Should You Query Small Presses?

We all start out wanting the million-dollar advance with a Big Six Publisher.



Is that really the best way to go?

Consider the small press when you’re researching your query-targets:

  • SMALLER SLUSH PILES-Everyone and his half-sister is sending the story that his nieces and nephews just LOVE to hear acted out with shadow puppets and armpit noises to the big publishers. Small publishers aren’t as well known, and won’t get nearly as many questionable manuscripts. They won’t get the volume of submissions that large publishers get, period. Your query will likely receive more consideration at a small house than a large one.


  • TARGETED AUDIENCES-If you’ve written a middle-grade historical fiction set in Texas, or a picture book about the Pacific Northwest seashore, a regional publisher will most likely be more interested in your story. They will have the sales outlets interested in your book.


  • THE GAMBLER-A small house has fewer guardians to please, fewer layers of people who have to approve an acquisition. They are much more likely to take a chance on a manuscript that they love, “just because”.


  • THE FEW THE PROUD-Small publishers obviously publish fewer books per year. Which means they usually have a personal relationship with each author. Many houses hire a publicity/marketing director who actually–take a breath–DOES something for each author. The truth is, unless you are considered a breakout author at a large house, you will not get any marketing budget. Or any of their time. They are stretched very thin at the big houses, poor things, but at a small house, more care can be taken for each author. In fact more care MUST be taken, as they cannot write off failures like the big houses can. A small house is very invested in each book’s success.


  • THE LONG HAUL-Lastly, if you are published at a small house, chances are your book will stay in print longer. So while you may not get that big advance, what you will get is a tidy little check every year. Do that a few times, and you create a career.

Small presses may not have the glitz, but there are many well-established houses that will stay with you for the long haul.


12 thoughts on “Should You Query Small Presses?

Add yours

  1. Thanks for posting. I have gone the smaller publishing house route and have had success. A large advance would be nice, but I love the houses that have published me and wouldn’t trade them at all.


  2. Absolutely on board with you. Been small press published since 2008 and don’t see myself jumping ship any time.

    And speaking of less attention being paid to small presses, I find it somewhat amusing that they never get discussed in the ongoing “feud” between traditional publishing and self-publishing. It’s always the Big Six vs. the self-publishers and not a whiff anywhere about small presses.


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