03 November 2011

Small Presses v.s. Self-Publishers: So What Are You?

by Carrie Bailey

If you're not sure whether to call yourself a self-published author, a small press or a fool (sometimes when sales are down I wonder this about myself), I've established a few distinctions for a research project I'm doing at Victoria University in Wellington. Notice: you can be both a self-publisher and a small press, a small press and a vanity publisher, a traditional publisher and a vanity press, but not a vanity press and a self publisher, which is proof no self publisher is a fool!!! 

Self-publisher: Owner-controlled publication where the author is responsible the entire publishing process including the creation, design, production and distribution of a manuscript (Ammann, 2007, p. 7).

Small Press: "A small press is run by fewer people and produces fewer titles a year; if it produces a little magazine, that magazine has a circulation that ranges from 2 to 10,000 copies, the average being somewhere between 500 and 3,000" (Henderson, 1984, p. whatever-this-is-blog-not-the-actual-research-proposal).

Small Publisher: A small publisher issues dozens of titles per year and may employ a sizable staff. Circulation is generally up to 100,000 copies (Henderson, 1984, p. same-as-the-small-press-I-think-it-was-page-three).

Traditional, trade, or commercial publishing: Publication by established corporations that primarily contract with authors through literary agents, which they market and distribute to book retailers. Traditional publishers often pay authors royalties for their intellectual property (Ammann, 2007. p. 3). As opposed to a small press or small publisher, traditional publishers produce numerous titles a year, employ a large staff and circulate more than 100,000 copies (Henderson, 1984, p. 62).

Vanity Press: A vanity press publishes an author’s work for a fee, often in exchange for advertisement and reviews to promote the publication. As opposed to self-publishers, the vanity press controls the distribution of the material often ending with the publications being discarded (Henderson, 1984, p. 62).

References I used:

Ammann, L. (2007). Self-Publishing Primer. Retrieved from http://www.lillieammann.com/Self-PublishingPrimer.pdf.
Henderson, B. (1984, January). The small book press: A cultural essential. The Library Quarterly, (54)1, 61-71. Chicago, Illinois: The University of Chicago Press.

Carrie Bailey is the MIA editor of Peevish Penman currently pursuing work and successful parenting of her teenage son while wishing she had time for National Novel Writing Month.


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