Thursday, March 24, 2011

Big House, Little House - Which is Right For YOU?



I think it's safe to say that most aspiring authors have lofty dreams of landing their first contract with a major publishing house. I did. I used to watch announcements of other writers getting contracted with Zondervan, Thomas Nelson, Bethany House...it was easy to begrudge them their happiness and wonder what I was doing wrong - remember I talked about that bad attitude I used to have?
As time went on and it became clear that for whatever reason, those houses just weren't for me, I began to consider other options. No, self-publishing was not one of them. If you're curious as to why that is, my very brief explanation is this - I've worked too long and hard at this game to take the easy way out. And that's all I'll say about that today. Yes, I have strong opinions on it, but that's not what this post is about.

Back in the day, if you wanted to be a published author, you really had few options as to which publisher to direct your attentions toward. The big guys like Zondervan have been around forever, well, since 1931 anyway, and primarily started out publishing Bibles. Thomas Nelson has a fascinating history as well. I'm sure most large CBA houses do, as do a lot of the secular big guys like Penguin and Random House.

The advantage of being published by one of the leading houses out there are probably many. An advance being one of them I would imagine. You have a big name backing your work, and for a lot of people, that's important. I suppose they have the means to take care of a lot of your marketing tools for you, like give you a trailer etc...but what if you're the poor relation who keeps knocking on the door but the butler won't let you into the mansion?

You find an another place to call home.

Over the past few years, small publishing houses have been making their mark in the industry. As agent Chip MacGregor said in a blog post last year:

"A very strong trend is the growth of small presses, including those who only provide e-book versions of novels. Publishing is going through a huge transition, and with change comes new opportunity. Some new, smaller houses can be more nimble, and they are rushing to create books that are aimed at the new technology. Some of them will survive, some will no doubt see great success and become large corporations (that are perhaps no longer as nimble), and some won't make it through next month. At the same time, we're seeing large publishing houses make a commitment to the new technologies -- even if it may not be as quick or as complete as some writers would like. But the sprouting up of new companies is a good thing for writers."

I couldn't agree more. Let's take Yesterday's Tomorrow for example. Here's a book that I'd worked on until I didn't want to look at it anymore. I'd invested time, money and a lot of emotion into it. And still we could not find a publisher to take it. The big guys were not interested. I was a no-name and I wasn't presenting them with the 'right' material. My story wasn't one they could feel confident in taking to the bank. No hard feelings of course, but I began to wonder what would become of my poor book that nobody seemed to want.

As I worked on other projects, I watched small publishers crop up. I read their websites. I opened dialogue with their authors. I liked what I saw. They seemed to be paving a new road along the old highway of Christian Fiction Town. They weren't afraid to veer off the well-worn and sometimes altogether too boring route. They were also welcoming new writers with open arms. Please note, if you are considering a small publisher, do your homework. There are many out there, some are not good, some only publish e-books, and some are disguised as 'real' publishers but end up asking you to pay a percentage of printing costs. Not cool.

When OakTara responded favorably to Yesterday's Tomorrow, I had no doubt that this was exactly the road I wanted to go down. I have not been disappointed. Yes, perhaps I have to do a lot more work as far as marketing and getting the word out about my book that might have been the case had I been with a bigger publisher, but I have found my experience to be one of feeling a part of a team. I correspond with other OakTara authors. I feel I can approach my editor easily, and I'm always sure to hear from her quickly. I'm thrilled with my book and cover, and of course now that it's out there, the response it is getting.
Going with a small publishing house was definitely the right decision. For me.
When I think about it, it makes sense. I'll take a cabin on the lake in the woods over a condo in New York City any day.

So how about you? Big House or Little House? Where would you like to hang your hat?

5 comments:

Tammy Doherty said...

I live in a cottage-type house. I love the coziness, even though sometimes I bemoan the lack of space (mostly for storage!).

When I think about my "dream" publisher, that feeling of cozy, closeness comes up again. Of course, I'd be thrilled if Thomas Nelson or one of the other "biggies" decided to give me a contract! But I really like the idea of a smaller publishing house. One that can be more intimate.

I went the route of self-publishing with my first 3 novels. It wasn't a matter of taking the easy route, but that's a discussion for somewhere else! What I have learned from the experience is, as they say, priceless. I had no marketing skills. Still am not a wiz kid at it. But through selling my own novels, I've learned a great deal about marketing and opportunities. I'd love to be out there promoting my novel while at the same time growing my publisher's public presence.

Best wishes for you, Cathy. Yesterday's Tomorrow sounds intriguing.

Blessings,
Tammy

Katie Ganshert said...

This is a GREAT post Cathy! Very interesting.

There are advantages and disadvantages to both routes - just as with self-publishing.

I signed with Waterbrook Multnomah - a division of Random House, which is definitely a big house. I'm just starting this particular journey - but so far it's been good. I'm talking with my editor for the first time this Friday and trying VERY hard not to feel too nervous about it.

It's been fun watching your journey unfold - Yesterday's Tomorrow really came FAST once you signed that contract! I'm not even in labor yet. :)

P.S. I'm ready for your guest post any time that you are. Just send it my way whenever you finish.

Laura Josephsen said...

Thanks for the post! It was very thoughtful. I've had such peace about working with OakTara since the beginning--it's been amazing to watch them grow since I signed with them in 2008, and I'm excited to see how they continue to grow in the coming years. I know that God has put me exactly where I've needed to be, when I've needed to be there.

It's been really exciting watching your progress with OakTara, too!

Author Jennifer Hudson Taylor said...

Actually, even the BIG publishers are leaving some of the new-midlist authors out of all the marketing ops. They reserve that investment on the ones already making the larger sales--like 20,000+ per book. They provide the covers, put them on their lists and present them in the line up, but they don't get any special attention. I'm convinced the marketing piece is really going to fall on the author's shoulders as the norm from now on.

Melisse said...

We live in a small house but lack of space for more new things is a problem. We think house remodeling Los Angeles is a good idea.