a.k.a. Genius is my debut middle grade novel, published by the small press Pauline Books and Media.
Changing how you see yourself can be challenging. For nearly seven years I saw myself through one lens – as a mom. A full-time, stay-at-home-with-my-three-little-ones mom.
I am also a published author.
That’s still hard to say. And it’s hard for a couple of reasons, both of which have little, if any, merit. The first is a lifelong habit of downplaying my achievements. I’m working on that.
The second reason is that my book is published by a small press and there is a part of me that knows for some people, that doesn’t quite count. Yes, I am published. No, I am not famous. No, you cannot walk into your local Barnes & Noble and find my book prominently displayed on the end of an aisle complete with a giant picture of my head.
I went to a book signing recently at my local Barnes & Noble. Three wildly talented and successful Young Adult authors were presenting to a group of about forty people. One of the authors whose books have been on the NYT bestsellers list commented that her goal had always been to be published by one of the Big Six publishers. Period. It was obvious that to her, working with a small press was not even a consideration.
I’m ashamed to say that for a minute or two I let that make me feel small. To make my accomplishment feel less. But the reality is, it’s my accomplishment. And I did it in a way that works best for me – for my life, my family and my book. For me as a writer telling the story I told, working with a small press was the right thing. The only thing.
There is so much focus today on “indie” writers and self-publishing. In a way, I feel that small press publishing has gotten lost in all the noise. What I take away from a lot of social media talk is an attitude of either go big or go it on your own. That there aren’t options and opportunities between a big advance from a major publisher and publishing your work yourself.
I want to encourage writers to at least explore the possibility of working with a small press. You’ll of course want to research what kind of books they publish and what they offer authors to ensure a good fit for you and your book. Working with Pauline Books and Media has been an enormous blessing to me and my career as a children’s author.
I felt – and continue to feel – like an integral part of the team every step along the way. My editor was able to devote time and attention to me and my book that I know I would not have experienced with a larger publisher. I learned about editing (and editing again), copyediting, and what goes into the actual design of the book. I learned about how the team goes about choosing a title. I learned how terrifying it can be to have NO SAY whatsoever in the design of the book’s cover. A little later I learned how mind-blowingly awesome it can be to see an artist with whom I never spoke create a cover that, to me, is perfect. Working with a small press can also mean a much quicker timeline from signed contract to publication. My book came out in less than a year.
From a long-term career perspective, I think working with a small press can be very smart. I have earned a publishing credit. And by the time I’ve given up on at least two of my New Year’s resolutions, I will have earned another. From a career-building standpoint, this is huge. As I continue to write and seek the attention of agents, being able to list publishing credits in a query letter gives added weight to my submission. There is immediate credibility with those in the industry. In this way, a small press can serve as a stepping stone to something bigger.
Of course, there are limitations to working with a small press. Which are also important to consider. Small press typically means smaller budget. This translates into modest (or very modest) advances and limited marketing and publicity budgets. There are no multi-city tours with drivers and “handlers” from the publisher. The thrill of walking into a major bookseller and seeing stacks of your book waiting for readers isn’t going to be there.
But, if you can get past what you won’t get, I’d ask that you take a step back and look at the bigger picture. Are you planning a career as a writer? Are your dreams and goals long-term in nature? If yes, I propose that working with a small press is a smart decision. For me it was very much the right decision. So much so that I did it again.
The sequel to a.k.a. Genius, Genius Under Construction, releases in January, 2014 again from Pauline Books and Media.
Marilee Haynes lives with her husband and three young children outside Charlotte, North Carolina. A full-time stay-at-home mom, she writes middle-grade fiction in stolen quiet moments (in other words, when everyone else is asleep). a.k.a. Genius is her first novel. It can be found on Amazon.com, Barnes&Noble.com, and through Pauline Press physical stores throughout the country as well as www.pauline.org/genius.