The Sexy, Sexy Indy Press–Part II

Troy Cook, here, filling in for Simon one last time. He should be back next week.

Last week I mentioned how the sexy, sexy Indy Press could work for a lot of authors. That they can be a dynamic place to launch new authors with unique voices. Because I spoke out in favor of it, I feel it’s necessary to talk about both the good and the bad side of small presses. I don’t want to mislead you—it’s not an easy road. But I still think it’s worthwhile.

I was fortunate enough to have multiple offers for publication from small presses. I got offers from a POD (print on demand) press, from one that paid very small royalties, and from one that did a regular offset print run (which means that they print thousands of copies right from the start). None of them paid a large advance so chuck that notion right out the window.

All of them seemed like they could work, but with different pitfalls for each one. A real danger of dealing with small presses is that they often have very little capital to work with, which often leads to them going out of business. In fact, one of the presses that offered me publication went under around the time my book would have been released by them. Wow, would that have sucked!

The POD press had been in business for a few years and published lots of books. But the reason I didn’t go POD is because it’s very difficult to get your books into stores. It’s hard enough for any small press, but it’s extra hard for POD. This is because they print them one at a time so they usually have to charge more for each book and they’re often not returnable, which is a standard in the industry. I’m not saying it’s impossible to launch a career with POD, but you need to know that it’s going to be a much tougher slog. BTW, the POD is the one that went out of business, in case you were wondering.

The next press paid very small royalties, but would use regular offset print runs. That meant they had a better chance of getting it into stores. Because of both my film and business background, I had already decided to spend a chunk of change on promotion. You know the axiom: You’ve got to spend money to make money. Because the royalty at this press was so small, it would be nearly impossible to make money and I would be more likely to lose a lot of money because of my promotional efforts. A little backward, by my way of thinking. Still, if that’s what it took to launch a career, I would consider it.

But the last press paid larger royalties and also used offset print runs. The scary part about them was that they were new, without a good track record to judge them. But the part about them that I liked was that they had a national distributor. When I was directing films, one of the key elements to success was having good distribution for your movie. I believe it is the same process here. If you go with a small press, try to choose one that has a good distributor with a national sales force. This means that your book will likely be carried in quite a few more stores than without the sales force. So any promotional efforts you do have a better chance of working, and of bringing an eventual profit.

And for me it paid off, my book sold out its first print run in a matter of months and brought even more attention than I had thought possible.

So there are definitely pitfalls to avoid, but I think it can still work out with a sexy, sexy Indy Press.

But this is just one man’s story. What do you think?

Troy Cook
Award-winning author of
47 Rules of Highly Effective Bank Robbers
A “Killer Pick” by the Independent Mystery Booksellers Assn.
“A literary jewel. Don’t miss it.” – Library Journal

17 thoughts on “The Sexy, Sexy Indy Press–Part II

  1. Naomi


    Your publisher, Capital Crime Press, seems to be choosing some great authors. Sheila Lowe’s book recently scored a starred review in Publishers Weekly. Add you, your dad, Robert Fate, and the rest–and they have a strong lineup.

    Another new small press that I think is doing interesting things is Busted Flush Press.

  2. Troy Cook

    Thanks, Mike.

    Naomi, thanks for the feedback. I like the lineup as well, but of course I’m biased as I’m one of them. .

    Sheila Lowe also will be published by Penguin/NAL for the mass market version of her book and Robert Fate just got a starred Library Journal review. Pretty cool for a small press.

    I’ve very familiar with Hard Case but I’m only slightly familiar with Busted Flush. Who do they publish? I’ll have to check out a couple of their authors.

    Also, in case I didn’t make it clear in my post, if someone is choosing a small press they want to make sure that the press takes returns and doesn’t charge too much for the books.


  3. Naomi

    Busted Flush does more anthologies, reprints, and limited editions. Elaine’s new publisher, Perservance Press, produces some good books as well. And we can’t forget Poisoned Pen in Phoenix!

  4. Louise Ure

    Troy, your first book was so well done that it would have found a happy home no matter which publisher you selected. (But the going-out-of-business just before the launch? Ouch.)

    Thanks for the primer on the sexy indies.

  5. Naomi

    Akashic Books and Soho Press. I don’t think of them as small because they are so well established, but they are certainly independent.

    Okay, I’ll stop procrastinating and go into my hovel and write now.

  6. Pari Noskin Taichert

    Great post, Troy.

    Come back and guest blog here anytime!

    I think Naomi made a good comment about small vs. independent. For example, I don’t think of Poisoned Pen as “small.” That press publishes an astounding amount of mysteries.

    My publisher isn’t “small” either. The University of New Mexico Press puts out more than 150 new titles annually. So . . .

    Your advice is excellent, Troy. And, I think people absolutely can make their careers this way.

    However, I believe it’s important to really inform yourself. New writers, especially, fall into the Sally-Field-at-the-Oscars mindset too easily. “They love me. They really love me!” And they don’t think through the consquences of their potential choices.

    You did.

    I’d urge every writer to do the same — to look long.

  7. Elaine Flinn

    I loved Pari’s ‘Sally Field’ comment. But so true – if you’re contemplating a small press – wash out the stars in yours eyes and do a thorough check. Besides knowing Meredith Phillips personally for some time – and her unerring eye and integrity – I knew both she and Perseverance Press have had a sterling reputation with librarians and booksellers for years…so deciding to go with them wasn’t a brain drain on my end.

    The journey with them for the new book in my series out this Sept (a little BSP here!)was painless, fun-filled and unbelievably smooth.

  8. JT Ellison

    Hi Troy!Late again — had a long day dodging storms. This is such an interesting topic, and I’m glad you’ve delineated the differences between small, indepedent and POD. No matter what choice you make, as long as you understand what you’re getting into, you’ll be fine.Thanks for helping with the homework!Best,JT

  9. David J. Montgomery

    I’m probably going to leave someone out, so my apologies in advance, but the small/indy presses that I’ve seen good stuff from over the past few years are:

    Bleak House, Intrigue Press, Five Star, Poisoned Pen, Soho, Perseverance, Akashic

    (I’m not including Bloomsbury, Walker, Carroll & Graf, CDS, Kensington or Dorchester, but if you want to count them, they’re fine.)

    Capital Crime seems to be off to a good start as well.

    All of them have clear drawbacks when it comes to distribution, but at least they’re in a position to put some muscle behind the work.

    I won’t mention the ones that I’ve had a bad experience with, but it sure can be frustrating dealing with some of these outfits.

    (For the record, there are various imprints of the major publishers that I have a less-than-favorable opinion of as well.)

    Tony says it so well: do your research, be selective, and make damn sure you know what you’re getting into.


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