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a:When Size Matters

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         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.

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