a long way in knowing what you’re in for. And the more educated you are in the process, the more comfortable and confident you will be as it happens.

5.Share your favorite bookish quote!

MB: To the stars who listen—”

Ok, ok no, fine, not this time.

How about:

When the day shall come that we do part," he said softly, and turned to look at me, "if my last words are not 'I love you'-ye'll ken it was because I didna have time." - The Fiery Cross, Diana Gabaldon

Laynie: I’m so floored MB didn’t use the SJM quote that I can’t think of anything, but if I have to….

We live and breathe words. It was books that kept me from taking my own life after I thought I could never love anyone, never be loved again. It was books that made me feel that perhaps I was not completely alone. They could be honest with me, and I with them.”

― Cassandra Clare, Clockwork Prince

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