There are several different routes to get your book in print – self-publishing, small presses and (the holy grail) an agent and a large publisher.
In April 2019, after a lot of deliberation, I signed with the small press March Hamilton for my debut middle grade novel TOBY AND THE SILVER BLOOD WITCHES. I’d had multiple full requests for my book but they’d resulted in only one offer from a small press and one R&R from an agent (a Revise and Resubmit – the agent provides you with edits to do before they’ll consider signing you). What to do?
So, why did I choose the small press? Ultimately, you can never be sure which route is the ‘right’ one to take. I know fellow writers who have turned down small press offers in the hope of their debut making a bigger splash. But here are the factors which helped me make my decision:
- I know of multiple writers who have agents but their book ‘died on sub’ as they put it. Ie. Their agents subbed their book to publishers but unfortunately it wasn’t picked up. Writer Tasha Harrison recently tweeted this:
Naively, I used to think once you had an agent, you had a pretty good chance of getting a publishing deal. Apparently not. And remember, not all of the ten percent that make it to acquisitions will get an offer.
- There was no guarantee that once I’d done the R&R for the agent, they would definitely sign me.
- This book is hugely important to me. I know every book an author writes is important to them. However, with its #OwnVoices young carer and chronic illness element, I really want to get this book in the world. Often, when a writer signs with an agent, it’s not their first book that gets a deal. I wasn’t happy to say, well if not this book, it’ll be another then.
- On a personal level, I suffer from ME and I felt that a small press would be more willing to work around my limitations and give me longer to do edits.
So, have I made the right decision?
Only time will tell. I won’t deny that I get twinges of jealousy when I see other middle grade books and authors doing well on Twitter. With a small press, it is unlikely I will share many of their successes. Here are things you should be aware of if you sign with a small press:
- Will my book sell thousands? – Probably not (my first print run is 500 copies. That said, I’m pretty happy with that. I don’t think I would have gone with a print on demand publisher.)
- Will my book be in book shops? – In Waterstones? – unlikely (and definitely not on tables, you know publishers have to pay for that, right?) In independent book shops? – hopefully in some but it will be on a case by case basis.
- Will my book be shortlisted for competitions? – Unlikely (again, most competitions cost publishers hundreds if not thousands of pounds to enter)
At the end of the day, what is right for one writer will not be right for another writer. Consider everything carefully.
Research the small press. Ask all the questions. Negotiate your contract, particularly making sure you check the rights and royalties. (If you don’t have an agent, I advise joining the Society of Authors who will look through your contract for you.) March Hamilton is under new management so I couldn’t make my decision on past book sales. But their new director seems highly motivated. In 2019, she was listed as one of London Book Fair’s 30 under 30 Trailblazers which gave me a favourable impression.
Maybe you’ll want to hold out for the hope of nabbing that publishing deal with one of the big five. It can happen!
For me, I have realised how wonderful every single book sale will be. Every single child reading my book will feel amazing. And whilst it’s hard not to be envious of writers who have the backing of big publishers, I must remember there are many writers who would love to get a deal with a small press.
I’m currently working on edits. And at some point this year, we’ll be working on the cover, eek! Roll on my launch date January 2021.