Wednesday, July 1, 2020

IWSG: When Smaller is Better

Welcome to the first Wednesday of the month. You know what that means! It's time to let our insecurities hang out. Yep, it's the Insecure Writer's Support Group blog hop. If you're a writer at any stage of career, I highly recommend this blog hop as a way to connect with other writers for support, sympathy, ideas, and networking.

If you're a reader, it's a great way to peek behind the curtain of a writing life.

July 1 question - There have been many industry changes in the last decade, so what are some changes you would like to see happen in the next decade?

The awesome co-hosts for the July 1 posting of the IWSG are Jenni Enzor, Beth Camp, Liesbet @ Roaming About, Tyrean Martinson, and Sandra Cox!

In most of aspects of life, I'm a believer in the power of the small. I shop small businesses, live in a
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small town, and teach in a small school. I look for small beauties in daily life and take small steps toward my goals. I don't like crowds or high pressure socializing. I lack good small talk. I'm impatient with slick insincerity. 

I've come to believe that the fewer rings in the circus, the more likely it is that the performance will hold together. 

When I began seeking publication though, I looked "big" to begin with: The Big Six publishers (now the Big Five), agent representation, publicists, etc. I'd bought into the idea that you had to do it that way--that you weren't a "real writer" if you didn't. 

It didn't take long to learn that I wasn't well suited to that rarified atmosphere. 

I became impatient with the glacial pace of giant companies and agencies that can take six months to a year just to send a nonspecific rejection. I lost faith that having an agent would actually benefit my career, having watched several colleagues share their small incomes with an agent in hopes of "hitting it big" only to find that it didn't really bring them any opportunities they couldn't have garnered on their own. I learned that profit share was often not that high, even if you hit it big. 

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I still dream big, imagining my books being picked up and turned into a movie or a Netflix series: who wouldn't like to see more attention for their work and more money in their pockets? 

But, I'm not sure I have the schmooze in me to handle the glad-handing, networking, and PR machinations. I'm not sure it's worth developing those skills if I feel like I lose myself in the process. 

When it comes to publishing? I've stopped spending energy on trying to get an agent or leaving manuscripts languishing in big house slushpiles for years at a time. 

Instead, I've looked small: small publishing in particular. 

While I am working on my first independent publishing project, in hopes of getting it together by October of this year, I'm not ready to make it as an author-preneur.  I do this part time, in addition to full time teaching work and there are only 24 hours in the day. I need help. 

So, that means traditional publishing is for me! 

I want a situation where a lot of the work of bringing a book to readers is handled by someone besides me: arranging for editing, designing a cover, deciding on production details, laying out and designing the book, arranging for distribution, finding reviewers, etc. 

Sure, as an author whose writing is published by a small press, some of this work comes back around to me (and I'm grateful that my input is sought and considered), but I get the advantage of having a team behind me that can fill in the skills I don't have and teach me what I need to learn to move forward. 

My main job in my writing life is to write, not to become an expert in SEO and maximizing social media. 

So, for myself anyway, I'd like to see the industry get smaller. 

Bigger is not always better. The personal is lost. Creativity can become stunted when its forced to fit into boxes--and big business doesn't like to take risks. They like *known* quantities. 

That's why so many big Hollywood movies feel just like every other big Hollywood movie, why "bestselling" novels often bore me to tears and are entirely predictable from page one. Big gets big and stays big by making safe choices, and as a creative and as a consumer of media, I want risk, surprise, and nuance. 

If that means I stay small, so be it. At least I'll be happy. 


  1. Staying small sounds like a good plan for you. I'd like to see our duties pared down to a smaller list whether we go with traditional, small publisher, or self-publishing so we can focus more on our writing.

  2. Small is great.

    I'm glad you figured out the right path for you.

    Just know that small publishers don't usually find reviewers or do marketing. Those things do land on the author. For me, I chose traditional publisher for the help with editing, cover art, formatting, etc., too.

    1. Actually mine did…both the old one, before they fell apart, and the new one. Not that I don't still seek reviews or try marketing strategies of my own, but Falstaff does put good effort in those directions!

  3. I can totally relate. I also love the small--and my life sounds like yours, especially the small town and teaching bit. I hadn't thought about pursuing small publishers, but that may be something I'll look into once my current book is ready.
    I'm so glad there are so many more options now for how to publish than there used to be.
    Happy ISWG!

  4. Glad you figured out what works for you. I'll probably end up going for self-publishing, but who knows?

  5. Really enjoyed your summary that led you to go with a small publisher, a good fit for your values and writing. I too taught and just could not make time for writing until I retired, so bravo to you for somehow finding that consistent time for writing. I agree smaller is better. When I was querying smaller publishing houses, I couldn't find a good fit. So, what could be smaller than my home office?

  6. I understand completely. I don't have what it takes to schmooze my way into traditional publishing either, and I doubt the Big Five are mining literary journals looking for talent. I'm settling. As Monty Python said, "I don't want to be famous! I just want to see my name in lights!"

    1. I don't think I actually want to be famous…but I wouldn't mind if my *books* were.

  7. Me too! So unnecessary in most stories and often so poorly handled.

  8. I love this thought. Agreed that bigger isn't always better - and that's something we can all do to keep in mind. Have a great July!

    Anne from

  9. It's awesome you've found the right fit for you. That's the best thing any author can do.

    I love being hybrid, having some of my books with big publishers (and I finally have an awesome agent, so that helps. She definitely does things for me I can't do on my own yet), some with smaller presses, and handling others myself.

    The publisher who put out my first novella went under not too long afterward. It was heartbreaking, mostly for the other authors whose entire catalogue was with that publisher, and for the people that worked at the press who were losing their jobs. Since then, I try not to have too many eggs in one basket. If one publisher goes under, it'll be easier for me to pivot and get my work into other hands (or publish it myself).

    1. I remember your story! And you probably remember mine, which didn't end as cleanly, with the publisher behaving rather badly and ghosting all the writers who had their work tied up with them. I'm going for a hybrid approach as well, though I've only managed to get my eggs into a few different small press baskets so far. I agree with you that diversity is key in this business!

  10. There're a lot of bennies to small press, as you mentioned, editing, cover, etc. Wishing you much success in all your endeavors.

  11. I added a video to my author YouTube today, exploring this topic further:
    Samantha Bryant on You Tube