On Writing

Why I Published with a Small Press

This is a question I get asked a lot. Why did I choose to publish with a small press?

There are two known paths to becoming a published author; traditional publishing or self-publishing. In reality, there are lots of other paths a writer can take and choosing to be published under a small press is one of them.

What is a Small Press?

What is a small press? They are the middle ground between traditional publishing and self-publishing. Most small presses act traditionally by taking on the publishing aspects of creating a book, much like a traditional publisher would, such as paying for and proving editing services, cover art, book formatting and printing, and marketing. What sets a small press apart from a traditional one is that small presses are, as you’d expect, quite small. They don’t have the size or clout of a traditional press, nor do they have the power and prestige of the bigger publishing houses. What this means to the humble author is that you may not see your book physically on the shelves of chain bookstores like B&N, or get entered into any fancy publishing awards any time soon.

Self-publishing on the other hand is where you do everything yourself. That includes paying for your own editing, sourcing your own cover art, managing your accounts, and selling your soul to marketing. Being business-minded really helps if you go down the self-publishing route because unless you understand how to market your book you may not reap much success from it. However, by self-publishing, you own your work. You’re not beholden to anyone but yourself. You decide what you publish and what your book covers look like.

A small press is the best of both worlds.

Why Choose a Small Press?

I chose to go with a small press, specifically Uproar Books, because I loved the idea of being an indie author but I had absolutely no idea where to start. When I completed Sand Dancer, I did what most new writers do and that’s enter the querying trenches. Traditional publishing can be a slow, painful, drawn-out process. Writing itself is slow enough, but then you can spend years querying and trying to find that perfect agent, and then another year on submission to find a publisher willing to take a chance on your book. And then there’s even more waiting between signing that contract and seeing your book on the shelves. Going indie is much quicker. With Amazon’s KDP, it can be instantaneous.

I didn’t get very far with my own querying. I went to an agent event and met an agent who read my first chapter and synopsis, and they told me that Young Adult fantasy was dying, that I was better off writing for adults, and that my story had too many elements that were overused and thus boring; specifically elemental/fire magic. This shook me at the time because, from my understanding and from attending writing conferences, YA fantasy was thriving. I read a lot of YA fantasy and hadn’t picked up any newer books with elemental magic. It dented my confidence, but I kept querying anyway. And to note; I have found beta readers who wanted to read exactly the tropes I used! Don’t be scared to use popular tropes. They’re popular for a reason.

My eyes were opened to the world of self-publishing after attending an Amazon Authors event.

This particular event introduced me to The Alliance of Independent Authors and to local authors who had made a successful career out of self-publishing. Enough to quit their day jobs. Authors such as the talented L. J. Ross.

For the first time I began to seriously consider self-publishing and joined some communities to get their perspective. Self-publishing certainly isn’t a get-rich-quick scheme, but requires a lot of work and a commitment to build up a viable business. Many self-published authors take pride in their books; gone is the stigma of self-publishing being a last resort, as many authors choose to self-publish for a variety of reasons; they dictate their career and keep their own money. And they have control.

In the writing communities I was apart of, I heard some horror stories of traditionally published authors being screwed over or being denied their rights. Taking the traditional path certainly isn’t the paradise it appeared to be. I didn’t like the idea of someone owning the IP to my books, or deciding what I could and couldn’t write. I saw Sand Dancer as a series, and I was worried that if I went the traditional path, my publisher could decide to drop my series if the first book wasn’t successful enough. I didn’t like the sound of a contract locking me out of my own IP if things didn’t work out. I also didn’t want the stress and pressure of a big publisher breathing down my neck.

But, I was still new to this world. I didn’t know where to begin with self-publishing or marketing.

I didn’t even think about small presses until one of them liked a Pitch Wars tweet I made. I submitted to them, and they came back to me pretty quickly with an offer; too quickly to have read my wonderfully thick manuscript. Their book cover art looked good, but I wasn’t convinced by them, so I declined. Then I came across Uproar Books.

Why Uproar Books?

I chose to go with Uproar Books for a few reasons. For one, their website was professional and they specialised in marketing. Marketing is something that a lot of writers are squeamish of and I’m no different there.

For two, they focus on fantasy and sci-fi series and WANT to publish series.

And for three, the terms on their website were reasonable. So I gave them a go and sent my full manuscript. This is what happened next:

They didn’t come back instantly, nor did they heap on piles of praise about my book. Instead, they came back with suggestions for changes to make the book even better and offered to work with me on those changes. So it wasn’t a contract straight out of the gate. The changes they asked for included expanding on the world and daily life of the characters (yes!), fixing plot holes and character motivations (reasonable!), and making the story more character driven. I agreed with all of these points. If I hadn’t, I wouldn’t be writing this blog. One thing I learned from working with beta readers and receiving critique is that you need to be open to changes and improvements, but only if they fit your vision for the story. These changes all helped improve Sand Dancer so I was happy to make them. If they asked for fundamental changes, such as to the world or main character, I wouldn’t have accepted it.

Working with Uproar Books

What was it like to work with Uproar Books? It was great! They were professional and held reasonable expectations. Their editing style allowed me to remain in control whilst offering feedback and suggestions. We worked on my manuscript for months and it became a partnership. I was over the moon to be offered a contract at the end.

We did another round of edits and polishing as Uproar Books handled the publishing side behind the scenes. They set up Advance Reader Copies (ARC’s) of my book and hired an amazing artist to create the cover. Uproar Books asked me for my opinions and feedback every step of the way, though I was happy to leave it in their capable hands.

The end result was my book on multiple online stores and a printed copy I could hold.

One word of caution I want to give about small presses; DON’T sign up with any small press or independent publisher who ask you for money to publish, edit, or market your book. These are known as vanity presses and they prey on eager authors. Any publisher, whether small press or traditional, should pay for art and editing and formatting your book out of their own pocket in exchange for book sales (the percentage would be agreed on via a contract). You never need to pay a publisher for anything such as art or reading fees. Uproar Books are not a vanity press and part of the risk of working with a small press is that you may not get a massive advance or make lots of money to begin with like you would a traditional publisher. Instead, you’re working towards a future of selling books and building a name for yourself, which is what makes a small press more indie than traditional.

Regardless of whether you go indie or traditional, it’s still hard work!

Want to Join the Uproar Books Family?

Uproar Books are a new small press but they’re growing and have some exiting developments lined up. I took a chance on them because I liked the idea of being an indie author in charge of my own destiny, but also need the expertise that Uproar Books brings. There’s something exciting about joining a venture like a new small press and I’m eager to help make them a success.

My book Sand Dancer was the second book published by Uproar Books. The first is Wild Sun, a sci-fi tale of a woman rising against her alien oppressors, which I read and thoroughly enjoyed. Two more are coming in 2020; a sci-fi satire and a adult fantasy, and then hopefully my sequel to Sand Dancer! Uproar Books are always looking for more.

Do you write any of these?

  • High Fantasy
  • Space Opera
  • Dystopian
  • Hidden Magical/Paranormal Realms on Modern Earth

Then Uproar Books wants you!

If you’re thinking of going the small press route, then please check out Uproar Books’ website for more information and to submit. And if you have any questions about them or what it’s like to work with a small press, feel free to get in touch with me!

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