Question of the Week: What is the difference between small presses and large presses?

I feel like I’ve been given an essay prompt in high school – In five paragraphs compare and contrast small and large presses. Well, I shall compare them in less than five paragraphs.

The very first difference (and this will shock you) is size. From their staff to their lists to their offices to their budgets, everything at a big press is bigger. That is not to say that some small presses – Candlewick or Tricycle for example – are not large, but the big presses like Scholastic are gargantuan. They have large staffs to support your book. Even the small imprints at the large presses can still draw on the knowledge of the other imprints’ workers.

Small presses are by definition small. There might only be a single person in each department and departments might be combined. Budgets are smaller, and fewer books are produced. On the other hand, your editor at a small press might only have three books coming out that year. That’s a lot of personal attention from that editor. They may have a smaller advertising budget, but they only have six books to promote that year. It’s much harder for your book to get lost in the midlist at a small press.

Another difference is that it is easier to get published by a small press. I don’t mean that it is easier to get any one particular small press like Children’s Brains are Yummy Books to publish your book. However, it is easier to find a small press willing to acquire your book. It’s simply a numbers game. There are lots and lots (and lots) of small to mid-size presses. There are only a few large presses. Those large presses produce tons of books, but they also receive tons of submissions. Smaller presses receive the same number proportionately to the number of books they produce as a large press, but the actual number of submissions are fewer. And finally, small presses are more likely to look at unagented work.

So, ultimately you’re wondering who you should submit to – a large or a small press? The answer is simple. Both. Don’t limit yourself to one type of press or the other. There are advantages and disadvantages to both. And within the different categories, individual presses have their own strengths and weaknesses. The important thing is to find the press and the editor that’s right for you and your work. Don’t worry about the press’s size.

© Copyright 2006-2011 Madeline Smoot. All rights reserved.
May be excerpted and duplicated for educational purposes.
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