I've been visiting a lot of booksellers recently, and had an interesting discussion with one bookseller who said that she seldom got calls from the "reps" of some of the smaller presses. The larger publishers have reps that call or stop by every week, but many of the smaller presses either don't have reps, or their reps don't call very often. She said there is almost a "cutoff point," size-wise, below which she gets very little contact from reps for smaller presses. Because of this, she said, it's difficult to support the books from the smaller publishers. I was wondering what thoughts or experiences anyone has along these lines?

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My experience with a smaller publisher has been excellent. Having said that, the small publisher sold the rights to my books to a big publisher.

But I'm still very pleased to have started with the smaller publisher (and hope to continue with them in Canada for a long time). It's true, they don't have as many sales reps (they're distributed through the Independent Press Group), and I didn't get many reviews, but when it came to the content of the books, it was the publisher that most "got" what I was trying to do.

I didn't have an agent (my writing tends to be the kind that falls between a lot of cracks and isn't easily categorized so there wasn't much interest) and I got to deal directly with the publisher, who took a chance on some different stuff.

I suppose you have just as much chance getting agents and large publishers interested in different kinds of writing, it's all a crapshoot, after all, this was just my experience.

Smaller, independent publishers may be a slower start to a writing career, but if you think of it as a long term career, then it can often be a good start.
That's an interesting perspective, John! I think you're right--there are certainly many ways to "skin a cat" in terms of building a career--you can have a slow, steady build-up via the small publisher route, or a wider distribution from the get-go with a larger publisher. With a larger publisher, I'm sure there may also be a danger of being lost in a crowd of bigger names.
Probably the smaller the publisher, the more of a shoestring budget they're on. I understand that they try to rely more heavily on getting catalogs of their books into booksellers' hands, but that this isn't always effective, because booksellers get so many of them that they often don't look at all of them. It can be hard for small presses to get the attention of booksellers.


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