*****This blog is an opinion piece. All opinions are my own*****
This post has been sitting in my drafts for awhile. However, a Tweet asking patrons to #buyonebook spurred me to finish it. I want to pass along my thoughts on the differences between large and small publishing houses. As well as to pass along my love of independent small publishing houses to another reader. I recently saw a quote by the amazing Haruki Murakami “If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.” Please do not get me wrong I have a love for all publishers but this one tweet made me truly sad. Both large and small publishers have their place on the field but they aren’t playing the same game.
First, I’ll start with what I see on #bookstagram. I see a lot of YA fantasy and a lot of contemporary fiction. This makes me super happy as it means that people are reading, which for me is the most important thing—I don’t care what you read as long as you are reading. If that means you are reading an online magazine freaking awesome, if you read lifestyle blogs go forth and read. You are a reader…you are reading. That said, I have also noticed that amazing books aren’t getting the same #bookstagram love as either they aren’t in the genres I mentioned above or they aren’t as well known, or from as well known authors or publishers (this I credit one of my Instagram buddies for pointing out). I usually post a picture a day of what I am reading or have bought. I have quite a few followers, but the pictures that have always done the best are—big surprise!—the YA fantasy books. Two of my favorite reads which are neither YA fantasy or contemporary fiction, this year did not do as well. I thought this was an interesting trend, so I did a bit more investigating on Instagram I did a search for the author #cassandraclare, which returned 580K posts, and then searched for the author #kristylogan, which gave me only 794. I picked the author Kristy Logan because she is published by Salt Publishing, a small press based in the UK. So I started thinking as I was driving—yes, I do this a lot!—what the difference really was between the books and the photos. Both were well-written, excellent stories. The biggest difference was the size of the publishing house.
I am a loud and proud supporter of small presses. I love the quirky and unique books they publish, and that they give authors that may not have a voice at larger publishing houses a chance to share their work with the world. From short story collections to novels, I find that these unique small press books speak to me in a very cerebral way. They make me think. They have unforgettable characters, like Peril Sloot from Peril in the Old Country by Sam Hooker (published by Black Spot Books, June 5th 2018). All people should read about Sloot and his adventures or be enthralled by the heartfelt emotion that Jane Rosenberg LaForge writes with in The Hawkman (published by Amberjack publishing, June 5th 2018). I love how strong the stories and author’s voices are in small publishing houses, and how engaged the press is in the individual successes of each book. Authors seem to have more freedom (I could be wrong) than at larger publishing houses.
However, of course the large publishing houses have a place. I can’t tell you how many times a friend “will say Book X (published by a large publishing house) has got me back into reading” and “the sequels to said book have kept me reading.” My little bookish heart grows a thousand times when I hear that, or when I see photos of beautiful covers all over Instagram. These books have been able to reach a wide variety of readers and I love that. I love reading the Instagram posts and seeing why the Instagrammer picked that book for their #bookstagram post of the day. Many give similar stories of how such and such book got them back into reading or they weren’t a reader until they read said book or series. I think that completely has a space in the publishing industry, and is very valuable.
Small and large publishers do not even play the same game. Here is where I see the largest difference between publishers. The first is their marketing budgets—these small houses don’t have double-digit thousand dollar budgets to flood the market with their content. There is a small handful of booktubers I watch. The one I watch the most regularly talks with such love and passion for the books that Salt Publishing publishes that I started buying her recommendations and haven’t been disappointed, but if I hadn’t happened upon a video of hers talking about The Rental Heart and other Fairytales by Kirsty Logan would I have even known about Salt or this wonderful book? The answer is likely no. The third book that I ever reviewed was The Hawkman by Jane Rosenberg LaForge, which I have seen mentioned less than a handful of times on #bookstagram. When I see a tweet come through my Twitter for this wonderful author and book I always make sure to retweet it and add my enthusiasm. But where are the book tubers and the larger #bookstagram accounts? There certainly are #bookstagram accounts with 10k and more followers, but it seems that they are really partnered with the larger publishers. Where’s the love for the small presses?
The second difference I see is that smaller publishers are a bit more niche, whereas larger publishers are geared for mass market. I am generalizing here and going off of my own reading experiences. Take, for instance, The Book Collector by Alice Thompson, published by Salt in the UK. This is a fantastic book. The Hawkman by Jane Rosenberg LaForge, published by Amberjack Publishing, again an amazing book. Or the mind bending Bury the Lead by Cassondra Windwalker, published by Black Spot Books. These are targeted for a specific reader in my view—one who is likely to dig for books that aren’t necessarily located in Target or the aisle caps at Barnes and Noble (although some certainly are). This is not a jab, but rather an observation that I have had being a part of the book community. Here is the rub: these incredible books aren’t necessarily going to be right there in front of the average purchaser.
I guess my ending point here is that there is room in the publishing industry for both large and small publishing houses. My greatest fear is that the smaller publishing industry will be pushed out of the market by the larger marketing budgets of the big publishing houses. That would be to the detriment of readers around the world. If you read and agree please make sure to support small publishing houses. It doesn’t necessarily have to be the three that I mentioned there are plenty of others like Word Horde and Crystal Lake Publishing. Lets make sure that small publishing houses don’t go the way of the silver rhinoceros.