When Size Matters

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

         Sometimes bigger is better. A bigger paycheck. A larger brownie (which results in a bigger butt, which is not a good thing). A bigger spot to parallel park into.

And sometimes smaller is better. A smaller waist (for me, that train left the station decades ago). A gift in a tiny box from your SO at Christmas. A smaller credit card bill.

Sometimes, as writers, we dream of running with the big dogs. Signing with a big publisher. Getting a big advance. Getting big, splashy promotion events set up.

I thought about this after I read Cathy C. Hall’s post. It came at the perfect time, because recently my manuscript was accepted by a small publisher. Margo Dill began her press not long ago. I think she’s published around 10 books so far. As far as I know, it’s just Margo. She doesn’t have a staff (although her daughter might do some reading of the kids’ books to give her official “thumbs-up” approval). Her business is small, and the way she does business is personal… which I love.

Here are some things that are happening with Margo that I think would be impossible if I had been accepted by a bigger publisher:

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  • Our contract--The publishing contract went through some changes. There were things I didn’t understand. She rewrote it to spell things out to me. After much thought, I decided I didn’t want to make any money from this book. Margo altered the contract to reflect that, and made arrangements to collect my proceeds until they amount to something… and then I’ll decide what Tulsa-based group will benefit from the book sales. I don’t think a bigger publisher would be as flexible or as accommodating as Margo has been.

  • My book cover--I knew a talented artist, and I hoped she would be able to create the cover. Margo was happy to let that happen. Of course, she would have to approve the cover, and she suggested some minor changes with the title (she was so right) and now the cover is real and it’s spectacular (if you’re a fanatical Seinfeld fan, you’re welcome). With a bigger publisher, most of the time they arrange for an artist, and it’s their choice. If a writer is lucky, they’ll have some input. Sometimes, they have none. The cover--the first thing a prospective reader sees--is out of the author’s hands.

  • Editing--A few nights ago, I got an email about the edits I’m going to have to make. Margo wasn’t quite ready--hadn’t finished yet--and wondered if the timeline was too tight for me. Would I be able to do the editing by the end of February? If she was asking too much, she said she could change the timeline to accommodate me. How thoughtful. I don’t imagine a bigger publisher would consider my needs and my responsibilities. I imagine with a big press, I’d be left with footprints on my back as they ran over me, hurrying to the next project.

Okay, to be completely honest, if my manuscript had been accepted by a big publisher and I had the chance to get a cushy advance and I was getting into the Stephen King stratosphere of success because of the contract, I would have loved it. However, I like being part of a small press. Margo doesn’t have dozens of authors to promote. I appreciate being one of the fish in her just-right pond…

How about you? What experiences have you had--with publishers, agents, writing conferences, critique groups? Were they big or small? What size is “just right” from your perspective?

Sioux Roslawski is a middle school teacher, a freelance writer, and in April she’ll have her middle-grade historical novel debut. Henry’s Story: Greenwood Gone is about the Tulsa Race Massacre. If you’d like to read more of Sioux’s writing, check out her blog.


Jeanine DeHoney said...

Sioux, Cathy's post resonated so much with me also, and yes, sometimes bigger in life and in the publishing world isn't always better. You and Margo seem as if you are the perfect fit as writer and publisher. She I'm sure, will make your publication journey, feel more like a labor of love than a stressful overwhelming one. Wishing both you and Margo's press, Editor-911, much success.

Cathy C. Hall said...

Oh, Sioux, it may not be the size of the press but the management behind it that makes the difference.

Publishers of small presses often have a bit more leeway but even small presses have a bottom financial line; it sounds as if Margo's business model is more personal and that allows her more financial freedom, not to mention putting her client first. I'll never forget my editor sending me an email (after the death of Mister Man) saying she was sorry for my loss and understood if I'd need some time to complete the book I was working on...could I get back to it in a FEW WEEKS?

It makes me laugh now but then--well, I probably laughed even then--what I really wanted to do was scream. Somehow I finished that book but every time I look at that cover, I still want to scream. :-)

And I know that whenever you look at YOUR cover, you'll remember Margo's kindness and feel all warm and fuzzy. I'm feeling pretty warm and fuzzy for you right now. :-)

Margo Dill said...

Yes, AND when you get in early in the small business model, you can GROW with it. I have big plans. I'm just taking my time...I'm so excited about your book. I have read it 3 times now I think, and I was in tears this last time. Just so good. and SO sad for our history. And so glad the money will go to help people! I'm so happy to be a part of this.

Sioux Roslawski said...

Jeanine--That's what I enjoy about the writers at WOW, like you and Cathy and the rest of the group--they're inspiring and encouraging. I certainly feel like I won the lottery with Margo. Thanks for the good wishes.

Cathy--A few weeks? After the death of your husband? How horrible!

Yes, I'm sure that whenever I look at the cover of my book, everything I feel will be warm and fuzzy.

Margo--Oh, I know you're not going to stay small. I'm just thrilled you said yes to me now, because when you are a bigger press, and if I was querying you then, you probably would have passed on me.

I'm so happy YOU are a part of this...

Sue Bradford Edwards said...

Part of it is management but size definitely changes things. The more players you have, the more people have to be on board when you want to do something different.

Go team Margo!

Sioux Roslawski said...

Sue--I was definitely not a cheerleader in high school, but I'd love to try out now.

Come on, Margo,
You can do it!
Yes you can!
If you can't do it,
No one can!

Renee Roberson said...

The reasons you listed in your post are why I'm leading to small or hybrid publishing options whenever I get off my duff and figure out what I'm going to do less. Also, with this personalized type of service/press, there's less (or zero!) chance of someone else coming in at the eleventh hour and deciding your book is not ready to be released after all. I've heard so many horror stories about that from larger presses so I agree that you're in good hands with Margo!

Sioux Roslawski said...

Renee--In my contract, it's written that Margo has first "dibs" when it comes to future books. She wants the first chance to look at my future novels? That's what writers dream of.

I wholeheartedly recommend you approach Margo when you're at that stage.

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