Tiny publishing houses -- yay or nay?

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craig
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Tiny publishing houses -- yay or nay?

Post by craig » May 24th, 2011, 9:37 pm

As I mentioned in another thread in "All Things Finding an Agent," I was at an editor pitch session this past weekend. There were three editors there, two of which buy short fiction and were thus were not interested in my novel. (Though one of them did go through my synopsis line by line and give me immense advice.)

The third editor there is from a small publisher that specializes in eBooks. They do some print copies, but their main focus is ePublishing. That editor requested to see my full MS.

I've never ever had an MS request before -- full or partial. However, I'm not excited, but rather confused. Here's why...

This publisher is VERY small. I figure IF this publisher likes my work (and they are actively looking to expand their SF selection) and buys it, it could turn out one of two ways:
1. This is a stepping stone to a larger publisher years down the road.
2. This is a "dead end" that doesn't lead to a larger publisher and the returns/rewards from this partnership do not justify pursuing it further after, say, a trilogy.

I went to Amazon and searched by publisher and came up with only two titles (whereas the publisher has several dozen I think). A similar search at Chapters/Indigo brought the same result. I don't know where they are making their sales -- my guess is on their homepage and not through these online booksellers. So this really seems small scale. (Also, though we're not supposed to judge a book by its cover, the website of the publisher is a little unpolished and the eBook covers don't really look highly professional.)

On the other side of this dilemma...

All three editors loved my pitch. The short fiction editors read my query letter and loved it. (The one who tore apart my synopsis line by line wouldn't change a single word on the query.) All three found my writing highly professional. I made a writing friend at this pitch session and he's currently reading my stuff -- he has some very good edits he's doing to it, but his words echo that of the editors.

Which gets me wondering… would I be better off continuing my search for an agent (and subsequently a larger publisher)? I seem to have quality stuff. And when I rewrite my synopsis with that advice, my query package should be even better.

So -- on the one hand, I got this MS request and I feel I should follow through on it because I've never had a request before and this is an open door when it's so hard to find an open door -- but on the other hand, I've sort of got all these signs indicating that I can maybe do a little better.

Any thoughts??? I'm so lost!!!

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cheekychook
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Re: Tiny publishing houses -- yay or nay?

Post by cheekychook » May 24th, 2011, 11:14 pm

There are a lot of comments I could make on this topic as I've put a great deal of time into thinking about this question regarding my own novels, but I'm particularly pressed for time at the moment. The bottom line is, if someone wants to see your work, let them. That doesn't obligate you to sign with them. If they like your work and make you an offer, but you decide you're too skeptical to sign with them, you can tell anyone else who has your work that you have an offer--- that's always a good thing. It might also yield you comments or critique that might be helpful. I don't see a way that submitting your full could be a bad thing for you. Best of luck!
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Re: Tiny publishing houses -- yay or nay?

Post by Collectonian » May 25th, 2011, 1:44 am

Hmmm....if you've had positive reception, I'd say go for bigger first. As for whether to follow through with a full for comments, I'd be of two minds. On the one hand, its much like going out and doing job interviews just for practice - gets you some experience with that end of the process, and might get some good feedback from it. On the other hand, I've never been able to do that because I feel it is just wasting the interviewers time if I know I'm not going to accept any offer they make, if they make one. In that end, though, it goes to personal choice. :-)

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Re: Tiny publishing houses -- yay or nay?

Post by polymath » May 25th, 2011, 11:08 am

Everyone has to start somewhere. Writer, publisher, editor, agent, reader, ad infinitum. A minor house's star, optimistically, is ascendant. It seriously needs product, quality product it cannot get because the megahouses snap it all up. Unless they acquire a fluke, it's happened, a minor house has to work at success just as hard as a struggling writer. It's a dialogue. Join the conversation.

If house and manuscript are a reasonable match, go for it. Though judging from the subtext, craig, I don't feel it is. Both parties in my estimation could use some work. Maybe, though, that would be mutually beneficial for both parties. Maybe not. Indifferent attention to outward appearances would give me pause, like web site presentation, cover presentation, etc. What does that say about their attention to vital details. Makes me wonder if they have the chops to risk working with a promising writer to develop a product to it's best potential. That's the dominion of minor houses. Megahouses don't do it anymore. They get the cream of the crop to choose from at their convenience.
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Re: Tiny publishing houses -- yay or nay?

Post by MysticFiddler » May 25th, 2011, 11:33 am

As a tiny publisher, I'd say ask the magic question: Why? Why does the publisher want the entire ms. when this is not an industry standard? Basic paranoia would prevent me from sending out the entire thing to a publisher with only two books; Google eBook ripoffs and see what I mean. I recently read of one where a prisoner extracted a printed book and published it as his own, although it was being offered elsewhere under the true author's name. And, if you're not comfortable asking 'why,' perhaps this publisher isn't for you.

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Re: Tiny publishing houses -- yay or nay?

Post by cheekychook » May 25th, 2011, 11:47 am

Full requests are very much the industry standard for e-publishers. I have been on submission with several major romance e-publishers. The vast majority of them want a full at the time of submission, the rest want the first 3 and last chapter and a synopsis and, after a first round reader reads that, an editor will ask for a full. It seems perfectly normal to me that an editor who was representing this publisher at a conference (or whatever sort of event you attended) would be there asking for manuscripts.

Was the conference (or whatever) a reputable event? Did they have pitch sessions? Usually conferences do some amount of vetting of the representatives they have on hand. USUALLY. This small company could legitimately just be getting started. It may succeed, it may not. It's possible it's a scam, but the scam companies don't tend to be bold enough to go to conferences to troll for authors. Research the company the best you can. Attempt to address any concerns you have by speaking with them. If you're totally not comfortable with them, don't submit. If, however, you think they're legit, just inexperienced or "green", then I go with my earlier advice---send them the full---the choice will still ultimately be yours.
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Re: Tiny publishing houses -- yay or nay?

Post by craig » May 25th, 2011, 12:56 pm

cheekychook wrote:Was the conference (or whatever) a reputable event? Did they have pitch sessions? Usually conferences do some amount of vetting of the representatives they have on hand. USUALLY. This small company could legitimately just be getting started. It may succeed, it may not. It's possible it's a scam, but the scam companies don't tend to be bold enough to go to conferences to troll for authors. Research the company the best you can. Attempt to address any concerns you have by speaking with them. If you're totally not comfortable with them, don't submit. If, however, you think they're legit, just inexperienced or "green", then I go with my earlier advice---send them the full---the choice will still ultimately be yours.
I think it was a reputable event. It wasn't a literary event, but a general sci-fi con. I think there were only four or five of us that were partaking in this pitch session. This convention has been going on for about 30 years, I think -- but it's not a major major major event, so I think they get who they can. That being said, there were big name authors in attendance, one of whom attends every year because he thinks it's a great event.

This specific publisher we're talking about here has been in the business for five years and, if I remember what I heard through my writer friend, only recently has the lead person behind it been able to turn it into a livable income and leave her day job. (I think that's what my friend said...)

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Re: Tiny publishing houses -- yay or nay?

Post by MysticFiddler » May 25th, 2011, 4:23 pm

Especially because this industry is new, it is best to check with the publisher and not to assume, and it's always best to get your questions answered. It may be "industry standard" in the romance genre to submit full manuscripts, but Googling several houses will supply various requirements. For example, CZP states the following:
Your submission should include:
• a SHORT cover letter (you can put this in the body of your e-mail) with contact info and a brief bio note;
• a one-page synopsis of your manuscript;
• and the first 3–4 chapters/stories of your book.
DO NOT send the whole manuscript.

I would be skeptical of a house that took five years to publish two books and contained such a dearth of submissions that they could ask for an entire manuscript. Who has the time to read an entire book before deciding to publish it? However, since this house is admittedly small and new, you may also want to know if they will be charging you for editing services, formatting your book, and creating the cover prior to submission, or if it is strictly royalty driven. Again, because the industry is new, houses are structured differently and supply different services. If the house is using its own label, it would seem prudent to review the first three chapters to see if the work merited publication, before calling for the entire thing. However, if the publisher will publish anything that is offered, I guess it makes sense to accept the full manuscript before it gets away.

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Re: Tiny publishing houses -- yay or nay?

Post by craig » May 25th, 2011, 4:47 pm

MysticFiddler wrote:I would be skeptical of a house that took five years to publish two books and contained such a dearth of submissions that they could ask for an entire manuscript.
I think I may have been slightly unclear -- they have dozens of publications on their website -- but only two are listed on Amazon and Chapters/Indigo. So they have lots of books, they just don't seem to be widely available. I think you pretty much have to order from their website to get their eBooks. (I don't use eReaders -- but eBooks through Kobo (Chapters/Indigo) or Kindle (Amazon) are on their associated websites, right? So am I looking in the right place?)

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Re: Tiny publishing houses -- yay or nay?

Post by Doug Pardee » May 25th, 2011, 5:00 pm

craig wrote:I don't use eReaders -- but eBooks through Kobo (Chapters/Indigo) or Kindle (Amazon) are on their associated websites, right? So am I looking in the right place?
Is this a Canadian publisher? Generally speaking, American and Canadian publishing and distribution rights are separately negotiated. Also, your country's Investment Canada Act restricts the availability of non-Canadian cultural materials in Canada. Which is why there's Amazon.com and Amazon.ca.

The Act ostensibly protects Canadian authors, publishers, distributors, and bookstores from external (ahem, American) competition. It also protects the Anglophone Canadian public from being exposed to words like "color" and "center". I suppose in principle it also protects the Francophone Canadian public, but I don't know what from.

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Re: Tiny publishing houses -- yay or nay?

Post by polymath » May 25th, 2011, 5:12 pm

Doug Pardee wrote:The Act ostensibly protects Canadian authors, publishers, distributors, and bookstores from external (ahem, American) competition.
Harumph. In the interests of the truly global nature and ethnic diversity of these Bransforums, is not Canada also American? Mexico? though Mexico is partly Meso American. There's South American and Caribbean and other Meso American ethnicities who are also American. America is a hemisphere.

Can anyone recommend a nonperjorative, neutral term for a collective and unique U.S. identity?
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Re: Tiny publishing houses -- yay or nay?

Post by craig » May 25th, 2011, 5:25 pm

Doug Pardee wrote:
craig wrote:I don't use eReaders -- but eBooks through Kobo (Chapters/Indigo) or Kindle (Amazon) are on their associated websites, right? So am I looking in the right place?
Is this a Canadian publisher? Generally speaking, American and Canadian publishing and distribution rights are separately negotiated. Also, your country's Investment Canada Act restricts the availability of non-Canadian cultural materials in Canada. Which is why there's Amazon.com and Amazon.ca.

The Act ostensibly protects Canadian authors, publishers, distributors, and bookstores from external (ahem, American) competition. It also protects the Anglophone Canadian public from being exposed to words like "color" and "center". I suppose in principle it also protects the Francophone Canadian public, but I don't know what from.
It is a Canadian publisher -- and I think I checked Amazon.ca...

And, colour and centre are spelled as God in intended up here in Canada...
;-)
:-P

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Re: Tiny publishing houses -- yay or nay?

Post by cheekychook » May 25th, 2011, 7:55 pm

Plenty of editors (and agents) ask for full manuscripts up front, particularly when they are pitched the idea at a conference or other in-person meeting. With everything being electronic these days it's no longer a waste of paper or postage, and it saves a step---why request a partial then have to send an email and wait a while before receiving the whole thing?

Not all e-publishers list on Amazon, many sell only off their own sites. That in and of itself is not cause for concern. You could ask why only some of their catalog is listed on Amazon if you're curious.

If you have found several books that they've published but still have concerns, try downloading one of their books to get an idea of the quality of their products. Google them. See if they're listed on Predators and Editors (they may not be if they're fairly new or rather small---not being listed is okay, if there's a warning listed, stay away).

The normal submission guidelines listed on a website go out the window if someone from the company has directly asked you for something different. In this case you were asked for a full, so that's clearly what they want. Generally speaking if a company is really bad you'll find plenty of dirt on them online. If you're not finding much info and what you're finding sounds legit it's PROBABLY okay. Good luck.
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Re: Tiny publishing houses -- yay or nay?

Post by Claudie » May 26th, 2011, 12:21 am

polymath wrote:
Doug Pardee wrote:The Act ostensibly protects Canadian authors, publishers, distributors, and bookstores from external (ahem, American) competition.
Harumph. In the interests of the truly global nature and ethnic diversity of these Bransforums, is not Canada also American? Mexico? though Mexico is partly Meso American. There's South American and Caribbean and other Meso American ethnicities who are also American. America is a hemisphere.

Can anyone recommend a nonperjorative, neutral term for a collective and unique U.S. identity?
I don't know for the rest of Canada, but the francophone Canadians have their own, self-contained publishing industry. One without agents, it should be noted. So I think we can ignore them for the purpose of this discussion but hey, we exist. ;)
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Re: Tiny publishing houses -- yay or nay?

Post by longknife » July 23rd, 2011, 10:34 am

craig wrote:
Doug Pardee wrote:
craig wrote:I don't use eReaders -- but eBooks through Kobo (Chapters/Indigo) or Kindle (Amazon) are on their associated websites, right? So am I looking in the right place?
Is this a Canadian publisher? Generally speaking, American and Canadian publishing and distribution rights are separately negotiated. Also, your country's Investment Canada Act restricts the availability of non-Canadian cultural materials in Canada. Which is why there's Amazon.com and Amazon.ca.

The Act ostensibly protects Canadian authors, publishers, distributors, and bookstores from external (ahem, American) competition. It also protects the Anglophone Canadian public from being exposed to words like "color" and "center". I suppose in principle it also protects the Francophone Canadian public, but I don't know what from.
It is a Canadian publisher -- and I think I checked Amazon.ca...

And, colour and centre are spelled as God in intended up here in Canada...
;-)
:-P
Craig,

I signed with a Canadian publisher in Toronto. The contract was very straightforward with no weird off-the-wall clauses. It was for world-wide digital rights and I found they've got titles on Amazon and B&N. So far, my experience with them has been more than I expected - far better than the previous American one I had a contract with. In a little over one month, we have a pretty good cover worked out and I have an editor who's gone over it twice. One more go-through by me and it'll go to the editorial board. From there, it will be sent to four reviewers of their choice.
As far as the rest goes, I'm waiting.
I also have a contract with a publisher in Christchurch, New Zealand. Again, a straightforward contract with no weird stuff - for worldwide digital AND PRINT rights.

In any case, most contracts offer an "escape clause". If it isn't there, that's when I would being to worry.

Good luck. At least someone things it's commercially viable and that opens the door for other things you've written or will write!!!!!

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