Most writers do not make it to the top, and those who do, do not always get what they expect.
Garth Graeper is a poet and editor who has had experiences working in both small press and large press environments. Graeper was a former Ugly Duckling Presse editor and is currently an editor Penguin Random House.
Presented with a chance to ask a question during a Skype interview, I asked Graeper whether authors have more freedom over works when publishing through a small press or through a larger press. My initial thoughts were that a small press, while it may have less restrictions or standards for individual authors, may have limited human resources. I expected a limited number of people able to assist authors would result in less association with editors and impose certain restrictive rules due to time constraints. I also thought that in a large press, an author would have more chances to meet with editors and make decisions, even though the press itself may be restrictive with content. According to Graeper, authors who publish via small press generally have more freedom over writing.
Graeper also shared other information regarding large and small presses based on his experiences. Graeper describes the “millions of little pieces” that make a big publishing house work. While the process is more systematic and limiting in some regards, Graeper notes the other job opportunities that are opened up, including the work of agents, more editors, and so forth. As someone who has been redirected by email to one too many times, I began to realize how limiting and difficult making changes may be with a large publisher. There are people who you will not know, people who you cannot quickly contact, and people who will not be able to help you in the way that you want. The hierarchical type of system also makes it harder on newcomers to such presses – something I had not considered initially, but have encountered in many other environments.
I asked the question out of curiosity as someone who would like to have work published through a publishing company in the future. As of now, I have only independently published through Amazon Kindle, but how much further I would want to go beyond that has always been a question of mine. Would my works be altered significantly? Would the change be for the better? Would I rather be able to make more mistakes and get less readers for the sake of writing freely and feeling like I genuinely made my content alone? There is a hidden cost to being a published writer that novices may not initially consider.
Working under a small publisher or big publisher boils down to the preferences of the author and what an author wants from the experience. The most important step is just getting the works out there.