Publishing Fiction – Pros & Cons of Small Press or Self-Publishing

Pros & Cons of Small Press or Self-Publishing

Gifts of Writing - Author Rachel Dacus's GiveawaysSelf-publishing fiction versus small press publishing —  it’s a tricky decision, and one not often written about. Most of the articles I’ve encountered on the subject weigh the options as “self-publishing versus traditional publishing”. But my experience with small press publishing my first novel, The Renaissance Club, is something I’d call a third option. Small press publishers are almost as different from one another as individual authors.

When my book came out in January 2018, it arrived in the new hybrid format of ebook + print-on-demand paperback. People ordering the paperback through Amazon or Barnes & Noble would have no idea that it wasn’t a print-run publication — except that it wasn’t shelved at the local Barnes & Noble, and could only be special ordered in print through B&N. Being a new novelist, I felt I was being traditionally published — except for that print run/bookstore thing. I quickly learned that small  press publication might lean more toward traditional, or more toward self-publishing, depending on the company.

When it came to editing, cover art, presentation, social media support, and a good month of touring book blogs, I felt very traditionaly published. But when I proposed to my publisher to buy some modestly priced ads on websites geared toward women’s fiction, I found myself very much alone — very self-published feeling.

Differences between Small Press and Being Your Own Publisher

The big difference in self-publishing and small press publishing can vary from company to company, but here are the components that should be present with a small press, and that you’d pay for, and also that would take a lot of your time and energy, if doing it yourself.


  • Professional editing — from development to proofing, the publisher pays
  • Cover art and interior layout — a small press publisher pays and ideally has professionals familiar with book cover design
  • ARCs =for book blurbs, advancef reviews, and pre-orders — the months before a book’s launch require a publisher’s support. If you’re doing it yourself, this is easy, but if choosing a small press, it’s vital to make sure they have the book’s ARC prepared (and looking professional) at the three-month before launch stage
  • Book tours – online or in person, a small press publisher should arrange something for the launch week (mine got a whole month)


  • No control over pricing of the book — this can be a huge factor in sales
  • Can’t see sales figures except when (if) publisher reports them, so difficult to tie them to any promotions. My experience was lengthy delays in reporting meant I was paying for some promotions that did nothing for my sales
  • Have no control over design and placement of promotions — you may know your genre or category better than your publisher and have better ideas about promotion, which a small publisher may or may not be willing to consider
  • May have little say in cover design — a huge factor in promoting sales, and if you self-publish, you can hire the best

Useful Articles on Pros, Cons & Definitions

Here are some articles that help highlight the differences and outline what’s involved in successful self-publishing:

Kindlepreneur – How to Start a Publishing Company

Anne R. Allen’s Blog

Jane Friedman: Publishing With a Small Press

Marshall Moore on Advantages of Self-Publishing

That’s all for now!

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