Recently another small publisher announced they’d be closing – Breathless Press. The news came to me via two routes – the first being via a fellow author on Facebook who discovered that instead of spending today preparing for the new release of her latest book she’ll be worrying about getting her titles back from BP and what to do with them. The second came via a thread in the Bewares forum at the Absolute Write website where the various problems of this particular publisher had been discussed for months.
It’s a strange time to be an author. While there’s more ways to be published than ever before thanks to the rise of small publishers and the ability to self-publish there’s also many, many more ways to have your heart broken when the celestial wheel spins over and crushes you at the bottom.
Not all small presses are bad. Not all big publishers are bad. Not all self-publishers are bad. But there’s enough of a flux in the industry right now that I don’t think there’s any absolutes anyone can lean on. That small press you’re looking at might fold in a year – your large publisher might be bought out by a competitor in a few months and your literary line discontinued; your self-publishing debut could be lost in the flood of new releases coming out from good and not-so-good authors as we all rush to the public screaming for readers.
As an author it’s hard to know what to do. But the best we can do for ourselves and for our friends and family who have to deal with us when we’re running around the house screaming and ranting is to do our research. Be diligent no matter what path you take; research who’s offering that helping hand and don’t be afraid to back off if your inner gut is telling you to beware.
Check out that small press looking for submissions. That agent who approached you on Twitter thanks to a pitch you made one day. That big publisher offering you a contract because you got yanked out of the slush pile. That editing service looking to help you get that new novel out via self-publishing.
Sure – research can be messy and take time. A good place to start is the Absolute Write forum and Writer Beware – don’t be afraid to ask around and see what experiences others have had with your possible partners. Do the Google, do the asking. Yes it’s still possible that you’ll end up running into the field to scream at the stars but if you’ve done your research at least you’ll have the consolation of knowing you did the best you could with the information you had.
And in the end that’s maybe the best we can all do for ourselves and others as authors – speak up if you see small publishers doing wrong, sing out if you see author services abusing those who they claim to want to help. Send your thoughts to Victoria Strauss at Writer Beware if you don’t want to speak up publically.
But let’s be careful out there. Right now I sense the whole publishing world is in a wee bit of a flux and no one really has all the answers. And anyone who tells you otherwise is probably looking to dip into your pockets somehow…