Writing for a Micro-Press in the Age of Self-Publishing
By Jessie Powell
Emily is gearing up for Writers’ Week here on Suess’s Pieces. As an author whose book was published by micro-press Throwaway Lines, I’m fascinated by her topic, the self-publishing process. It isn’t all that different from working with a micro-press.
Let me start with the obvious differences between the two. The good part for me is that I didn’t pay anything to publish Divorce: A Love Story. I didn’t buy my ISBN, I didn’t hire a private editor, and I didn’t work with Amazon and Barnes and Noble to get the book listed. All of those things were taken care of by my publisher. Right now, the novel is still only available in e-book format, but we’re hoping for a fall release of the paperback edition.
Of course by that same token, I miss out on potential advantages to self publishing, like increased control and possibly greater royalties. I’m also not in control of the timeline. At a traditional publisher, this would be because the book had to be worked into the schedule. But Throwaway Lines has a staff of exactly two, and my editor has a day job. That means that things can move slowly. Obviously, a self-published author is much more in control of the speed of publication.
But then again, maybe not. Depending on how much the author farms out, self-publication can also come with a set of built-in delays. For instance, a wise author will hire an editor. Nobody wants to be the next Shades of Grey in the grammar and continuity department. And cover art is often hired out as well.
In fact, the same agencies a self-published author will use in the manuscript finishing process are all available to micro-presses. For example, my editor, Jason Horger says:
We had a basic design for the front that we liked okay, and then putting together the rest of it (spine, back cover) fell apart like a paper goblet. Oh, and then we farmed out the cover to a designer and…sweet Jesus, it just wasn’t right at all.
For the paperback edition, Jason plans to trust his own design skills a little more. (I certainly do; I liked the prototypes he initially created, and the basic premise for one of those wound up in the final concept.) He also plans to work with a print-on-demand group because it’s not financially sound for presses of this size to have stock on hand.
In the end, it’s been wonderful for me to work with a micro- press. I’m not willing to pay to go to work every day. Indeed, I can’t afford to. So I need to find someone to publish my writing. I hope to someday work with a larger press, and I’m completely open with Throwaway Lines about that plan. But I’m not saying that as a dig against self-published authors. There are situations in which self-publication is exactly the route to go, and I can’t wait to learn more about the process when Writers’ Week kicks into gear here on Suess’s Pieces.