Sunday, August 28, 2005

A Small Press Publisher Chimes In

James Chapman, whom some of you may remember from an earlier post, is the publisher of Fugue State Press, a self-proclaimed niche publisher. He has expanded on my list from the previous post with one of his own:

3.5 Watch as the agent requires small changes be made in the book (i.e. "cut the length by half," "combine these three characters into one," "raise the stakes on the ending.")

5. Watch as the editor at the mainstream publishing house requires that small changes be made in the book (see above). Decide whether to resist this, then cave in and produce a more commercial, smooth book that is not really your own.

6. Enjoy publication day, enjoy lovely reviews.

7. Marvel at the speed with which the book is put out of print, because it only sold in the low thousands.

8. Marvel at the speed with which you are dropped by the publisher because your editor moved on to another house and you have no political support within the firm any longer.

9. Look at the book you made in collaboration with these gentlemen publishers. Hold it in your hand. Flip through it. Realize that you don't even recognize it as your own.

10. Wonder what it all means. Wonder if there's a better way. (There is.)

As long as your book isn't about sex....

Chapman then goes on to say:

I think you've already considered and rejected my "other way," which is to start your own press. It just seems to me you have a lot of skills in promoting things, and could take all the time and effort you're spending in knocking on locked doors, and use it to slightly change the history of literature. Put out your own book and a few others that you admire, and you may find it hard to understand why you ever wanted to let businesspeople take hold of your work.

But almost nobody I ever tell this to ever takes me up on it. I understand why. But don't forget it's a real option, and it does work.

This option has crossed my mind, though the learning curve would be steep. Yes, I'm clearly a whiz at marketing, but publishing is much more than simply getting people to notice you. There are practical matters, including finding other authors to publish, the craft of publishing (ISBN numbers, distributors, etc.) and the real nitty-gritty: fulfillment. In other words, what happens when all those people send you money and expect to get books in return? Who stuffs them into envelopes, prints out and attaches the address labels, carts them to the post office, etc.

I'm not afraid of rolling up my sleeves and getting involved. It's just I didn't think I'd have to take off my clothes, too.


Blogger dkaye9 said...

>>In other words, what happens when all those people send you money and expect to get books in return?<<

If you find enough investors (start up or stock market) prepared to lose money while you spend theirs, you might eventually become a publishing ... Amazon.

Of course, if you had access to that much money to start, you could have probably bought yourself a maintream agent. Or a mainstream small publishing house. Then you'd call the shots.

12:48 AM, August 30, 2005  
Blogger W. S. Cross said...

Sigh, are there only extremes and no golden means?

12:09 PM, August 30, 2005  

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