Well, after Martin Sisters Publishing accepted me for publication, I had to ask myself the question in the title of this post: Publishing Small or Small Publishing (and yes, there is a difference)? Which am I doing?
Over and over, I rehashed what it meant to be published by a small press—initiate research/thinking cycle and spin until heads comes off. Finally, just before my head detached from my neck, the answer hit me: There are many small publishers out there, but some are projecting bigger than they are. Why? Product perception and publicity. Moderns call it something like branding, but we’ll stick with the former and more organic, accurate terms. After that, what it comes to down is whether or not a book is good, and that is out my or the publisher’s control. That, my friends, is up to you, the readers. But let’s back up.
Authors can help themselves out by framing and priming the reader’s perception through the publishing medium. It’s the initial first impression of the book that makes it seem more accredited. More believable. More credible. More desirable. More impressionable. Isn’t that what publishers need to do?—create desire for the book before it’s even been read. Only now, in the small press, the author gets to become a quasi-publisher.
What authors who choose to publish with small presses can do to catalyze the increased desirability of their book is maximize their presence in an HD way. You know what I mean by HD, right? I mean High Def. If you’re like me, there’s no comparison between a quality, high quality film and a grainy standard def one. And that’s precisely what the author needs to establish: the perception that their work is in HD. Let’s face it: standard def has the time warp effect plastered all over it, and the era it sends every standard def book to: circa 1960’s, when all that mattered in the books were the words and ideas. Not so today.
The presence of the actual product and its quality are judged a hundred times to the moon before the words and ideas have even had a chance to enter the soul of a reader. Cover and vibe matter. That is what HD perception is all about. It’s all about projecting larger. Don’t get me wrong: the author and publisher have to collaborate to provide a solid and clean story that is up to snuff with current publishing standards (let’s assume that, like all publishers, large or small, we agree that a publisher would not publish a story unless it was legit, just like any other major publisher, otherwise, the novel wouldn’t have been accepted by a legitimate publishing house for publication). But no one is going to actually choose to read that good, clean story unless it stands out. Let me use a metaphor: The book has to be that unknown girl who walks in the room, has that charisma and vibe to her—without even having to say a word—that makes all the guys drop their jaws and forces cringes on all the envious girls. That’s how a book is going to stand the chance of getting read in a satiated market. If you think it’s just about writing a great story, think again. There are plenty of great American novels out there that are published or yet to be published that will never become that great American novel because no one knows about the book (that’s the marketing/branding aspect).
In the small press medium, the author has to develop an alter ego—like, asap—and create a desirability so strong that their book compels readers to select to scope out that book. Thus, the book has to be able to compete with other publishing houses—both small and large—that have full time pros focused on creating desirability as their principal task. Let’s face it, the large houses are able to get their books in your face. Some small presses are figuring out how to create that desirability so that potential readers will look at their books. In order to this, however, those small presses have to create something that looks and feels just like it came from a large press. Yes, this takes away from creative time for the author in the small press world. Yes, authors published by larger houses do have more time to focus on writing and creating their next work because other human beings are assigned to market and brand the novel. But, hey, I have learned to enjoy trying my economic hand. The only thing worse than not trying is not doing anything to promote the novel I labored over.
So, right now that’s what we’re doing. MSP is in the process of proofing the story (which is legit) and creating a solid book (great cover, eBook formatting, etc.) for the story Street Food and Love to live in, something for all of you, the fine YA book readers out there, to want to tremor with delight when the novel crosses your sights. I am in the process of publicizing and creating a platform for my brand: website, blog, et al. All this so that, in the end, you can rest assured that you won’t be reading something that feels like it’s been published small (and if you try to say that feelings don’t matter, then I have to strongly disagree. Your first impressions of a book i.e. the way you feel about it before you ever get into it will go a long way into the reading. As an author, I would rather have you on my side before you start to read than have to prove you wrong through the writing. I don’t want you to say, “Huh. I was pleasantly surprised.” I want, “I can’t wait to start reading this!”). You will be reading a big product right in line with mainstream contemporary YA novels from any other publisher (big or small).
And hey, by the way, Jesus came from a small city and, well, didn’t His small press religious movement project just as large as the other established and contemporary religions of His day (and still going, by the way)? Does that parallel clear things up a bit?