Small Press Publishers

Shell Game

Have you ever thought of publishing with a small, independent publisher?

I recently attended the Indiana Writers Consortium’s first writing conference a couple of weeks ago. If you’ve been following my blog, you know I LOVE writers conferences. I always learn something new. This time, I found myself speaking with Julie Demoff-Larson, editor of Blotterature Literary Magazine and she reminded me of something I had completely forgotten about: small press publishers.

According to the post,”The Pros and Cons of Publishing With a Small Publisher” (Writer’s Digest, April 23, 2014) by Robert Lee Brewer, a small press is a publisher “outside of New York’s ‘Big Five’ that can offer the support of the traditional publishing model on a smaller scale”. It’s a another publishing option along with self-publishing or going with a traditional publisher like Random House.

I must admit, I’ve never considered small presses. It’s not as if they are never represented. The annual Midwest Writers Workshop at Ball State University has featured independent publishers. But I’ve wrongly assumed that small presses don’t give novels the same amount of exposure through marketing like a big publisher would. But smaller presses might consider work that isn’t commercially viable. They’re more concerned about getting good literary work out there. They take chances on new writers, and, from what I understand, maintain a more hands-on approach with their authors. And most of the ones I’ve researched take unsolicited and unagented manuscripts.

My biggest fear about publishing is the marketing aspect. Unlike self-publishing, where marketing and the cost of production is borne by the author, small presses don’t leave their authors to their own devices when it comes to publishing. I’m learning that authors must do some amount of self-promotion to market their books, even if they are with a large publishing house. Small presses do the same thing, just on a smaller scale.

So why not try a small press? Poets and Writers has an online database of small presses that is easy to navigate and search for what fits your needs. I’d still have to go through the same submission process of submitting a query and/or synopsis of the manuscript. There’s no guarantee of acceptance just because they’re small. But it’s nice to know that there are more options aside from praying I can impress an agent in a two-minute pitch or paying out several thousands of dollars to publish the book myself.

Above photo, Shell Game, by Martin Kenny courtesy of Flickr


About Michelle McGill-Vargas

Michelle hails from Gary, Indiana where she enjoys writing historical fiction, flash fiction, and short stories. Her writings have appeared in "Lutheran Witness", "Splickety Magazine", "The Copperfield Review", and "Typehouse Literary Magazine." She served as vice-president of the Indiana Writers' Consortium. Until the day her historical fiction manuscripts get published, she pays the bills as a special education administrator with a background in deaf education. In October 2018, she will be a contributor to Concordia Publishing House's quarterly devotional series "Portals of Prayer." Visit her blog at
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3 Responses to Small Press Publishers

  1. krystal jane says:

    I’ve been researching some smaller presses. This summer I went to a conference that featured a large number of people published with smaller presses. Some are better than others, of course. Reading through the books and checking out the quality has been very helpful, and it also helped me out a lot just to talk to the authors about how they feel about their publishers.

  2. Hi Michelle, thank you for writing such an interesting post. I find it quite helpful and might be of interest to my readers, do you mind if I introduce it on my site? I’ll give you the credit, of course!
    Look forward to reading your next!
    Feel free to check out my writing about publishing:

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