Posted On August 13, 2012 by Print This Post

For the Love of a Small Press with Larissa Reinhart

Please give a warm welcome to mystery author Larissa Reinhart! I met Larissa right here on RU last year, and I was lucky enough to share the excitement of her first sale to Henery Press.

Larissa takes the podium to explain the benefits of working with a small press.

Asking me to talk about the publishing world is a lot like asking the mother of a newborn to talk about raising teenagers. My publishing experience is still wonderful and amazing in its infant stage. I am not yet jaded by my book’s sarcastic back talk and it doesn’t yet ignore me to hang with its friends.

So I begin with that qualification. I am still in love with publishing, and IMHO it is due to the small press (Henery Press) with whom I am working. I’ve heard small press horror stories. I’ve also heard plenty of large press horror stories. I can only speak of which I know. So I asked some other authors to contribute their opinions on working with small presses as well. 

As writers you have probably noticed the proliferation of new presses that have recently broken into the publication arena. I have heard that now is a great time to be a writer because there are so many options open to us. Anne R. Allen did a terrific breakdown of the different levels of publishing for Romance U in her July post, Who Are the “Big Six”? What does Indie Really Mean?

Using her definitions, my press is a true small press. Henery Press mainly publishes mysteries of all genres including traditional, humorous, and cozy, but also considers thrillers and romantic suspense. As Allen explained, small presses generally publish to a niche market. 

Allen went on to say this about small presses: 

            “They are usually labors of love and nobody gets rich, but they’re often a good way to break in to print and lots of authors are very happy to stay with a small  press where there is a more personal interaction with editors… Authors are responsible for their own marketing and there’s generally no advance, but higher royalties.” 

What part of writing isn’t a labor of love? Getting published with the Big Six is no guarantee of getting rich, either. I don’t know about you, but I’m not in writing for the money (nor for the sleep). If you’re a debut author with the Big Six you’re going to be doing much of your own marketing.

Here’s what one author who is published with big and small presses said, “My mysteries are published by an independent press, but they’re very aggressive about marketing their authors. I’ve had much more publisher produced publicity than most authors get from New York. In New York the publicity budget is spent on the authors who receive the biggest advances  because the publisher needs to sell enough books to recoup the advance. There’s never much money left over for mid-list or debut authors receiving minimal advances. My publisher has done things for me that the Big 6 would never do for me.” 

She does offer this one caveat, “However, there are many small publishers that operate on shoestring budgets and do nothing in the way of promo for their authors. They expect their authors to do all of it themselves.” 

So, unless you’re John Grisham or the Great Janet E., expect to do much of your own marketing at any level in publishing. Anything given to you is icing (hopefully chocolate) on the cake. 

As for the personal interaction Allen mentioned, I would heartily agree that this is a major plus of publishing with a small press. I have emailed my editor with the dumbest questions, and she always writes me back, pretending I’m not an idiot (God bless her). Not only do we exchange information in the editing process, we often exchange marketing ideas and good news about other writers at Henery Press. Other authors with other small presses agreed that they had a much closer relationship with their small press editors. 

            “One of the big pluses for me with the small publisher was being able to form relationships with staff other than my editor.” 

Judy Alter, author of the Kelly O’Connell Mysteries (Turquoise Morning Press, 2012) added, “I like knowing someone has my back, someone will edit and promote. Self-publishing is a whole lot of work and I’m not adventuresome enough to know that I’d be good at it. It’s comforting to have someone that I can email with questions about promotion, editing, even what my next book will be. I’ve published  almost 20 years ago with a major NY house, but I like my current situation much better.” 

Not needing an agent was another benefit Allen indicated in her article, also true for me. Other authors saw even more benefits. 

            “Being published with a small press gave me the chance to develop a teen audience. While no one was pushy at [A Big Six Company], I was very glad that my first book for them did well. They’re a bigger company and I don’t think they have the luxury of letting an author spend too much time building an audience.”  

            “The big plus is that small presses will take books that big presses won’t. Small presses have more specialized audiences and sometimes count in hundreds where the big presses count in thousands. Small press publishers often double as editors, and they invest heavily (financially and emotionally) in every book. Some move a book through the publication process in half the time large presses take.”

           “They handle distribution and some press. But the biggest value to me has been the editing I’ve received from them and the feeling of validation that someone who’s been publishing mysteries for years thinks my book is good,” said Tammy Kaehler, author of the Kate Reilly Racing Mysteries (Poisoned Pen Press, 2011). 

Before you run out willy-nilly and sign a contract with any old small press, you do need to consider the cons. As one author said, “Two big minuses: Advances are small (and sometimes nonexistent) and distribution to bookstores and libraries is practically nonexistent. The failure to use a national distributor not only limits distribution (and thereby earnings) but also the professional publications that will consider reviewing the book.” 

You need to check their distribution networks. Besides the popular e-book channels, Henery Press uses LighteningSource for print-on-demand of their trade paperbacks. Because LighteningSource is a division of Ingram, independent books stores feel more comfortable in ordering books through this reliable, well-known distributor.

Another safeguard for the bookstore is whether your publisher will buy back any unsold copies. Ask the publisher these questions before you sign a contract. If the publisher is only selling copies through their website, I would consider that a red flag. You want your book available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble even if it’s only available in e-book format. 

This is part of your investigative homework Allen warned you needed to do before signing on with a small press. “Check them out thoroughly with sites like Writer Beware and Preditors and Editors and if they’re not well-established, contact other clients before you sign.”

I did this, as well as Googling my editor every which way I could. I looked at the other books she had edited and checked out book covers she had designed. The press’s professional and clean looking website was also important to me.

I knew I took a risk because Henery was a new press. Many small presses start up and disappear, taking your book rights with them. You can lose your royalty checks in bankruptcy disputes. Sometimes bad things happen to good people. Before signing my contract, I carefully evaluated a worst scenario situation such as this. I had lawyers I trusted read my contract and create their worst scenario situations (which were much worse than mine). We made changes to the contract to appease our fears, and my publisher agreed to those changes.

If they had refused the changes, that would have been enough of a red flag for me to not sign. You have to be prepared to walk away.

In the end, I know I made the right choice. I’m on the ground floor of a press with a savvy business leader, talented editor, and creative designer. I’ve become friends with the other authors at the press which have been a fantastic support group. Distribution is through the major e-book and on-line stores, but because Henery Press offers trade paperback, I can get independent bookstores to carry PORTRAIT OF A DEAD GUY. I had a detailed publishing schedule, releasing my mystery within six months of signing. A lot of guidance in marketing. Great editing and an awesome cover. What more could I need? 

Thanks for your time!  

 ***

What’s your opinion of small presses? Would you rather hold out for a Big Six deal or try a non-traditional route? What other ways can you check a press’s legitimacy? How do you feel about publishing without an agent?

***

In Halo, Georgia, folks know Cherry Tucker as big in mouth, small in stature, and able to sketch a portrait faster than buckshot rips from a ten gauge — but commissions are scarce. So when the well-heeled Branson family wants to memorialize their murdered son in a coffin portrait, Cherry scrambles to win their patronage from her small town rival. 

As the clock ticks toward the deadline, Cherry faces more trouble than just a controversial subject. Her rival wants to ruin her reputation, her ex-flame wants to rekindle the fire, and someone’s setting her up to take the fall. Mix in her flaky family, an illegal gambling ring, and outwitting a killer on a spree, Cherry finds herself painted into a corner she’ll be lucky to survive. 

PORTRAIT OF A DEAD GUY is available for pre-release in paperback on Amazon and Barnes and Noble and will release on August 28th on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kindle, Nook and iPad.

 

 ***

Join us on Wednesday, August 15th when Adrienne Giordano presents Journey to an Agent.

***

Bio: Larissa began her writing career in second grade when she sold her first publication to a neighbor for a nickel. After moving around the midwest, Japan, and the south, she now lives in Georgia with her husband, daughters, and Biscuit, a Cairn Terrier. She loves small town characters with big attitudes, particularly sassy women with a penchant for trouble. PORTRAIT OF A DEAD GUY is a 2012 Daphne du Maurier finalist, a 2012 The Emily finalist, and a 2011 Dixie Kane Memorial winner. When she’s not writing about southern fried chicken, she writes about Asian fried chicken at her blog about life as an ex-expat at theexpatreturneth.blogspot.com

She and her writing friends also chat weekly about books on their Little Read Hens Facebook page and littlereadhens.com. You can find Larissa chatting on Facebook; Twitter; and Goodreads. She loves pinning on her Cherry Tucker and other boards at Pinterest. You can also find more information on her website at larissareinhart.com.

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50 Responses to “For the Love of a Small Press with Larissa Reinhart”

  1. I wanted to offer a big THANK YOU to Romance U for having me on. I’ve been such a fan of Romance U and consider it a great honor to be a part of your establishment. Thanks so much!
    Larissa

    Posted by Larissa Reinhart | August 13, 2012, 5:23 am
  2. Hi Larissa,

    I’m about to publish books with two small publishers, the Wild Rose Press and Musa Publishing. I have been very pleased with both.

    Mary Jo

    Posted by Mary Jo Burke | August 13, 2012, 5:44 am
    • Hey Mary Jo,
      Good for you! I know someone with Wild Rose and they heard good things about them, too. I’m not familiar with Musa, but nice to hear you like them.

      Hopefully folks reading this will end up with a beneficial list of small presses. Thanks for contributing!
      Larissa

      Posted by Larissa Reinhart | August 13, 2012, 6:00 am
  3. Morning Larissa!

    Great post! It sounds like you’ve had a great debut experience with your small press. Good for you!

    I’ve not chosen a route in particular as to whether small press, Big Six or indie. I’m still trying to get the book written! =) But your press sounds awesome, that’s a place I’d like to work!

    carrie

    Posted by Carrie Spencer | August 13, 2012, 5:58 am
    • Hey Carrie!
      Good luck with getting that book written. Not an easy task!
      I feel very blessed to have such a good debut experience. I’m a bit of a risk taker, so if things went south, I would apply what I learned to a new experience, but I’m so glad I didn’t have to do that!

      Keep plugging away and hopefully you leave today with a good small press list to consider.
      Larissa

      Posted by Larissa Reinhart | August 13, 2012, 6:13 am
  4. Hi, Larissa. Thanks for hanging out with us today. I think what’s amazing about the publishing world today is that there are so many options available to writers. There isn’t one road to publishing anymore. Whether we want to be traditionally pubbed or indy pubbed (or both!), it seems to be a whole new world out there!

    I went with a digital first imprint and wound up getting an agent after getting published. It was a different journey than I’d imagined five years ago, but I’m so happy with the choice I made.

    Great post!

    Posted by Adrienne Giordano | August 13, 2012, 7:36 am
    • Thanks Adrienne!
      Sounds like a good route to me! Small presses are a good way to get your feet wet, learn about publishing, and get your foot in the door. I’ve met many people are happy to stay with small presses because of the flexibility, too.
      Larissa

      Posted by Larissa Reinhart | August 13, 2012, 8:28 am
  5. I’m with Turquoise Morning Press and couldn’t be happier. Small presses are great!

    Posted by Janie Emaus | August 13, 2012, 7:57 am
  6. Hi Larissa,

    Thanks for the great, informative article. And as someone who’s already read POADG, I loved it!

    Posted by Leslie Tentler | August 13, 2012, 8:10 am
  7. Really good information to know, Larissa. Thanks for taking the time to spill these beans for us.

    And I’m looking forward to reading Portrait of a Dead Guy!

    Posted by Larkin Hunter | August 13, 2012, 8:17 am
  8. You’ve really broken down the differences between the big six and a small press. I absolutely loved Portrait of a Dead Guy. It was funny and the main character, Cherry Tucker, was a very engaging heroine!

    Posted by Terri L. Austin | August 13, 2012, 8:37 am
  9. Great job, Larissa, outlining the differences are between big publishing houses and small presses. I’m very happy with my choice as well. :) Henery Press is an awesome publishing home.

    You know how I feel about Cherry Tucker–I loved Portrait of a Dead Guy, and can’t wait to read Cherry’s next adventure.

    Posted by Susan M. Boyer | August 13, 2012, 9:55 am
  10. Hi Larissa,
    I loved this post. It’s great to hear the pros and cons of small presses. I love the personalized attention one can get and the willingness to take a risk they offer. Thanks again for the excellent info.

    Posted by TL Sumner | August 13, 2012, 10:21 am
  11. Thank you for the kind words about Henery Press. You’re a delight to work with, such a positive energy in the Hen House (we’re actually quite lucky with our all authors, they create a synergy that makes my job easy)! Your points are spot on, Larissa: Do your research, find what works for you, and be prepared to do tons of marketing no matter which publishing route you choose. And remember to keep writing!

    Posted by Kendel Flaum | August 13, 2012, 10:35 am
  12. Yes! I love small presses, especially for Romance. They’re doing some of the most exciting things in the industry right now!

    Posted by Aria Kane | August 13, 2012, 10:52 am
  13. Great piece, Larissa! New writers need to hear more about the small press option, which works for me as well.

    And thanks a bunch for the shout-out. I appreciate the quotes from my July Romance U piece (which was excerpted from the book I’ve written with Catherine Ryan Hyde HOW TO BE A WRITER IN THE E-AGE–only $2.99 for the ebook–a little shameless self-promotion there.)

    Henery Press looks like a great small publisher. And I love that they publish Chick Lit!! I’m going to check out their titles.

    Posted by Anne R. Allen | August 13, 2012, 11:08 am
    • Thanks for checking in Anne. I thought your piece was terrific and hope everyone references back to it. I also hope everyone checks out your e-book HOW TO BE A WRITER IN THE E-AGE! It’s so important to be well informed on all your options when you’re ready to publish, particularly since there are many to choose from now.

      So glad you will check out Henery Press! We’ve got some great writers in the Hen House. Some fabulous mysteries coming out in 2012 and more to come in 2013!

      Posted by Larissa Reinhart | August 13, 2012, 11:40 am
  14. As a fellow small press author, I have to say you did a great job with this! One of the biggest worries I had going with a small press was the amount of marketing and publicity support I’d get. With the exception of ads, I have to say my house has been great in that department and very supportive.

    Posted by Avery Flynn | August 13, 2012, 11:08 am
  15. Thanks for a great blog, Larissa! Several of my friends are with small presses. I think with the mystery genre, in particular, there are some very reputable small presses that do a good job for their authors.

    Posted by Becke Martin Davis | August 13, 2012, 11:19 am
    • Thanks Becke! And thanks for having me on. Long time reader/first time poster;)

      I’m mostly familiar with romance & mystery presses (since that’s what I write). In any genre, there’s probably good and bad, which is why it’s so important to do homework and not jump into an organization you don’t know.

      Posted by Larissa Reinhart | August 13, 2012, 11:47 am
  16. Hi Larissa,

    Thanks so much for being our guest today and sharing your experiences with us.

    You were smart to consult with an attorney before signing. While there are plenty of publishing options available to authors, none of them are risk-free. It’s important for authors to weigh the pros and cons before signing.

    I loved PORTRAIT OF A DEAD GUY, the crazy cast of characters (including a goat named Tater), the snappy dialogue and snort-worthy zingers, and especially your mac and cheese loving heroine. Can’t wait to read your next book!

    Posted by Jennifer Tanner | August 13, 2012, 11:19 am
    • Thanks so much Jennifer for having me on today!

      So glad you liked PORTRAIT. Cherry is so much fun to write. And thank you for blessing PORTRAIT with Tater’s name! My next Cherry Tucker book will hopefully appear in the spring. Tentatively titled, STILL LIFE IN BRUNSWICK STEW.

      And you are so right. Everyone: PLEASE CONSULT A LAWYER BEFORE YOU SIGN ANY CONTRACT!

      Posted by Larissa Reinhart | August 13, 2012, 11:49 am
  17. Larissa – Welcome to RU!

    I think the bottom line is that you need to find the right fit for you and then it is all good. Big, small, medium . . . if you get what you need to grow as an author and sell your books – Bonus!

    Robin

    Posted by Robin Covington | August 13, 2012, 11:20 am
  18. Loved the blog post Larissa! Small presses are the backbone of the writers world. Think about how many books would be out there if we didn’t have them. Not many! I’ve heard nothing but good praises about Henery Press. I’m thrilled you are with them!
    Diane Kratz

    Posted by Diane Kratz | August 13, 2012, 1:35 pm
  19. Hi, Larissa –

    Thanks so much for sharing your experience (and that of other writers with small presses). Above, you said:

    I had lawyers I trusted read my contract and create their worst scenario situations (which were much worse than mine).

    Could you give us an idea of where you found your attorneys?

    Many thanks!
    Kelsey

    Posted by Kelsey Browning | August 13, 2012, 1:37 pm
    • Piggybacking on K’s comment…Larissa, since you had an attorney go over your contract, do you think you need an agent?

      Posted by Jennifer Tanner | August 13, 2012, 1:39 pm
      • Hi Kelsey,
        I’m lucky because the attorneys are a married couple I’ve been friends with for a long time. If I didn’t know them, I would ask for recommendations from friends or look for an attorney in entertainment law.

        And Jennifer,
        I didn’t feel like I needed an agent in my situation. I actually submitted to a small press when advised by an editor friend that at mid to small presses you don’t need an agent.

        Posted by Larissa Reinhart | August 13, 2012, 1:59 pm
  20. Hey Larissa,
    Great post and a lot of valuable information here. I’m pubbed with a small press too and you’re right about the pros and cons.

    I think we’re almost in the same boat but I was lucky to have an enormous amount of ‘say’ in the cover of DUTY AND DESIRE and other info. Have a great working relationship and communication with your editor and publishers is so important! Wishing you much success and flying sales!

    Posted by Anju Gattani | August 13, 2012, 1:45 pm
  21. Hi Larissa,

    Great post! Glad to see someone giving the pros and cons of both the Big 6 and the small press. (I have a writing group that acts like the small press is a virus to be avoided.) :-/ But I think the small press, along with indie publishing, has opened doors to authors who might otherwise be shut out because their work didn’t fit a certain mold.

    I have to check out PORTRAIT. :-)

    As someone who writes short stories and short novels, I couldn’t get a contract w/the Big 6 or an agent if I wanted. I’m currently with Lyrical Press and MuseItUp Publishing. I’ve heard good things about Turquoise Morning Press, too. (Swear I know someone who works there.)

    Posted by Pamela Turner | August 13, 2012, 3:00 pm
    • Hey Pamela,
      Thanks so much for your kind words.

      I did MuseItUp’s online conference the two years I lived in Japan because it was the only kind of conference I could make. They did a fantastic job of introducing small presses which really opened my eyes to that vehicle in publishing. I think you are right that small & indie press opens the doors to writers who don’t “fit a certain mold.”

      Larissa

      Posted by Larissa Reinhart | August 13, 2012, 3:14 pm
  22. Thank you everyone for stopping in and commenting.

    Larissa, thanks for being our guest and best of luck with your debut release!

    Posted by Jennifer Tanner | August 13, 2012, 8:48 pm
  23. Thanks, Larissa, for the great post — lots of essential information here for anyone exploring her/his publishing options. And isn’t it great that we have these options? There’s not just one road to travel in this journey.

    And I LOVE your cover. Portrait of a Dead Guy is definitely on my TBR list!

    Posted by Wendy Delaney | August 13, 2012, 9:10 pm
  24. Great article, Larissa! :)

    Posted by Celia Breslin | August 14, 2012, 12:44 pm
  25. Nice article, but I have experience with Lightning Source, and they aren’t all that. At one time, if you wanted in Ingram, LS was the printer, however, Createspace now gets you into Ingram for much less the cost, plus their book quality is better. LS has poor customer service, they overcharge for everything, they charge for proofs you didn’t order, and having worked with CS and LS, I canceled my contract within six months of working with LS because they were a nightmare. They charged me for things I didn’t order, then they ignored all my complaints, and I had to write to the CEO of the entire company before the charges were finally taken off my bill. Also, you mentioned the site Preditors and Editors: One day I had a person send me a query, and I answered it. Then, this person began asking all sorts of personal questions about my personal business – not about my small press, but about my personal business, so I told them as politely as I could that it wasn’t their business. That day, hits started coming to my press’s site from Preditors and Editors, and the man running it (who has lost a defamation case in the past, by the way, and is asking authors to help him pay his huge fine), had put my press on his site and said, “This publisher is shy and won’t give out information about their press. I’ve heard from many authors about them so far.” So, I knew the author who had written to me that day was a set-up, and two, at the time he had written this, I hadn’t been in business long enough to have angered all these “authors” he claimed he was hearing from. Preditors and Editors is run by a man who slanders others and tries to harm people’s reputation. As far as promoting Lightning Source and Preditors and Editors, I think you sound just a little new at this.

    Posted by Pamela | October 9, 2012, 12:22 am

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