Looking for a publisher?

I don’t have much experience with this, but let me quote UK’s The Guardian: “These days, it is minimally staffed and funded firms who invest in new authors. The giants avoid such risk, only picking the writers once their names are made….” “The giants…” refers to the Big Five publishing conglomerates, of course. A contract with one of their subsidiary publishing houses might please most authors, so how are we to explain The Guardian’s comment?

Readers will find that new authors publish in various ways—with a major publisher; a smaller, independent one; or by going indie. The first two are considered traditional publishing. In spite of some readers’ beliefs and those of many professionals in the field, none of these has much to do with the quality of the book. You can have great books in all three; you can also have bombs in all three.

Full DIY (complete indie) isn’t very satisfying if you’re a new author looking for a bit more interaction with people who know the book business. A service like Draft2Digital can be helpful to the newbie and great for the seasoned author as well (my relationship with Carrick Publishing is similar, although probably more interactive in a pleasant way, and began before Draft2Digital was even born). Using reasonably priced PR and marketing services can always be useful even for most traditionally published authors (traditional contracts aren’t known to be much help there).

As is often the case, the bigger the traditional publisher, the more an author becomes a lost soul in a huge purgatory or hell of lost authors. This what The Guardian means. You won’t develop many personal relationships or receive much personal attention from a huge publishing house unless you’re one of their superstars. In either case, traditional or indie, you might be lucky enough to have a personal relationship with an agent, but that’s iffy too. And agents come and go from the agencies, so you might find yourself soon looking for another agent.

There are pros and cons to both indie and traditional publishing for the new author. (I consider them in more detail in my little course on fiction writing, a PDF free for the asking.) But the extremes, 100% DIY v. Big Five publishing contract, can both magnify the negatives.

I can now say I’ve experienced the middle ground and am satisfied with partial DIY (Carrick Publishing) and traditional publishing with a small press (Penmore Press). I opted to try the latter because, after having written so many books, I wanted to see if it was worthwhile avoiding the up-front costs of partial DIY. I was pleasantly surprised, especially with the new personal relationships gained. Donna Carrick and I are friends. I also made new friends at Penmore Press among Michael James and his staff.

I once met a writer at a book event who told me that she was traditionally published because she only wanted to write and not be bothered with all the other stuff. She was nice and interesting but no superstar, so I’ve always wondered about her naiveté. The only authors not worrying about “all the other stuff” are the superstars, those prize thoroughbreds in the Big Five’s stables. Anyone else will find success elusive if they avoid all the other stuff.

Of course, The Guardian’s statement is only half true. Any author can do just fine with partial DIY (indie), paying for the things s/he’s better off leaving to someone else—editing, cover art, formatting, and PR and marketing—and developing a personal relationship with the providers of those services. Or s/he can be traditionally published by a small press that provides some of those services (but usually little or no help with PR and marketing these days) and develops personal relationships with their staff and other authors. My suggestion now is to try each one if possible. Maybe you’ll like both as I do.

The above is directed to authors, especially new authors. I’ll offer some advice to readers too. You’ll find good authors and good books in the whole spectrum of publishing, from indie’s pure DIY to the Big Five’s superstars. In fiction, that means you have a lot of good stories to choose from. It also means that you shouldn’t exclude a story just because it’s written by an indie author, superstar, or someone in between. Doing so will diminish your reading experience.

I recently discovered Peter May, an established superstar, at least relative to me, and I liked him well enough to try some more of his books. I’ve also read Eisler, Howey, Konrath, Weir, and many other indie authors whose books are just as entertaining and interesting. Your reading choices are a bit like choosing a wine: the provenance of the story doesn’t matter to you personally as long as you enjoy it.

So readers and writers alike can gain by choosing both indie and traditional publishing. You just have to consider the caveats listed above.


Rembrandt’s Angel (a mystery/thriller from Penmore Press). To what lengths would you go to recover a stolen masterpiece? Scotland Yard’s Art and Antiques Inspector Esther Brookstone goes the extra mile. She and paramour/sidekick Bastiann van Coevorden, an Interpol agent, set out to outwit the dealers of stolen art and recover “An Angel with Titus’ Features,” a Rembrandt painting stolen by the Nazis in the Second World War. Their efforts lead to much more, as they uncover an international conspiracy that threatens Europe. During their dangerous adventures, their relationship solidifies and becomes a full-blown romance. This book is available in ebook format at Amazon and at Smashwords and its affiliate retailers. It’s also available as a print version at Amazon, B&N, or your favorite bookstore (if not there, ask for it). See the review and interview on Feathered Quill.

In libris libertas…


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