The Gift of Small Press

Time of the Light

by Ed Davis on August 20, 2013

Not all writers will be published by the bigger commercial presses, say, Warner, Scribner or St. Martin’s—nor should all of them want to be. If authors published by the bigger houses don’t distinguish themselves quickly (get an Oprah endorsement or review in The New York Times), their books will have the shelf life that magazines once did—and they may never be published again.

Of course poetry’s different; lacking great sales expectations, we poets find much more hospitality among Small Presses—independent, feisty, living-on-a-shoestring, low-staffed operations whose editors publish writers they believe in for little, if any, compensation. The Smalls are the ones that, much more often than the Bigs, take the risks—and, with the help of the writers they support—deserve their meager reward, which often is the pleasure of birthing books they admire. So I’m indebted to Main Street Rag Press (MSRP) for having the faith to release my first full-length poetry collection, Time of the Light, in November of 2013.

The Perfect Publisher: Choosing, Being Chosen

From a writer’s as well as a consumer’s standpoint, Small Press is the way to go for personalized, unpretentious, conscientious quality. Back a few blogs ago, when I talked about finding the perfect publisher for my recent novel, I enumerated several criteria—longevity of the press, ability to distribute, moderate to low pricing, credentials of staff and track record—all of which I stand by.

After “hanging out” with MSRP for several years, buying books, submitting and occasionally publishing in their anthologies and magazine, I knew this publisher was right for me. Thus, when the announcement came this year for their annual poetry contest, I used the deadline to glean the best from my 35 years of poetic output and assemble the collection I’d been putting off for years. While I didn’t win, I caught the eye and ear of editor/publisher Scott Douglas, who decided to take a chance on me.

The Right Fit

Given the criteria above, MSRP seems perfect for me. I don’t know exactly how long the press has been around, but it maintains a vast catalog of published authors on a well-maintained website that is currently going through a major upgrade. After being published in their fiction anthologies Dots on a Map and Aftermath, I know I’m in the company of extremely well-published, credentialed and interesting writers. Furthermore, Douglass (who, along with guest editors and interns, is MSRP) not only has publishing but marketing resources in place—resources that depend on the writer to make the most of them. And he’s not only a canny businessman, perhaps an anomaly in the Small-Press world, but a poet as well—and a fine photographer: it’s his wonderful photo you see above, one that will grace the cover of Time of the Light when it appears in November.

Finally, I’m convinced Scott Douglass knows how to connect writers with audiences—and produce a product everyone is pleased with but which doesn’t break anyone’s bank. My book’s cover price, $12 (with a $7 pre-publication sale price), seems quite reasonable for the handsome paperbacks MSRP produces (I’ve purchased several). A recent MSRP-published poet sold 500 copies of his book, amazing in these times when “nobody” reads, much less buys, poetry.

Gift that Keeps on Giving

I urge you to consider purchasing something, anything, from a Small Press—for you or for someone else. After reading Sharon Short’s Dayton Daily News column (August 18 2013) about Erin Flanagan’s new book, It’s Not Going to Kill You (University of Nebraska Press), I decided to buy it. She’s local, teaches creative writing at Wright State in Dayton, plus I read her first novel, The Usual Mistakes, and enjoyed it immensely. And if I like the new one, I’ll surely buy more copies.

Small-press books make wonderful, unique gifts. And, if a Small Press book is purchased for a friend, the author benefits by expanding her audience; the publisher recoups some of his investment and may eventually make a bit of a profit; the recipient gets a lovingly crafted product of the imagination; and of course the gifter feels great for providing someone a terrific reading experience.

Matchmaking and One-Stop Shopping

Matching books with the right reader is one of my greatest pleasures. It may please you, too. Find an author you believe in—or one that sounds good, that you’re willing to take a chance on—and take the plunge. His or her work probably won’t be offered in a brick and mortar store—Barnes & Noble and others of its ilk stocks mainly best-sellers and classics—but doubtless you can order online. The best Small-Press publishers, like MSRP, will make it as easy as hugging your pillow.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Geoffrey Porter August 20, 2013 at 3:48 pm

My experience with publishers (and agents) has been very bleak. I’ve found a lot of them don’t even reply to queries. I’ve submitted to some publishers and had to wait a year for a form letter rejection. A small press may be the answer. The answer for me is fix all the typos first, then worry about publishing. As long as I’m finding 100s of errors in every book, there’s no way a publisher of any size/scope will consider my efforts noteworthy.

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