Saturday, March 19, 2011

Self-Publishing vs Micropress

A couple weeks ago, I did a post on my views of traditional publishing compared to both vanity presses and self-publishing. Look back and read it, it’s fairly interesting. But now, I’d like to take it a step further, and throw micropresses into the mix.

My definition of a micropress is somewhere between a small press and self-publishing. Micropresses want to be small presses, but operate on an even smaller scale. Often times, it’s a writers’ group, or a family, or a loose association of collaborators, who get together and publish their own work and occasionally other peoples’, using the same methods as a self-publishing author would use. Some of them, due to the fact that they do accept solicitations and works from outside the group, could be considered small presses. Generally, though, their market penetration is very, very small.

Are there advantages to getting involved with a micropress? Most definitely. In the first place, they probably already have a name established, and can add some legitimacy to your efforts. They generally do provide professional editing. Usually, at least one member of the group is an established professional in the industry. And in some cases, they have made partnerships with other small presses or even larger publishers to help get more visibility.

Are there disadvantages to working with a micropress? Of course. There are disadvantages to every publishing model, even tried and true traditional publishing. One of the disadvantages is that, as with any publishing effort, the micropress is granted certain rights to publication of your work. This might not seem to be a bad thing, and in most cases it’s not.  But what if your work doesn’t sell well through their channels, or they don’t market your work to your satisfaction? What if you’re not happy with the results? With a micropress, you can’t simply pull your work back and go the self-publishing route. They’ve invested their time and in many cases money into your work, and thus have certain rights to it. It’s the same risk you take going with a small press or a large traditional publishing house.

A second thing to consider is, what do you hope to gain from your work? Are you hoping to make much money off your book sales? Are you hoping to get noticed, and possibly picked up by an agent or a larger publisher? With a micropress, the chances of that are slim. An agent won’t be interested, because the micropress already owns current publication rights, meaning that neither you nor the agent can negotiate and sell them to a larger publisher. A larger publisher won’t be interested, because it will put them in partnership with the micropress.

But, are you just wanting to get your work out there, with a publishing credit under your belt? Do you want your work to be in book form, but don’t have the time, skills, or inclination to do all the work yourself preparing it and self-publishing? Do you want the experience of working with industry professionals? In those cases, a micropress might be exactly what you’re looking for.

And that’s another reason one might choose a micropress: for the experience. Working with a micropress will give you the experience of working with a professional editor, working under a deadline, and working with other creative people. These experiences can be invaluable.

A while back, I had an opportunity to work with a publisher that was somewhere between what I would consider a small press and a micropress.  They were partnered with a larger small press for distribution. The experience was excellent. It was my first professional publication, a short story, and it was very well-received. Did I make much money on it? Well, I made enough for a trip to McDonald’s with my son. Would I work with them again? Absolutely. I have a short story in the works right now that I intend to submit to them, if I can ever finish the thing. I have the utmost respect for their work, and I look forward to a chance to have my words in another of their anthologies.

So what’s the verdict? Self-publishing vs Micropress? It depends on what you hope to accomplish. The Gatehouse series is very near and dear to me, and I have certain goals I want to achieve that a small press or micropress would be unlikely to meet. But my short stories, experimental work, or forays into other genres? Absolutely. It’s a great way to work with others in the industry, and get that experience of being published.

By the way, “micropress” is not a term I just pulled out of a hat, it’s an actual term used in the industry. Wikipedia has an entry on small presses that also defines the term “micropress”.

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