How do you know if you should submit your manuscript to a small publisher or a large publisher? Here is a list of upsides and downsides for both to help you make the right decision for you and your manuscript.
THE UPSIDE OF SMALL PUBLISHERS
Small publishers are more personal. They have fewer members of staff and publish fewer books each year than large publishers do. Typically because small publishers publish fewer books each year than larger publishers do, small publishers are very invested in each book.
Small publishers accept unsolicited manuscripts. This is not true of all small publishers, but generally, small publishers are more likely to accept unsolicited manuscript. An unsolicited manuscript is a manuscript that does not have an agent attached to it. This means that it is often a much simpler process for authors to submit books to small publishers because the authors do not need to find an agent first.
Small publishers are more flexible and willing to try new things. The great thing about being small is that it takes less effort to move, to change, to shake things up. Large publishers are complex with infrastructure and many balls to juggle, so it becomes much more difficult for a large publisher to try new things.
Small publishers give higher royalty rates. Again, this is not true of all small publishers, but without the huge infrastructure and overhead costs, coupled with a more personal relationship with the author, small publishers are often able to give higher royalty rates to authors than large publishers can.
Small publishers continue to market and promote your book, even after it has been out for a year. It is common with large publishers to push hard for the first year and then let a book slip away into oblivion. Small publishers are much more likely to take on a book and keep promoting it.
THE DOWNSIDE OF SMALL PUBLISHERS
Small publishers have limited resources. With fewer staff members and books published each year than the large publishers, small publishers are stretched thin. The main downside for authors in this regard is that small publishers do not have the money to spend on marketing that a large publisher would.
THE UPSIDE OF LARGE PUBLISHERS
Large publishers have large marketing budgets and specialized staff. The biggest reason that going with a big publisher could be beneficial to you is that large publishers have large marketing budgets and specialized marketing and rights-selling staff. Smaller publisher often do not have designated marketing and rights departments, and they certainly do not have the same kind of cash that a large publisher would have to market your book upfront.
Large publishers are big names. There is something to be said for being able to tell your friends that you signed a book deal with Simon and Schuster. However, you have to discover for yourself just how important a big name is to you.
Large publishers can offer larger advances. While a small publisher is more likely to give higher royalties, the author advance (money you get up front) is higher with a large publisher.
THE DOWNSIDE OF LARGE PUBLISHERS
Large publishers are not as ‘author-friendly’. What I mean by ‘author-friendly’ is that large publishers are not as personal with their authors, everything is done through an agent, and often large publishers are more about getting to business and less about making sure the author is getting something out of the relationship too.
In the end, as you decide whether to go with a small or large publisher, you need to consider what your goals are with your book. How important to you is the environment and closeness to your editor? How important to you is having a big marketing budget? How important to you is having the publisher be a big name that all your friends would know? How important to you is having a literary agent? How important to you is having more ownership (and possibly royalties) for your book? These are the questions that, once answered, will determine which publisher size is right for you.