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What I’ve Learned Owning a Small Press

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by Tricia Reeks, Founder of Meerkat Press —

Tricia Reeks

Valuable lessons about independent publishing from a seasoned industry professional

As a small press owner who came into the publishing business with no previous experience, to say I had a lot to learn is the understatement of the century.

Fast forward a couple of years, and as a business, we’ve still got tons to learn, but here I’d like to share a few things that are working for us.

  1. Find a distributor. Initially, we used IngramSpark’s print on demand option that included a listing in [Ingram’s ipage catalog]. We actually thought we had a distributor. We waited for those sales projections to be realized. And we waited, and waited … With only a trickle of sales, we tried to sell to bookstores on our own, but the return on investment was small, and it took time away from marketing to consumers. So after a great deal of research, starting with learning the difference between a wholesaler and a distributor, we signed with Midpoint Trade Books. Now they handle the sale of our books to the trade and we can focus on marketing. Not only have our sales increased substantially, we also found Midpoint plays an invaluable advisory role.
  2. Know the resources available to you. We regularly take advantage of special offers and discounted rates that IBPA and others offer. Resources like NetGalley—that normally would be outside our budget—have proven invaluable to us for getting early reviews and making connections with media, librarians, and booksellers. There are also so many free resources, such as LibraryThing.com, for advance reading copy (ARC) distribution.
  3. Not all freelancers are created equal. As a small press, we depend on freelancers for a good portion of our work; when it comes to editors and designers, the range of available skill level is wide. It has been important for us to build a healthy list of dependable professionals we can rely on.
  4. Authors are our most important asset. We’ve been amazed at some of the stories authors have told us about their relationships with previous publishers. They range from lack of communication to lack of payment. Since collaboration is key, we use tools like Trello to share information, timelines, progress on ARC distribution, review schedules, and award submissions. We treasure our authors, and they know it.
  5. Practice makes perfect. With a few years under our belt, we’ve had time to identify things that work and things that don’t. Lately, we’ve spent a lot of time nailing down a repeatable process tailored to the type of book. Everything from budget to trim size to marketing approach. Our sales projections aren’t as exciting as those early ones, but they are closer to reality now.

Obviously, what works for one publisher may not work for another.

Tricia Reeks is the founder of Meerkat Press, the editor of Love Hurts: A Speculative Fiction Anthology, and the co-editor of Behind the Mask: An Anthology of Heroic Proportions (a Kirkus Reviews Best Indie Book of 2017).

For more helpful tips on publishing, check out this IBPA Independent article: “How To Get Started Publishing for Others.”

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