Options and Opportunities for Writers
John M. Daniel
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Many an unpublished writer has learned that it's nigh on impossible to get published by the major leagues if you don't have an agent, and that it's just as difficult to get an agent if you've never been published. Those writers who do somehow become authors by being published in New York may find that the reality of being published doesn't match the dream.
Take heart. There is an option. Small press publishing may not be a way to get rich or get reviewed in the New York Times, but you'll find that small press publishing has a lot to offer in the way of consolation prizes.
Is it easier to get published by a small press than by a large publisher? Not necessarily, but you can be confident that your manuscript will be looked at when it shows up on the editor's desk. Already your odds are better than they would be had you thrown your bundle over the transom in New York.
And if you do find yourself published by a small press, your book's publicity, promotion, and marketing will be given energetic, personal treatment. Your publisher will send out review copies to media and stores and will send out direct-mail brochures to everyone on your Christmas card list. They'll welcome your participation--you won't get that east of the Hudson--and will return your phone calls. You won't make a lot of money at this, but small publishers actually pay royalties on time, without having to be badgered.
Finally, small press publishing needn't be the end of the road. Having been published respectably by a respectable small press can prove to be a stepping stone to the major leagues, if that's what you want.
Small press publishing is not a new phenomenon; it is not something that has come along magically to solve the problems of literature in the world today, to be an alternative to the clumsy giant, the New York Publishing Establishment. Small press publishing has been around longer than New York publishing, and in fact longer than New York. The first small press best-seller was the Guttenberg Bible, published in 550 years ago, and the Bible still sells.
Remember that the small press first gave us Herman Melville, James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, Anais Nin, and Raymond Carver, and a host of other stars that light up the literary heavens. You might be up there too.
John M. Daniel is the editor/publisher of Daniel & Daniel, Publishers, Inc., a small literary press in Santa Barbara, California. His newest book is Generous Helpings, a collection of short stories published by Shoreline Press.