Thursday, April 1, 2021

publishing with a lowercase p from james w. ziskin

 As there's more and more consolidation in the world of publishing, how do you view—generally, and for you personally—big publisher vs small publisher vs self-publishing now? Have your views changed since you were first published? 

I feel a little boxed in by this week’s question. Since I have only published novels with a small press, I have no experience with major publishers. Or with self-publishing, for that matter. I can say that the small press I started with changed hands a couple of years ago. Seventh Street Books was a small but powerful player in crime fiction publishing. They discovered and introduced readers in America to such writers as Lori Rader-Day, Allen Eskens, Adrian McKinty, Mark Pryor, Terry Shames, Gordon McAlpine, Robin Yocum, and many more. Sorry I can’t mention them all here; it’s such a great group of writers. I was proud to have my books published by them, even if they didn’t have the deep pockets of a Big Five publisher. Nevertheless, they had a fine publicity department that promoted our books, placing occasional ads in trade magazines and making sure reviewers got copies of our work to read. They also did a wonderful job on the covers and the editing, and distributed our books through Penguin-Random House, then Simon and Schuster, which gave us comparable footing to Big Five authors, at least where bookstore availability was concerned. The best part of Seventh Street Books, though, was our editor, Dan Mayer. Just a fine man and super finder of talent. He’s still there, by the way, discovering new, talented writers and shepherding their books to market for readers to enjoy.

Seventh Street Books was sold a couple of years ago, and I’ve since moved on. My agent is shopping my new novel now, and I hope to land with a new publisher, maybe even a big one. To date, I’ve never considered self-publishing. Like so many others, I’ve always wanted the help professional book publishers can provide. And I liked getting paid for my work. But I wouldn’t rule out a re-issue via self-publishing of my existing books if the rights were to revert to me. Or even repackaging them for another publisher if my agent found one that was interested.

Clearly the landscape in publishing is changing, with major publishers merging and consolidating and indie publishing growing and evolving every day. But my experience is one-sided. That may change soon. Then I’ll be glad to offer more insights.


Dietrich Kalteis said...

A good post, James. And all the best with a new publishing house.

Catriona McPherson said...

Gulp, Jim. It's quite a moment - moving on for the first time. All the best with it. I'm sure you'll be snapped up. Cx