The Fiction Reboot: The Value of the Small Press

Welcome to the Fiction Reboot!

Last Thursday, author Stephen Gallagher reminded to be “aware of the small presses, and their immense value to the developing writer.” In light of that useful instruction, I will be featuring some small presses today, including Akashic Books.

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What is a small press?

From the pages of SFWA (Science Fiction Writers of American), “A small press is a publisher that’s independently owned (i.e., not part of a bigger conglomerate, as with large publishing houses like Penguin or Random House), and has low annual sales income and profit. Traditionally, small presses also released limited numbers of books–10 or fewer a year–but digital technology has made publishing cheap, and these days many small presses have substantial publishing lists.” SFWA provides a wonderful breakdown of things to consider before choosing one–including your own aims and scopes–but today I will be focusing primarily on what they can offer a new writer.

In the industry you will regularly hear talk of the “big six.” These are the major publishing houses and their subsidiaries, places like Random House. They are well recognized, but of course, very difficult to “break in” to. After all, they are spoiled for choice. A small press does everything a large press does–only, obviously, smaller. That used to mean smaller print runs, but as SFWA points out, that is less and less of an issue in our digital age.

Why a small press?

  1. Often more flexible and more personal
  2. Without shareholders and other overhead concerns, they are often willing to take risks on new authors
  3. They often promote a particular genre or niche, rather than a general audience. There are, for instance, presses who intentially seek out romance, mystery, sci-fi, LGBTA or other niche-market works
  4. A mixed blessing: they will often accept un-agented submissions. (I still think agents are very necessary, but this is good to know if you aren’t having luck finding one).

There are, of course, pitfalls too. You want to look for a small press with a good list of books. You can also find information about small presses on databases like this one from Poets&Writers. Today, I am going to feature just one of these independents: Akashic Books.

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Akashic Books is a Brooklyn-based independent company dedicated to publishing “urban literary fiction and political nonfiction by authors who are either ignored by the mainstream, or who have no interest in working within the ever-consolidating ranks of the major corporate publishers.” They also have a blog. Some recent titles include:

  • Venice Noir, edited by Maxim Jakubowski
  • Long Island Noir , edited by Kaylie Jones
  • A Mind of Winter, by Shira Nayman
  • Letters to Kurt, by Eric Erlandson

And a personal favorite of mine…A bedtime book for parents by Adam Mansbach and illustrated by Ricardo Cortes

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About Brandy Schillace

A scholar of medical-humanities and writer of Gothic fiction, Dr. Brandy Schillace spends her time in the mist-shrouded alleyways between medical history and literature. She is the Managing Editor, Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry and Research Associate/Guest Curator for Dittrick Museum. Dr. Schillace is a freelance writer for magazines and blogs, and has published fiction (High Stakes, Cooperative Trade, 2014) as well as non-fiction books (Death's Summer Coat, Elliott and Thompson, 2015, Unnatural Reproductions and the Monstrous (co-edited collection), Cambria Press, 2014).
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