The Other March Madness
March is Small Press Month.
I could have just as well said March is Big Kahuna Month (it isn’t). Big as compared to what? The discerning reader will want to know. Does it celebrate wise men Kahunas (see dictionary.com) or ad men Kahunas (see imdb.com) ?
Does Small Press Month celebrate media or muscle?
The designation is a mini-media shout out for “press”, as in independent publishers, and “small” as in annual sales under $50 million - with fewer than ten titles published a year.
Let me put it this way: If the Big Publishing Houses were corporate banks, the small presses would be credit unions. More accessible. Friendlier. Geared towards a particular neighborhood.
A database on the Poets and Writers magazine website lists hundreds of small presses, alphabetically and by genre: poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction. I found a small publisher for my memoir on a list from the Writer magazine. Both of these sources are reliable, which begs a distinction that must be made between small presses and vanity presses.
The small press (like larger university presses) accepts quality manuscripts – and rejects substandard ones. Small presses also distribute their books and pay royalties. Vanity presses are virtually printers. They accept all manuscripts and sell the manuscript-turned-book, in volume, back to the writer. End of contract.
Writing magazines regularly feature articles like “Bigger Isn’t Always Better,” by Jeff Reich. He says the less-is-more perspective allows a small press to focus “on quality not quantity.” Big Name Publishers like Big Name Clients. They often opt for celebrity over craft – and hire a ghost writer for the celebs who can’t write.
Small presses give folk like you and me a chance to tell our stories. Case in point: Terrence McCarthy, a regular guy, writes a compelling memoir, You Had To Be There, about his career jumps from reporter to ad writer to counselor on a psychiatric ward. The manuscript won’t make it through the likes of Random House or Penguin Books - because Terrence isn’t well known enough. An independent press like Signalman Publishers in Kissammee, Florida offers Terrence the chance to put his story “out there” even though Terrence is not trending on Yahoo. Not yet anyway.Continued on the next page