Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Small press section

Behold! The small press section of your local bookstore! Probably also resembles the small press section of your local library.

What can we do to fix that? There are lots of great books published every day by small presses--those publishers that do not send huge shipments of books to the major bookstores. Many readers don't even know these small presses exist. I live this every day.

Not long ago we had a terrific discussion about how to get the word out about small press books, how to get these books into stores--especially independent bookstores. Go here to read about it.

I admit I haven't quite dusted myself off from the last go-round, but I know some of you have been working on this. Care to tell us about it? What went well? What could have gone better?

And here's another question. What's the best small press book you've read lately? Tell us the author, title, publisher, and a brief description of the story, so we can all know what's worth checking into. Sounds like fun to me. I've loaned a couple of big bags of TBR lately, so the cupboard is nearly bare (except the digital cupboard).

I look forward to reading your bookstore stories, and the small press books that have taken your breath away!



  1. Magdalena, I hope you get some good, constructive replies. Unfortunately, mine isn't going to be one of them because I'm clueless.

    The bigger problem I'm seeing is with the venues we already have carrying our books. If you look at the reader forums (but for sanity's sake, I don't recommend it) you'll see that most readers/bookbuyers don't know the difference between small press published and self-published. On Amazon, which is our major outlet for print, the self-published books are listed right along with everything else. Over and over on the reader forums, I see ALL pod books denounced as self-published crap. The blogs by industry watchers and commenters don't help. They are just as guilty of lumping all pod books into the self-published category. These blog posts about "indy" published vs. traditional print published are popping up more frequently, and by "indy" they are referring to vanity presses.

    This issue was the very first thing I ran into with the library here in my county. They took one look at my book and told me--they told ME--it was self-published and they wanted nothing to do with promoting it. No matter that I explained and offered the plain as your nose evidence that it was NOT, it fell on deaf ears. They refused to have anything to do with me. Man, was I steamed! And insulted. Still am.

    Unfortunately, as more and more people are determined to see their writing in print, even if they have to pay for it themselves, I only see this problem getting worse down the road.

  2. Oh, Devon. You need to come up here and live.

    All my books are now in the local library. The head librarian was so nice--she truly seemed glad to have them. That's been several weeks ago, and of course each week when I visit the library I look at the New Books shelves. Never has more than one of the three been there. This makes me no money, but is a huge ego boost.

    I'm certain there are people I've spoken to in bookstores, at Girls Night Out, etc., who don't know the difference between vanity press and small press. I seldom bring it up in discussion, but I probably should.

  3. I can't contribute a great deal, but I too have found that most people don't recognize the difference between self-published and small publisher. I told one family member what publisher I was going to submit to, and she asked me how much it was going to cost me. I think it's up to us to educate them.
    The last good book I read was Angel in the Rain by Devon Matthews, and it was wonderful. I've said it before, I am not a western fan, by any stretch of the imagination, but I loved her book. Before that I read Bad Boys, Bad Boys by Mia Watts (e-book), which was also excellent, in a totally different way. And I am currently reading Techniques of the Selling Writer, which I won at the last meeting. I love being home, I actually have a bit of time I can read now.

  4. Jennifer, I think you're right about us having to educate people about vanity v. small press. Big job!

    Thank you for sharing the info on small press books you've read. I didn't do that, did I? What a slacker I am.

    The most recent small press book I read was Janet Eaves' BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, which is a Ladies of Legend series book. (Full disclosure: I contribute to the Ladies of Legend series.) Amazing that I hadn't read B&TB before now. Janet writes a very dramatic story, and part of the time she takes you down the road so fast you're breathless.

    Devon's ANGEL IN THE RAIN is in my towering digital TBR pile (not to be confused with the paperback TBR pile, which is mostly loaned out at present). I think the time is coming that I'll be in the mood for a western. I can't believe I'm reading Regency romances now instead of contemporary.

  5. Hi ladies (waving), I was in Lexington yesterday and playing catch up today at work, so haven't been so visible.

    Well, I don't have any really positive reports here. After talking and talking with Waldenbooks, an author clued me in that WB most likely would not ever carry my book because my publisher hasn't paid them a zillion dollars (only slight exaggeration). I said, "Yeah, but [insert self pubbed author name here] has books there." To which the author informed me that the self published publisher pays to do that. They have so many people willing to pay to have their books published that they can afford to put those self-pubbed books in the bookstore. So, there you go. It's all about the money.

    However, I tend to be an old fashioned gal so I can't get past the "have to hold it in my hand" urge when it comes to a book. I think Wild Rose mainly does the print books for old fogeys like me who only got a cell phone last week (another slight exaggeration). Their main market is digital downloads and it is a much better deal for your buck.

    I approached an independent bookstore owner who sells new and used books. She's open to my book being in her shop and is excited about it. We're trying to negotiate a practice that will be beneficial to both of us. I realize that my book is a hard sell because it's pricey-over ten bucks. I think it's a good story, but the price is high for a paperback romance.

    I think there is as much bad attitude about romance as there is small press. There are snobs who think a romance is beneath them to read. But isn't romance the best selling genre? So, let the nose hangers have their slit-your-wrists tales. I'll take the happy ending, and so will millions of others.

    Still. The bookseller needs to sell books. The bigger publishers can offer books cheaper and buy spots to showcase their books, and I think they probably move better because of those reasons.

    I'm trying not to sweat it. My goal was to be a published author. Sometimes I feel greedy because I want more than that now. I want to keep having published books-one a year. I want to see those published books in a bookstore. I want to see them in Kroger and WM. That's my big dream. I'm not even sure my dream is to be able to support my family with it. Just to have a few spots near the front of a bookstore (and not the reduced for quick sale section either. The IN YOUR FACE, MY BOOK IS SO AWESOME. YOU CAN'T RESIST IT section.)

    Ummm. Did I answer the question?

  6. You did a great job, Jennifer--answering the question, and getting your book into a store. That's wonderful! Maybe your bookstore lady has other bookstore friends. Do they have talks about stuff like this, I wonder? "Oh, I wonder if I should put a little section over here for the *unusual* reads that are terrific, but not the everyday grocery checkout fare."

    (And yes, of course, I too want to be everyday grocery checkout fare.)

    The simple truth being that the groceries can sell those books more cheaply, which is why indie stores might be pleasantly surprised if they found out about the small press books that are worth a shot. But I've said that before.

    Welcome back to the fold. We missed you, Jennifer. :)

  7. Wow. I've been preoccupied with watching the carnage over on the American Idol forum, then I pop in here and see my title mentioned, not once, but twice! Thanks, gals! Word of mouth is the best promo there is. Jennifer, you already know I was shocked that you (who doesn't like westerns) liked my story. But I'm so, so happy that you did. :o)

    I don't see any solution to the problem of educating readers about the difference between small press and vanity press. We can keep trying to tell them, but it would require actually learning the names of the gajillion publishers out there and exactly what they do. So, that's never going to happen. The only thing I can think of is that one day there might actually be some kind of designation given to the books on the different sites where they are listed for sale. I picture a colored circle imposed on the cover pic with a letter designation or something. But that will never happen either... unless the mass market pubs finally break over and figure out how to take advantage of the print on demand technology. And I predict at least this will happen in the near future.

    Sorry for opening another can of worms, Mags. I seem to have a knack for it.

  8. Hiya, Devon!

    The designating mark is an interesting idea. People would have to learn what it meant of course. And I wonder if some of the sites would go for that. They might not want to tick off vanity pubs.

    You anticipate that POD could be applied to a mass market size book? That would be a help for in-person sales for us POD people, I think. I love a trade size paperback for its readability, but the higher price of all trade size is a drawback.

  9. Mags, you're right. No one would ever go for the designation mark because someone is always going to start crying discrimation, no matter what you do. It was just a thought. Kinda like rating the sensuality levels.

    As for future pod books, I have no idea if they would still be trade size or regular paperback size. All I know is, once someone figures out how to get the cost of producing them down some more, the big pubs will definitely jump on board with that. It only makes sense. No more stripped books to be destroyed (money lost) or tons of books sitting in warehouses (more money lost). It occurs to me that it might not even take getting the production cost down with the way prices keep going up. Soon, the two will probably meet and it won't matter anymore. But yeah, pod is definitely the future of publishing.

    Speaking of price... have you noticed some of the prices for mass market books in Kindle format? I saw one the other day that was $11.99 for the Kindle version, which is way more than the price of the paperback edition. As far as I know, publishers, not Amazon, set the price for those Kindle downloads. I have to wonder what they're thinking. They must not want to sell any ebooks.

  10. I hadn't noticed Kindle prices. That's interesting...and strange.