For a lot of writers, the ultimate goal is to get picked up by one of the Big Five publishing companies. You know the ones: the ones with lots of $$$, the brand-name recognition, the Pulitzer Prize-winning authors. Believe me, I get it, and if that’s what you want, more than anything, I wish you the very best of luck.
But if that isn’t your specific dream—if you simply want to get your work into the hands of readers—or if you’ve submitted your novel over and over again and been rejected too many times to count, I would encourage you to consider indie presses. You might be tempted to dismiss them out of hand for being too small or because they lack the wow factor of their competitors, but if you’re willing to take a chance on them, indie presses have a lot to offer emerging and established authors alike. Sure, most can’t provide large advances and their sales will almost assuredly not be enough for you to quit your day job, but as someone who works for an indie press and has a book out with them, I know for a fact that indie publishers have some pretty wonderful benefits, such as:
1) Super Personalized Attention
This is probably the aspect indie presses tout most of all. Since the company is small, and (theoretically) their list is even smaller, you’ll likely be one of only a few authors. And this means you’ll get unique, personalized attention specific to you. You’ll likely work one on one with your editor in several rounds of targeted edits. The publicity team will come up with a marketing plan that works best for you as a person and for the type of book you’ve written. The whole team will be there to answer your emails or walk you through setting up a Twitter account. They’ll set up readings for you and go with you to them. Even long after your book has been published, they’ll still be there for you, asking all about your next book!
Going off that, since it’s likely the company only publishes a few books a season, you’ll know for a fact that they truly love and believe in your work. Otherwise, why would they take the risk publishing you? It’s highly likely that everyone at the company—from the director to the intern—will have read your book and will be passionate about making it a success. They’ll take pride in every glowing review you receive and any bad ones will be like a slap in the face. They’ll talk up your book even when they’re off the clock, and they’ll make sure everyone in the industry and outside of it knows how great you are. So many of our authors have said just how validating an experience it is to be published by an indie press, because here, you’re treated like a star!
3) Niche Interests
Many indie presses tend to have more niche interests. It generally isn’t a necessity that their books appeal to as wide a demographic as possible, so you may have better luck finding a home for your experimental social commentary or genre-bending literary thrill ride, or even something traditionally risky like a short story collection or a book of poetry. In my own (admittedly limited) experience, I find that indie presses are less inclined toward those books they think will sell than toward good writing, unique stories, and what they think deserves to be published. So if more traditional publishers have told you your work is too “out-there” for them, you might consider trying an indie press. It might be just what they’re looking for!
One of the things I love most about my company is that all of our authors get to know each other. They attend each other’s book launches and events; they invite each other to read at their reading series and to submit to each other’s lit mags. If you publish with an indie press, you’ll be joining a community of writers, publishers, editors, publicists, readers, and more. Your network will grow, and if you’re open to them, new opportunities will arise.
Constance Renfrow is a New York-based writer and lead editor for Three Rooms Press. Her fiction and poetry have appeared in such places as Cabildo Quarterly, Denim Skin, and Petrichor Machine, and she hosts a monthly open mic series at New York’s Merchant’s House Museum. Recently, she compiled the anthology of millennial fiction, Songs of My Selfie, available from Three Rooms Press, and writes about the book publishing industry for DIY MFA. She is pursuing her MFA in fiction from Pacific University. Visit her at constancerenfrow.com or follow her on Twitter @MissConstance21.