Ever since Michelle spoke about her small publisher, I’ve thought about them. Small publishers are, I think, often looked down upon, like an ugly cousin of the big 6.
So I did a bit of digging (okay, more like brushing sand off) and here are some of the pros and cons for small publishers:
I think the most famous benefit of a small publisher is this. You get more control, thus allowing the author more say in things like the cover, the edits and so forth. Big publishers might not be so flexible.
Bigger chance of acceptance
Not because a small press has lower quality, but because of the number of submissions. If there are fewer submissions, your manuscript will probably get more attention. Plus, small publishers are more likely to help you fix your manuscript up.
Build a backlist
If you want to move to a larger publisher later on, having books published might make it easier to get an agent/publisher than if you’re an unknown writer. This is nowhere close to a guarantee, but maybe that small step up can help.
Sell books for cheaper
This may seem like a con, but new authors will benefit from having cheaper books. People will be more willing to take a chance on you and therefore you have a better chance of building a reader base.
In counter to the previous point, small publishers will often have a higher royalty percentage for the author.
Can keep books in circulation
Because a lot of the small publishers use a print on demand system, the book will often stay in circulation for longer. A big publisher could pull a book after a few weeks because it wasn’t doing well enough.
Easier to get obscure books published
A lot (all?) of the big publishers want fiction that fits into the categories that sell. A small publisher is more likely to take a chance on that weird novel you wrote that doesn’t seem to fit in any specific category.
With a small publisher, chances are that they won’t have a big marketing budget. You’re going to have to do a lot, if not all of the promotion yourself. If you’re anything like me, blowing your own horn is like eating hot aeroplane propellers. This would have been a pretty big drawback, except that these days, unless your Stephen King, you have to market your book anyway, even at the big publishers.
Circulation will be smaller
Bookstores won’t easily buy a lot of books from small publishers, for in case they don’t sell and the publisher can’t buy the books back. Maybe the budget of the publisher is also an issue. However, with the (rapid) growing success of e-books, getting the book into bookstores might not be high priority anymore. Some people (like me) like having an actual book with them, but most conform to the new e-book regime.
If you publish with one of the big 6, you’re pretty much guaranteed that it’s not a fake company. Little Hamburger Press might not be a real publisher though.
Might get skipped because of your publisher
Some people might see the logo of a little-known publisher and decide not to buy your book, thinking it is bad quality. It used to be the same with self-publishing, but with the rise of this particular publishing method, people are getting over that mindset. However, if a potential reader sees a new writer by an unknown press and a new writer by a big 6 press, chances are that he’ll take the big 6 one.
A small press has a few downsides (less money being an important one, if you plan on living off your writing), but especially in the age of e-books, it is becoming a more and more attractive option and I think one that needs to be seriously considered, instead of simply discarded.
(My information came from here and here. Great information if you’re thinking of going the small press route.)