Small Publishers

Written by Christopher Ransom
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There are thousands of small publishers working today. In fact, the majority of books are published by small publishers. Small publishers can be anyone from solo authors who publish their own work through a printing partner or independent printing presses who publish hundreds of authors and titles each year. In the world of book publishing, the term "small" applies to pretty much anyone but the big publishers-Harper Collins, Penguin, Warner Books, McGraw Hill, and others who are owned and operated by corporations that do a whole lot more than publish books. One estimate standard suggests that print runs of 2,000 copies or less qualifies for small. Large publishing houses usually have a minimum of 20,000 or more for their print runs. Staff-wise, two or three may qualify as a small publisher. Small, independent, or alternative presses are known for printing books they believe in rather than just which titles are safe commercial bets. Small publishers are more likely to print books that express non-traditional points of view, or books aimed at small markets.

Rather than make a run down of who's small and who's large in the world of publishing (that would take weeks and probably wind up being unfair to one group or another), we're going to take a look at the major challenges facing small publishers today and how those challenges impact you, the author seeking to print and sell your own book.

As a Small Publisher, You Are Not Alone

The Publishers Marketing Association estimates that there 50,000 small publishers, 10,000 of which are regularly functioning and enjoying some level of success. SPANN, the Small Publishers Association of North America, counts 1,300 small or independent publishers among its members. Each of these members may represent one author with one book or one company with hundreds of authors and titles under its belt. And that's just one organization. There are literally thousands of small publishers and printers catering to people just like you. With the explosion of the Internet, marketing your book to a worldwide audience has never been easier.

The challenges for any book are the same, but how large and small publishers handle those challenges are quite different. Every book needs to be printed, distributed, marketed, and generally nourished in order to find and sustain its audience. Large publishers usually have several "tent-pole" titles that they promote heavily, virtually insuring bestseller status via blitzkrieg-level marketing dollars. Those same companies often let their smaller titles fend for themselves regardless of financial loss. Because small publishers rely more heavily on all of their titles to sell consistently over the long term (years), they are less likely to hype your book for a few weeks or months and then let it drop out of print altogether.


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