Introducing Writer Beware’s Small Presses Page

A brand-new page on Small Presses has been added to the Writer Beware website.

Here’s what you’ll find:

  • An overview of issues to consider if you’re thinking of submitting to a small press. For instance, stability can be a problem–the attrition rate among small presses is very high–as can competence. It’s easy and cheap to set yourself up as a publisher these days, and not everyone who does so has the necessary expertise.
  • Tips on evaluating small presses. Is there a fee? Are there any complaints? What kind of distribution is in place? How does the publisher market itself and its authors? These questions and more can help you identify the right publisher for your manuscript, and screen out those that are less desirable.
  • Warning signs of vanity publishers masquerading as small presses. Unfortunately, it’s quite common for fee-charging publishers to pretend to be legitimate small presses. Some of them are quite inventive in hiding their fees, or pretending they don’t charge fees at all. This section provides a handy rundown on some of their sneaky tricks.
  • A discussion of misleading terminology. Whether out of inexperience or an active desire to deceive, small presses may describe themselves in misleading ways. For instance, the term “traditional publisher”–which is intended to conjure up images of commercial publishers like Random House or Sourcebooks–is almost meaningless. A small press may also be confused, or want to confuse you, about the difference between a wholesaler and a distributor.
  • Links to helpful resources that will, among other things, help you research a small press’s reputation and identify common bad contract clauses.

We’ve also discontinued the Electronic Publishing page, and folded much of its content into the Small Press page. When we first put the Electronic Publishing page online over a decade ago, epublishing and print publishing were parallel universes, but those differences have eroded–over the past couple of years especially–and we no longer see a need for a separate page on epublishing.

Please visit the Small Presses page, and let me know what you think by leaving a comment here. All comments and suggestions are welcome.


  1. Christine,

    I started my small press about 20 years ago. I didn't bother incorporating, because my lawyer told me that realistically, I would have little more legal protection than as a sole proprietor. Which yes, is the reason many small presses incorporate.

  2. Anon, I'm not as hopeful as you about breathing easier when it comes to a business that is incorporated. Many businesses will incorporate so that they personally can not be sued. It costs very little to register as incorporated.

  3. We writers owe small press publishers our thanks and admiration. Many are selfless and devoted to bringing out the literature they feel must be published. Many have stopped their own writing career for the sake of the press. That said, what you point out is true: some people are trying to rip us off.

  4. I'm signed with Buddhapuss Ink LLC, a small NJ publisher. I've never regretted it for a single minute, and I'm looking forward to working with them for a long, long time. For me as a first-time author this was the best decision of my life.

  5. I was leary of small presses for this very reason. I did some research and found one that had been in business 30 years this month. They bought my book, and I couldn't be happier with the service. A happily ever after story.

  6. Thanks for sharing this comprehensive page with us. It's very informational, and from a small press author's perspective, very accurate. You've done so much to help out writers – thank you!

  7. One thing that a writer can also look for is whether the small press has incorporated or is operating as a sole proprietor. If the small press has gone to the trouble and expense of incorporating, then there is a very strong likelihood that they are serious about their new business and will not disappear into the ether. Also if they have legally incorporated in the state they are working in, then the corporation information will be listed with the state. You can find out who owns the company and other information from the state.

    I think writers should also look for contact information other than an email address. Is there a phone number and an address listed prominently on the website? How can you get in contact with the publisher if their email goes down?

  8. excellent page. I'm a small press and much of what you've stated on the page is also what I've observed, and things I considered when starting my press. I'm happy to say we've celebrated our fourth year anniversary from the date of our first book, so looks like we're sticking around. I'll share this link with my authors and with those considering working with me, and also share it in a workshop I teach about making a publishing plan.

  9. Interesting & very useful revue of the small side of the biz.

    I am about to start a something even smaller to republish some western history & memoirs for a market that is small but eternal. Figure to sell only a few hundred books/year but want them to be my own imprint & ISBNs. Sort of one step from self-pub, as originals were by family but are out of print now. Marketing will be via personal contacts. I'm not doing it for a living but because the writing deserves to be out there and I've had requests for the books.

  10. A much needed, comprehensive overview. This is an era when small presses are a good choice for many writers. Big Six houses continue to add toxic clauses and pay low royalties for overpriced ebooks, but self-publishing looks daunting to many of us. However, we have to choose our small publishers very, very carefully. This will help in making that choice.

Leave a Reply

NOVEMBER 9, 2011

The Brit Writers Awards: Questions and Threats

NOVEMBER 15, 2011

The Authors Guild on Amazon’s Kindle Lending Library