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Question: What unique thing does the small press offer readers (as in they cannot get this from mainstream publishers or anywhere else) and has it ever been marketed that way?

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ninebelow
Aug. 26th, 2005 10:17 am (UTC)
I don't think it does offer anything unique, does it? It simply provides more of what is only available in small doses from mainstream publishers.
benpeek
Aug. 26th, 2005 10:23 am (UTC)
well, my only thought was that it offers text that doesn't come from a big publishing company--as in it's outside the machine, you know?

but the real reason i'm curious is, some time today, i began thinking about if i'd ever heard anyone in the small press say, 'this ----- will really appeal to the readers.'
ninebelow
Aug. 26th, 2005 10:50 am (UTC)
well, my only thought was that it offers text that doesn't come from a big publishing company--as in it's outside the machine, you know?

Small press as ethical company? I'm not sure how much of a marketable feature that is for a product such as books/magazines.

I didn't follow the second bit, sorry.
benpeek
Aug. 26th, 2005 10:56 am (UTC)
>Small press as ethical company? I'm not sure how much of a marketable feature that is for a product such as books/magazines.

well, no, not in speculative fiction. i don't see it either. which is why i was wondering how other people thought the small press brought.

>I didn't follow the second bit, sorry.

well, what i meant was more along the lines of when someone starts a company, one of the motivations can be, 'i'm going to provide this service because a) i can make money out of it and b) because there's currently a need in the community for it that is not being serviced.' earlier i was just thinking if i'd ever heard anyone in the small press say the equivalent of that, except for community, replace readership. and which, i realise now, i had. but that anthology never came out.
ratmmjess
Aug. 26th, 2005 01:05 pm (UTC)
"well, what i meant was more along the lines of when someone starts a company, one of the motivations can be, 'i'm going to provide this service because a) i can make money out of it and b) because there's currently a need in the community for it that is not being serviced.' earlier i was just thinking if i'd ever heard anyone in the small press say the equivalent of that, except for community, replace readership. and which, i realise now, i had. but that anthology never came out."

My publisher, Chris Roberson, said pretty much that. Once Bowling Green Popular Press went under, nobody was publishing non-fiction genre studies with any regularity, so Chris started MonkeyBrain Books to fill the gap.
eugie
Aug. 26th, 2005 11:58 am (UTC)
Hmm. That's a good question. I'm inclined to say that the small press offers a different editorial vision than the big publishers have. I mean, GVG, Stanley Schmidt, and Ellen Datlow have something of a set taste for fiction. It's often an eclectic and indefinable preference (obviously, since if I could quantize it, I'd be selling stories to them hand-over-fist), but it's their editorial taste which sets the tone for the big press 'zines. Small presses provide an alternative. This, of course, assumes small press editors have a consistent, clear, and unmistakable vision (and that they're able to publish stories which meet them), but that's why some small presses have better reputations among readers than others, isn't it?
benpeek
Aug. 26th, 2005 12:37 pm (UTC)
yeah, i imagine it is.

what i found interesting, however, in this is that when the collections of the authors who appear in the datow, gelder, etc. mags come out, they're from small press places, too. the more up market, distributed kind, sure, but still small press. perhaps what the small press offers is a more varied collection of short fiction? but that's hardly unique--if you were to add all the short fiction in the mainstream up, across genres, it'd be pretty varied.

no real point to that last paragraph, i guess. just rambling aloud :)
buymeaclue
Aug. 26th, 2005 01:00 pm (UTC)
>what i found interesting, however, in this is that when the collections of the authors who appear in the datow, gelder, etc. mags come out, they're from small press places, too.

Small press as things that (some of the) editors like, but don't buy themselves?

(I don't know what that 'thing' might be, though, or even if I'm 100% convinced that it is at all.)
benpeek
Aug. 26th, 2005 01:05 pm (UTC)
not something that's really there for the reader, though, is it?
buymeaclue
Aug. 26th, 2005 01:10 pm (UTC)
Depends on the reader, I'd say.
(Deleted comment)
oldcharliebrown
Aug. 26th, 2005 02:28 pm (UTC)
I'm not entirely sure this is true, particularly in the last five to ten years, as larger publishing companies are simply kicking back and cherry-picking the successes of the small press. So it's not necessarily an alternative as much as a breeding ground . . .

It largely depends on your definitions, though, as I know "small" presses selling two to five thousand copies of novels or collections in hardcover, which is quite good (in some cases more than what a regular publisher could do) . . . Golden Gryphon (3000), Small Beer Press (5000), Night Shade, (1500 to 8000), and many others.

It still is surprising that a lot of people don't seem to realise that some of the small press is quite comparable. It has not really anything to do with "publishable" or "appealing" as much as the love and care that most small companies bring to the field. You don't get that at bigger companies, necessarily.

benpeek
Aug. 27th, 2005 02:44 am (UTC)
i do think jeff's right in using the term independent more than small. especially in relation to golden gryphon, night shade, etc. it's hard to look at the scene here in australia and see that independent vibe, except in bill congreve's new plans for mirrordanse.
oldcharliebrown
Aug. 27th, 2005 02:47 am (UTC)
I agree, though the term, "small press," is pretty much ingrained, for myself. I've tried to adopt "independent" but it doesn't really stick.
benpeek
Aug. 27th, 2005 02:56 am (UTC)
i think i'm going to have problems with it locally. the publishers that i consider independent are people like wakefield and text publishing. they've distribution, for starters, which a lot of the small press like agog and genre magazines don't have.
(Anonymous)
Aug. 26th, 2005 02:04 pm (UTC)
Indie Press
First off, I think that we all ought to call "small press" "indie" or "independent" press instead. "Small" is a more relative term, and if you look at the numbers there are several small presses that sell as many books or almost as many as large, commercial publishers.

Second, there are a plethora of reasons why people start indie presses. Many of them actually want to compete with the commercial presses, which is, to my mind, the least impressive reason to start an indie press.

The best reason to start an indie press, to my mind, is because you see that there is a hole or gap in what is being published. The Ministry of Whimsy was founded on this principle. It's why we actively sought out books like Stepan Chapman's Troika, which had been rejected by over 200 publishers, large and small (which then won the PKD Award). We decided we would focus on the surreal/absurdist edge of the fantastical, where a significant number of authors were under-published.

We were also never about profit. Realizing first of all that the chances of financial success were small and secondly that even if we made some money it wouldn't be enough to live on, our idea was simply to break even on each book. We got financial investors for each book to reduce our personal risk. And we were happy if, after paying the author, paying back in the investor, etc., we had enough for printing costs for the next book. The idea was simply that it was more important to find readers for certain authors and certain books than to make a dime. So we were never businessmen.

On the other hand, Small Beer does a nice job of publishing weird stuff and making a profit. At the same time, they started up at a time when the climate for such fiction was more friendly from a sales point of view.

I don't know if this adds to this discussion or not. But in my opinion indie presses should be started to fill gaps in the marketplace--i.e., get deserving under-published authors out in front of readers--and to push literary ideologies that are likewise under-represented.

JeffV
benpeek
Aug. 27th, 2005 02:54 am (UTC)
Re: Indie Press
hey, jeff, thanks for that.

i definately think you're right with the independent label. the word fits the climate a lot more, especially in the states where you have larger independent publishers. in australia, i'm not so sure--the starting point of the discussion came out of me thinking about how the local scene here can get more readers, and if, indeed, the small presses are providing anything for them.

(i'll keep using the term for small press for the genre specific presses like CSFG and AGOG! and magazines like borderlands and others, because there are publishers like wakefield and text in australia that fit the more independent feel.)

sometimes, at least for me, i get the feel that the small press isn't about providing readers anything that they can't get elsewhere. it's simply about keeping the breeding ground for authors alive, giving them a place to work out their styles, crap, all of that. which is a quite admirable thing and i certainly gained from it. but if the goal of the small press is primarily to support authors, then is it surprising that it keeps itself alive through authors and a tiny non-author audience?

i've no idea. but i was just thinking about it. the points raised by everyone here were food for thoughtfulness, though.
oldcharliebrown
Aug. 27th, 2005 01:52 pm (UTC)
Re: Indie Press
In what way is the Australian small press failing to deliver material to readers?
benpeek
Aug. 27th, 2005 02:19 pm (UTC)
Re: Indie Press
i don't know. it might not be.

but my feel (and the general feel) is that it isn't reaching new readers. it's a small circle and most of it is kept alive by authors and so forth, rather than readers. this can be because of a lot of reasons--restricted budget, limited promotions, and all that stuff that is connected to a backyard kind of business. but maybe it's also worth asking the question of if the small press here is actually publishing things people want to read?

in the end, though, i'm not sure. i know i'm kicking round ideas of reaching outside the audience, for obvious reasons, but also cause i believe there's a strong audience that just needs to be shown it.
oldcharliebrown
Aug. 27th, 2005 03:13 pm (UTC)
Re: Indie Press
The only reason it wouldn't be reaching new readers (presumably Australian) is lack of marketing (and distribution), I'd imagine. But the opportunities to actually get reviewed in Australia is far and few between, actually. Overcoming distribution channel issues is tough enough, but how does one push sales with reviews, when there aren't too many local equivalents of Publishers Weekly or Booklist?

So, the question is, even if the local Australian publishing scene was publishing what readers want, how would they get the word out?
benpeek
Aug. 28th, 2005 03:53 am (UTC)
Re: Indie Press
you're right that there aren't muchint he way of review sites. newspapers here don't offer much room, and they're usually for big name books with inbuilt readerships. if you're lucky, you might be able to land an article in the Herald's art section, which i imagine helps sells.

it's got to be a bit more lateral, i think. i'm thinking university campus papers as one place worth a try, maybe luck out on some radio stations. i remember birmingham's WEAPONS OF CHOICE novel was plugged through one of the major radio stations here.
oldcharliebrown
Aug. 28th, 2005 03:25 pm (UTC)
Re: Indie Press
In my experience, when it comes to driving sales, anything short of an industry venue won't do much, here in the States, for the independent press. I'd imagine the same is true in Australia. The focus would have to be some sort of review print magazine that libraries pay attention to. You might want to drop in on your local branch and ask the purchasing librarian what they pay attention to. I've done this before, particularly in foreign markets . . .
benpeek
Aug. 29th, 2005 01:20 am (UTC)
Re: Indie Press
that's a good idea. i'll check it out.
oldcharliebrown
Aug. 27th, 2005 03:17 pm (UTC)
Re: Indie Press
*pouring gasoline on myself and passing out matches to all concerned parties* and I'm now going to say something else . . . with few exceptions I've not been very impressed with the packaging of genre books or magazines, from Australia. If you want the general audience / readership to take notice of new authors or new projects I don't think saddling yourself with bad art or design is going to get you awfully far . . .
benpeek
Aug. 28th, 2005 03:55 am (UTC)
Re: Indie Press
heh. i don't think you have to worry about the burning here. most of the scene is currently busy over at deb's blog. but you are right--a lot of the stuff doesn't look nice, or even like a book. i've no idea why books haven't been made in the shape of paper backs or trades, however.
coppervale
Aug. 26th, 2005 04:43 pm (UTC)
Well, Jeff (hi Jeff) came in and said a lot of what I wanted to. One thing I guess I might add is with regards to quality. A lot of the large publishers are re-publishing books brought out earlier by independent companies (I'm thinking primarily of Viking republishing Vess illustrated Charles DeLint).

I have two hardcover editions of Orson Scott Card's FIRST MEETINGS. Subterranean did a nice two-color edition, then the next year, Tor added a story and illustrations, and put it out in hardcover again. But despite the additions, the Subterranean edition is by far the more attractive.

When we did Argosy #2, we got Greg Manchess' art for the cover - but the piece we wanted was too wide. We tried doing all sorts of visual tricks, but in the end, we bit the bullet and added a gatefold to the cover.

Greg was ecstatic. He said "any other art director would have just cropped it." But we made the long-range call of aesthetic quality over the immediate cost savings.

The other example that comes to mind is Jeff's LAMSHEAD book. Selloing well in the 'mainstream', but would a bigger company have done ALL those signatures that they put in the limited? I doubt it.

James
benpeek
Aug. 27th, 2005 03:00 am (UTC)
i must admit that the conversation about the quality of the object for ARGOSY 3 was what tipped me into getting it. and i think, overall, that it's one of the things i do enjoy of the independent press.
ex_benpayne119
Aug. 27th, 2005 01:27 am (UTC)
I think one of the things small press offers is that what it publishes isn't driven by commercial imperatives, often...

Mass market press is limited because it's concerned not only with what's profitable, but furthermore what's *most* profitable: that is, sometimes a book or genre won't be published, not because it won't make a profit, but because it won't make a *large enough* profit...

What that means is that there are genres/authors etc out there that could sell, but are being squeezed out by the logic of economic rationalism, which dictates that tastes should be streamlined and that individualism should be culled or homogenised into whatever demonstrates the greatest ability to make rich people more rich....

The small press recognises that the interests of publishing houses don't necessarily equate with the interests of every reader, and that there might be readers whose taste is not catered to by the increasingly narrow options offered by the mass market; that some readers are interested in reading material which is interesting, challenging, or simply different, and that these readers are worthy of attention even if they don't fit into the one-size-fits-all audience demographic of big business...

Also, as Sean notes, major publishers, like commercial radio, are always gonna be six months at least behind what's actually happening and if they don't have a guide tow what's ahead they would be lost:)

benpeek
Aug. 27th, 2005 03:05 am (UTC)
well, i just want to take another moment to offer my support for the new ideas behind POTATO MONKEY. i'm always looking for venues that offer me the ability to push a bit of a boundary.

i don't think the small/independent presses should be about money. certainly it's not how i would run one, should ihave the money to go even close to financing something (which is one of my longer term projects, i must admit). but locally... well, when we're trying to reach a larger audience, i was just curious what people would say to it.
gillpolack
Aug. 28th, 2005 11:00 am (UTC)
Small Press offers diversity. This is not so much in relation to bigger presses - it is also internal. I find it very hard to generalise apart from this.

One small press operates purely as a money-making venture and sets out to be a corporation in the long term, another focusses on readers (Trivium Publishing, for instance, was established by people who saw a range of good writing in danger of not reaching readers as the midlist got furiously chopped), another focusses on development and oppotunity for writers (CSFG, for instance), and yet another focusses on personal dreams. Maybe they all focus on personal dreams and thsoe dreams are as varied as the people who do the dreaming.

Look at each smallpress and you see there is no bluepint. Having worked with three small presses I find there is no operational blueprint either. They are very marked by their specific solutions for the problems attached to the specific venture that they are undertaking.
benpeek
Aug. 28th, 2005 12:04 pm (UTC)
>Small Press offers diversity.<

i sometimes wonder about that. it offers more genre specific diversity, i'm sure, but as to diversity as a whole... i don't think so. a mainstream publisher has a wide range of authors and genres that it publishes, all of which is probably more diverse than anything in the small press, and reaches a more diverse audience. that it brings out the diversity within the genre and allows for less commercial work to find a outlet, yes, sure, totally. but from indie publisher to indie publisher, the range is usually narrow within.

as to the blueprint, it's a good point. but then maybe some small presses would benefit from an operational blueprint?

(or not, just tossing questions round)
gillpolack
Aug. 29th, 2005 02:09 am (UTC)
I think it does - but because most small presses have small print runs and little PR money, we tend to hear about presses that do things that we like or publish people we know or are linked into the groups we mix with. When I map the small presses I know about they either have an historical or a speculative fiction leaning, and within those tendencies cover a vast range. Some are very daring and publish really exciting work. Some do reprints. Some keep authors alive for readers or keep market niches alive.
I rather liked the term "boutique publishing" when "small press" anoyed me, but now I can't be bothered worrying about terms - I am more worried about finding out about imprints that are intersted in my type of writing.
mtfay
Aug. 29th, 2005 02:08 pm (UTC)
Small presses often will print material that pushes the bounds of what is publically acceptable, material that the large publishers simply will not touch because it is too controversial but not controversial enough (if I you can parse what I mean from that). Dalkey Archive Press has published material like that. Delaney's near obscene "Dogs," for instance (though it's out of print now).
They also publish a lot of work that won't sell enough copies to generate the interest of major publishers: small scholarly books, ethnic fiction (which usually sells in waves and can't be considered a steady source of income), and (regretably,) often, the work of authors at universities that can't generate major publisher interest, but they are published by the university small presses as a part of their compensation.
benpeek
Aug. 30th, 2005 11:07 am (UTC)
yep. all good points. thanks for stopping by.
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