I have had books published by both large, international publishers and small, local publishers and I’ve found each have their advantages and disadvantages. Deciding who to go with will depend on what you want as a writer. Of course I’m operating from Botswana where we don’t have agents and approach publishing houses ourselves (Gasp!) so some of what I’m about to say may be mitigated a bit by a committed agent who will hide the ugly side from you.
First the Big Guys. Big guys have a lot of ammo at their disposal. They have clout. They have money for marketing and good editors. The have a well oiled machine in place that will take your tattered manuscript and turn it into a sexy new book. Also as a writer it’s nice to have a few of the big publishers on your list.
But the Big Guys also have a lot of writers. You become just another one. Also big publishers have set procedures and set contracts, often with little wiggle room unless you too are a Big Guy. It’s often take it or leave it. Also, in my experience with the Big Guys, you are the writer- hand over the book and they’ll get experts to do the rest. They’ll call you when they need you to pitch up for something such as book signing, otherwise they’d rather not hear a lot from you.
Now for the Little Guys. Little Guys don’t have the resources of the Big Guys and all that entails. They won’t have big marketing budgets for your book. You will have to be creative and initiate a lot of the marketing yourself. They might not be able to hire the top notch editors, so you will have to get the book almost print-ready before you hand it over to them. As a writer, you are sometimes taking a risk with the Little Guy- will the money hold out long enough to get my book out there? is a question you might ask yourself more than once with the Little Guy juggling a shoestring budget.
But what I’ve found with the Little Guys is that they are flexible. You can negotiate terms; contracts are not set in stone. You can have a say about a lot of things such as book cover and blurb. They welcome all help the writer is willing to give. My experience with small publishers is that they are more personalised and the writer feels part of the process not a cog in the wheel of a mammoth machine.
A writer needs to ask themselves what they want. If you want big bucks behind your book, but not a lot of say about how the process from manuscript to bookstore shelf goes, then go with the Big Guys. If you, instead, want to keep some control over your baby, and don’t mind that the splash you make might be a bit smaller, then team up with the Little Guys.
What has your experience been like with large and small publishers? I’d love to hear about it!
Lauri Kubuitsile is a full time writer living in Botswana and blogs at Thoughts from Botswana. She is a member of the One World group, a group of international writers who met on the internet. They put together a collection of short stories and went searching for a publisher. New Internationalist stepped up to the plate and the book, which includes stories from Orange Prize winner Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Pulitzer Prize winner Jhumpa Lahiri, is now on sale at Amazon. Buy it! All royalties go to Doctors without Borders.