You’ve decided to submit your manuscript to an independent publisher. Now what? The staff of four indie presses answer WD’s questions about small publishers.
Meet the Staff
A MacDowell Colony and Hawthornden Castle fellow, Leland Cheuk is the author of three books, most recently, No Good Very Bad Asian. His work has appeared in Salon, San Francisco Chronicle, Catapult, Joyland Magazine, Literary Hub, and elsewhere. He is the founder of 7.13 Books and lives in Brooklyn.
Adam Z. Levy is the founder and co-publisher of Transit Books.
Kate Gale is co-founder and managing editor of Red Hen Press, editor of The Los Angeles Review, and teaches in the low-residency MFA program at the University of Nebraska in poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction and in the University of Ashland MFA Program. She is author of seven books of poetry, including The Goldilocks Zone (University of New Mexico Press, 2014) and Echo Light (Red Mountain Press, 2014) and six librettos, including Rio de Sangre, a libretto for an opera with composer Don Davis, which had its world premiere October 2010 at the Florentine Opera in Milwaukee.
Jisu Kim is the senior marketing and sales manager at the Feminist Press.
What are some benefits that indie publishing can offer authors?
Cheuk: Due to profit motive and the insistence on scale, the big houses do a poor job on a majority of their titles. Junior publicists are working on dozens of books at a time. It’s very possible that if you publish with a big house, your book will get lost. We all know authors who have had bad experiences with big houses. With indies, you’ll likely get more personalized editorial attention, and an increasing number of indies are doing great marketing and publicity and going toe-to-toe with the overwhelmed big houses. Every year, the prestigious book awards seem to have a few, unexpected indie titles.
Levy: With a carefully curated list, we’re able to devote our time and energy to all of our titles. (No books get lost in the midlist!) We also work closely with our authors and translators at every stage of the publishing process, from the first round of edits to publicity and promotion.
Gale: Independent publishers and their staff are able to dedicate more time and attention to the authors than an author would get from the Big Five. Relationships are fostered, and it’s more of a partnership between author and publisher.
Kim: Indie publishers tend to have smaller lists than the corporate houses; for writers, this often means more individual attention. We like to tell our incoming authors that we’re a small, dedicated team—everyone on staff will have read their book, know them by name, and be familiar with how we’re going to get it out into the world.
What types of manuscripts are ideal for indie publishers? Is there a certain type of book you look for?
Cheuk: It depends on the publisher. I’d advise writers to really read submission guidelines carefully. For 7.13 Books, we publish debut contemporary book-length literary fiction for adults. So if you’re writing a YA book, novella, historical novel, or if this is your second or third book, you’re going to be at a disadvantage because we’re focused on finding books that fit our mission. For many indies, they’re publishing just a few titles a year, so the odds are long to begin with. Why submit outside the guidelines and make your odds even longer?
Levy: We look for singular voices—works that excite and challenge us and deepen our literary and political imagination. We’re open to publishing established and emerging writers. In the end, it always comes back to voice and the quality of the language on the page.
Gale: It depends on the publisher. Red Hen looks for dark, strange, wild books with stories underneath the stories, and novels that are under 300 pages so we can market them to our audience. We’re also interested in looking into more novellas, and we love poetry.
Kim: Every indie publisher is different—that’s what makes them independent—but I would say a strong, unique voice is something everyone is looking for. That can be a debut author or someone with a long publishing history. We work with both across a variety of formats and genres, looking for stories that are different from what’s already been told.
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