First Time Novels: Small Press or the Big Boys?


An interesting thought occurred to me only moments ago: when it comes to considering publishing your first novel, how do you decide on what kind of publisher to select? It would seem, at least to me, that many automatically send their work to the big boys, get rejected, and then sit around bitter, or self-publish, due to some unfortunate ignorance on their part of all the wonderful small presses out there. But then there are others, like Paul Genesse and other talented writers, who opted for a small press from the start, for reasons that I have either forgotten or simply do not know.

I suppose my curiosity on this arises because I am considering my own path, considering the future from a point far removed from that would-be point. Are certain novels more fitting for small presses than the big ones? How does one see that in a novel? And do writers who select small presses first ever consider whether it would have been better to go with one of the big boys? Or is that so far removed from an author’s mind because, hey, they’re published, even if it is by a press that will only print a thousand copies of their book?

I don’t know. It seems to me that if you could define a small press novel as a particular brand, then you could easily say “this would be good for them.” But novels don’t seem to be so easily defined, and I find it difficult to believe that the many authors snatched up by small presses went there as a last resort.

What about all of you? What would you say to all of this? How would you decide to choose a small press?

P.S.: This is not meant as a slight to small presses in any way. I have read many great works from small presses and believe them to be a valuable asset in a difficult field to break into. I do, however, recognize that many authors do not have the sort of relationship I do with small presses, a relationship that recognizes their value and has seen the quality of work they produce. Some still perceive the small press as too close to self-publishing for comfort. It’s an unfortunate stigma, but one that small presses must combat, day in and day out.

About the Author:

Shaun Duke is an aspiring writer, a reviewer, and an academic. He is currently a graduate student at the University of Florida studying science fiction, postcolonialism, posthumanism, and fantasy.

5 thoughts on “First Time Novels: Small Press or the Big Boys?

  1. I think that I would go with whoever agreed to publish my manuscript. As someone trying to break-in to the industry, I don’t think that one can afford to get all snobby about who publishes the book, as long as gets out there and is easily available.

  2. Elia: I like small presses too, but is it just a personal thing to select one, or is there an actual logical reason for it?

    Dave: Right, but how do you figure out who to send it to first? Do you go big and then small, or do you get an agent and let them figure out what might be best?

  3. One of the very real benefits of having a first novel published by a smaller press is that they have the time and interest to work with you to get your promotion out there. Having worked with many presses, some small and some fairly large, I know the time and attention my first fantasy novel received at the smaller press who published it was phenomenal. They were not only interested in the book, but the author, and we were able to coordinate some amazing things. A book launch party at the bookstore of my choice locally, booh signings, etc., and none of these things would have happened had I taken the book to NY. So, sometimes it is better to ease into the limelight, rather than jump!

    Good luck to everyone!!

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