Authors and small press

Recently, the wonderful Tehani Wessely, the face of Fablecroft Press, asked a series of authors, including me, to write about small press.

There were a lot of great stories in this blog series. People whose beginnings were in small press, whose success was due to small press, and for whom small press offered a lifeline when their writing career was in the dumps.

Australia has many wonderful and amazing small presses that do great work.

Yet my personal experience also spans some not-so-great experiences. I have no intention of mentioning names, but would rather like to caution authors against that all-pervading despair you fall into when you’ve been told that you have a publishing contract (and you’ve been publicly wooting about it) and now you find out that, perhaps, you don’t.

The publisher is late producing the work.
The publisher makes excessive excuses as to why your work hasn’t been published yet.
The publisher produces shoddy work and neglects to fix it.
The publisher neglects to pay you.
The publisher does not respond to communication.

All these should probably be taken as indicators that the press is in trouble. I know it sounds distrustful and horrible. Small presses are run by one or two people. There are perfectly legitimate reasons why the main publisher can be taken out of action. Illness, change of job, you name it.

But, and here is the big but–it’s your work they’re sitting on. This publisher is not your best friend; they’re a business relation. If any of the above happens, chances are that any of the problems causing it are permanent. It could be for the simple reason that the small press’ owner has discovered that running a small press is hard and has moved onto the next shiny toy, but has neglected to tell the authors involved. Emails pile up in the inbox until it becomes all too much, while the press owner sends out general messages that ‘things are getting back to normal’.

That may well be the case, and sometimes it’s true. Then again, pigs have been known to fly. Unless you are getting serious indications to the contrary, as affected author, you should by now be scavenging your contract for the ‘out’ clause. That means that the contract has to have one in the first place: a set time by which the publisher should publish the work before the rights revert to you. For ebooks, there should be clauses that cover failure of payment or other breaches of contract.

Check your contracts now.

Or go read this awful tale

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2 comments on “Authors and small press

  1. Good post and very true. Check your contracts before you sign them and make sure those limits are in place to allow you to escape. I particularly endorse the reference to ‘the next shiny toy’. Publishing is hard work and does not end when the book is printed. You’re better off self-publishing than wasting your time and money with small press which does not deliver.

    • This is so incredibly true. While there are small presses that do deliver and that have great street cred and reliability, because they are run by so few people, you must always make sure you ask all the relevant ‘what if?’ questions, no matter how unthinkable they seem to be. Actually, the good people with the good contract do have solid contracts with ‘out’ clauses.

      Also, when you sign with a small press for a novel, check their marketing efforts, but especially check how and when you can get your rights back if they do not deliver.

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