Small Press Insights With Spooky MG Authors

Happy Halloween Greetings! We are all members of Spooky Middle Grade Authors. And we are all published by small pressesindie presses not connected to the big publishing houses. In order to share some insights on working with small presses, we’ve answered a few questions for you. Plus, we’ve each shared a favorite book from another small press—perfect for Halloween (or anytime). AND–there will be a spook-tac-u-lar GIVEAWAY too!!! Keep reading…

Question One: What are the benefits of being published by a small press?

Tania: My publisher, Quirk Books, only publishes 25 books a year. Being one of those 25 meant I got a lot more focus and attention than I would have at a bigger publisher, competing against dozens of other titles. I felt like my publisher really cared about my book, as well as me as an author. They even sent me and the illustrator on a multi-city book tour for each of our books, something I wouldn’t have thought was possible for a small press!

Sheri: One great aspect about smaller publishers is that they are able to give an author more personalized attention. Most are quite attentive to the author’s opinions and views when it comes to the cover art and other aspects of strengthening a manuscript on its way to final print. I’ve also found that they are flexible with discussing content edits. This is so comforting because it shows they value your vision as the creator of the story and that they truly want to honor your work. Smaller publishers also tend to have owners and staff who are published authors themselves, so relating to all aspects of the publishing world comes easily to them. I have felt very respected by my smaller publishers.

Cynthia: Small presses are often open to unsolicited queries, so even if you don’t have an agent, you can submit. And often their response time and the acquisition process are much faster than a traditional publisher, which means your book can become a reality in a shorter time period. For a debut author, a small press can provide a learning course on traditional publishing; acquisitions, working with an editor, rewrites, copyediting, advance publicity, book launch, school and bookstore visits.

Josh: My debut novel, THE WITCHES OF WILLOW COVE, was published in May by Owl Hollow Press. I’ve loved everything about working with them. Whenever I have a question, I can call or email directly with the publisher, and she’s always open to hearing my ideas and suggestions. I was given an incredible amount of input into my book’s cover, and they worked closely with me to craft the back cover copy, too. They’ve been an enthusiastic partner and cheerleader for my book from the moment they called to offer me a contract. And, since then, they’ve worked tirelessly to promote it.

Lisa: My publisher provided me with a schedule at signing and met every deadline. I had an excellent editor who was patient and understanding.  Also, they took into consideration my thoughts and ideas for the book cover. Overall it was a great experience. 

Question Two: What are some disadvantages of being published by a small press?

Tania: Obviously with small presses there is usually a lower budget which means lower advances and less money for marketing and advertising, which can sometimes lead to less than stellar sales. That said, I’ve been happy to see how well the Warren the 13th series has done, especially after being translated and printed in so many other countries!

Sheri: The main pause I had for signing with a smaller publisher would be the small size or lack of their marketing budgets. As unfortunate (and somewhat unfair) as it might sound, marketing is a huge part of a new novel’s book-life. It’s what gets each book into the hands of readers, students, teachers, and librarians. It can be done without a huge marketing budget; just makes it more challenging.

Cynthia: If you don’t have an agent, you must do your own contract negotiations. If so, it’s good to seek help with this either through author friends or SCBWI sources. Small presses don’t have the recognized name power that big publishing houses have. Their production process is usually different as well. Books may be only available in Print On Demand or in paperback and ebook. These issues can greatly limit the availability and desirability of a book, especially children’s books for school and library use. In addition, the price per book published by a small press is often twice the cost of a bigger publisher, creating another negative for sales.

Josh: The one thing you absolutely have to understand and make peace with when going into a deal with a smaller press is that it’s not going to be automatic that your book will be on bookshelves at major retailers. Small presses have smaller budgets and limited footprints in brick-and-mortar chains like Barnes & Noble. In my case, this was something we talked about before I signed with my publisher, and since publication they have worked closely with me in my self-marketing efforts to help me reach bookstores all across the country. As an author, the thing you want more than anything else is for your books to find an audience. With a small press, you have to work really hard at that (but then again, as I’ve seen a lot recently, the same often holds true for debut and midlist authors with big publishers, too). The good news is that the internet is a great equalizer. People are finding my book through all of our online outreach, and that feels great.  

Lisa: A small press does not have the same outreach as a big publisher, which means you won’t get as much exposure. Nor do they have the marketing budget. Most of the heavy lifting came down to me. Once I stopped attending events and marketing on social media, my sales slowed down. 

Any further advice to share?

Cynthia:

1. Do due diligence on researching any small presses you are submitting to. There are many small presses with big reputations and high quality publications. There are others that are unprofessional and produce inferior products. Research their financials and royalties. Discuss how long your book would generally stay in print. Try to talk with other authors at the press to see if their experience has been good.

2. Team up with other debut/small press authors (Sweet 16 & Spooky MG)

3. Present a professional front: website; FB, Amazon, Twitter, etc.

4. Keep writing your next book!

If you are a member of Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators, you can find detailed listings of current children’s publishers. Some of the small presses are listed under the sections on Small Press, Religious Press, Educational Press, and also in their general list of publishers. All this information is found in THE BOOK: Essential Guide to Publishing for Children. (www.scbwi.org) When you are looking for small presses, search independent (indie) presses, regional presses, university presses, and niche presses.

Diverse Book Recommendations & Giveaway!

Each Spooky MG Author on this week’s panel is excited to giveaway a copy of his/her own book and another diverse book from a small press as well. Teachers & Librarians, for your chance to win ALL of these books, please see the directions below and at @SpookyMGBooks

Tania:

I’ve selected Julieta and the Diamond Enigma by Luisana Duarte Armendariz, which is a really charming and fun mystery about a girl named Julieta who is traveling abroad with her art-handler dad when they stumble upon a thief stealing a cursed diamond from the Louvre! It’s published by Tu Books, a middle-grade imprint of the independent publisher, Lee & Low Books, which is a minority owned publisher focusing on multicultural and diverse books.

Sheri:

I’m so excited to share THE RED CASKET by Award-Winning Author Darby Karchut! It’s the second book in her Del Toro Moon series, published by Owl Hollow Press. It’s got a generation’s old battle, all sorts of creepy, and even a ‘Viking-sized’ witch. Yup. I’ve known Darby forever. She’s one of the first writers I met online way back when I dared to try social media and begin my journey as a writer. In addition to being a brilliant writer, Darby is a sweet person and a wonderful support for the writing community. Instead of me blathering on about this book, let me share the blurb with you.

Never trust a witch.

For four hundred years, generations of the Family Del Toro and their battle-savvy warhorses have secretly guarded their corner of Colorado from all things creepy. But when a menacing woman with some wicked witch powers shows up at the Del Toro ranch and demands the return of the Red Casket, twelve year old Matt Del Toro must team up with his best friend Perry—along with the warhorses Rigo and Isabel—to out-wit, out-ride, and out-fight one Viking-size sorceress.

Cynthia:

Vincent Ventura and the Mystery of the Witch Owl by Xavier Garza [Pinata Books/Imprint of Arte Publico Press of the University of Houston]

I chose this book because of its spooky story, of course, but also because it revolves around Latino folklore characters. The book is second in the Vincent Ventura Series (written and illustrated by Garza), so there are plenty of these fast-paced mysteries to enjoy. I like how the main character, Vincent, is determined to solve this mystery, even when he believes a witch is involved and great danger lies ahead. It’s a face-paced, short adventure story with plenty of surprises. This series is bilingual—which is another great plus!

Josh:

My pick is Curse of the Night Witch by Alex Aster, published by Sourcebooks Young Readers. It’s a debut novel full of magic, adventure, and spookiness steeped in Colombian myths. I loved the race-against-the-clock pace and synthesis of real-world Latin American folktales into the world-building. It’s also the first in a series and I can’t wait for the next one!

Lisa:

I am excited to share one of my favorite debuts of 2020. KIKI MACADOO AND THE GRAVEYARD BALLERINAS by Colette Sewell (Owl Hollow Press) is a magical adventure that leaps off the page and into your heart! It is a spooky middle-grade good time. 

SPOOKY SEASON GIVEAWAY Directions

Week Three of this #spookyseason we’re giving away the amazing group of #mglit books shown above–celebrating Small Presses. Plus, a copy of our own books pictured in this post! RT & F by 10/23 to enter. US only. #spookyMG month of #giveaways  #bookgiveaway #kidsneedbooks #kidlit. To enter, visit @SpookyMGBooks

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