The Dancing Writer's Advice

Amber Skye Forbes

Choosing a Small Press →


Since I am with a small press, I’ve decided to write this for those who may be considering one or for those who don’t quite know where small presses fit in among big presses and self-publishing.

There are A LOT of small presses out there due to the ease of publishing a book. Some are great, some…

Choosing a Small Press

Since I am with a small press, I’ve decided to write this for those who may be considering one or for those who don’t quite know where small presses fit in among big presses and self-publishing.

There are A LOT of small presses out there due to the ease of publishing a book. Some are great, some are bad, but the difficulty is in knowing which are the good ones and which are the bad ones, because if you choose a bad one, you’re dooming your book until you can get that book out of its contract and self-publish it yourself. Of course, this isn’t to say large presses are innocent, because there are many an author out there who have reported terrible experiences with large presses. It’s just to say that because there are so many small presses out there, it’s difficult to sort the wheat from the chaff.

First and foremost, you need to do your research. Preditors and Editors can pretty much tell you what small presses are recommended and what small presses aren’t. You can also type in a small press you find on the internet and see if AbsoluteWrite has anything to say about it. AbsoluteWrite isn’t always right, because sometimes a publisher they blacklist can turn itself around to be a recommended publisher.

Here are a few ways to go about researching them:

  • Google that publisher and read everything you can about them.
  • Check out their website. Is it nice looking? Is everything easy to find? Do they have an ‘About Us’ page? Do they have submission guidelines? Do they tell you if you’re going to get an advance and what your royalties are? How long have they been in business? How many authors do they have? How often do they publish titles?  What titles have they published? Sometimes you can even contact the authors themselves and ask about their experiences. I contacted Shannon Thompson, author of Minutes Before Sunset, to see about her experiences with them before signing on. If most of the authors are happy with that publisher, then you can ignore the experience of one disgruntled author. After all, not all authors are going to sell well, even with the greatest publisher out there. 
  • Contact them. Ask them questions. Honest publishers will answer all of your questions professionally and in frankness. Transparency is paramount when working with a small press. If there is no transparency, it’s best not to sign on.
  • Read samples of some of the books they’ve published. If much of their books are poorly written and there are glaring errors, that’s a publisher to stay away from.

Now what do you want from a publisher? My book is in some libraries from people having ordered them and even a small boutique, but having my book in bookstores isn’t as much of a big deal to me as it used to be. It’d be great if my book could get in a bookstore eventually, but, really, that’d just be an ego boost.

In any case, here are some questions to consider:

  • What kind of distribution do they offer? Are some of their books in bookstores, meaning your book has a chance to be in one? (Not all large-press titles are in bookstores, so keep that in mind.) Are they on all major channels, like Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, and other major sites? Do they offer print books, and if so, are they on Amazon and Barnes and Noble?
  • What payment do they offer? Do they have advances, and if so, how much? How much are the royalties? How are you going to be paid? How often are you going to get paid? Do they pay on time? What is the average price that the books sell for?
  • What kind of promotion do they offer? Is there a marketing department? Keep in mind small presses are small, so they don’t have the marketing dollars big presses do. But they will assist you with marketing and not just leave you out in the middle of the ocean to do it all yourself. The good ones will anyway. Do they also offer free promotion, like advertising? Do they offer ARCs (Advanced Reader Copies)? If so, do you have to give them out yourself, or does the publisher do it for you?
  • What’s the publishing process like? How many slots do they have available in a given year? How fast do you want your book to be published? How many editors work on your book? (I had two that worked on WSD, but I will have three for its sequel.) Some small presses will give you one. It all depends on what you feel most comfortable with. I personally want several, but one great editor can suffice.
  • Contract copy. Can you get a copy before submitting? Sometimes you don’t have to do this because the publisher will list everything upfront in their submission guidelines. Some also offer a PDF download on their site. And then some you will have to request a copy. Also, how many years is your book under contract? I’ve seen anywhere from 3-7 years. The contract can generally be extended if the book is selling well, too.
  • Are you provided print copies? How many? Print copies are a great promotional tool, especially on Goodreads. You can start a giveaway on this site, which will give your book a great deal of exposure. Whenever I do a giveaway, I generally have over 1,000 people enter. The most I had was about 2,000 and something. These people can also choose to add your book to their TBR lists as well with these giveaways. And of course you can do other things with print books, too. If a small press publishes novellas, they probably aren’t going to include print books and will only have digital versions available of that novella.

This is a lot to consider, but you want to do right by your book. Even so, being with a great press doesn’t always guarantee great sales. Sometimes great books just don’t take off, for whatever reason. But at least you can be confident your book is going to be treated well by going with a good press.

Ask Box is closed for now because I have A LOT of questions to answer.

The Dancing Writer's Advice

Anonymous said: I'm planning on writing something, but its topic is very controversial and frowned upon in most - if not all - places all over the world. The whole story in effect is a metaphor for something else (though that might not be obvious at first glance), and I'd really like to share my work once it's done, but I'm terrified that my efforts will be shot down from the sky because of its morally wrong subject. Do you have any advice on this? Should I go with it or just leave it as an idea?

I’m not sure just how controversial it can be. The worst book I’ve ever read was American Psycho because the sex (or rape) and then subsequent murder were described in such brutal detail that it made me wonder if the author was a misogynist himself. So if a book like that can get published, I don’t exactly see why a book with a morally wrong subject can’t see the light of day. American Psycho was all kinds of morally wrong, but it’s still out there and still being read. So I say go for it.

The Issue With the Writing People As People and Not Characters Advice

Let me preface this by saying that you should write people as people and not characters, but when a writer is asking a question involving diversity and the only answer you give is ‘write people as people and not characters,’ you’re completely missing the point of diversity. Write people as people. That’s great advice, but […]

The Dancing Writer's Advice

Anonymous said: How can you tell when you've got one too many commas in a sentence? I've recently noticed (though I think I was always subconsciously aware of my frequent usage) that many sentences of mine have two, three, maybe even four commas in. There are mixes of sentence length, but I just feel like maybe sometimes I don't /need/ to put a comma there, it's just where I mentally paused and somehow felt it was a suitable place to insert one.

If you have mixes of sentence lengths, you’re most likely using commas incorrectly. There are rules for commas that need to be followed, so this could probably kill your comma overuse.

The Dancing Writer's Advice

Anonymous said: I'm writing a story where many of the characters are LGBTQ, but that's not what it's about. I'm wondering if you have any tips on how to just kind of work that in there without making it a huge deal or just blatantly stating that they're asexual or pansexual or something?


Treat them like people, not characters.

It’s really easy to say ‘treat them like people, not characters,’ but when it comes to sexualities, it’s a difficult hurtle that needs an answer longer than just this one sentence. 

Yes, you should treat them like people, not characters, but if your character is bisexual, pansexual, or even asexual, it’d be kind of nice for it to be stated. Otherwise, readers are going to assume the character is either heterosexual or even homosexual, as it is really easy to show homosexuality. Bisexuality, pansexuality, and asexuality, on the other hand, are not so easily shown. Bisexuality can be easily shown, but you have to know how to show bisexuality to make it obvious this character is bisexual. You can’t just have your character think, ‘Wow, she’s beautiful,’ because even asexuals can appreciate the beauty of a person. Just because I’m dating a man doesn’t mean I’m straight. I’m asexual. Just because she’s dating a girl doesn’t mean she’s homosexual. She’s pansexual. And so on and so forth. 

You should write a book where the characters just happen to be these things, but we shouldn’t ignore their sexualities because those sexualities are part of their identities. Because, again, the assumption is going to be that the characters in the book are heterosexual, and even those in the community have this habit of assuming this as well because the majority of the population is heterosexual. 

My character outwardly states he’s asexual, but he’s more than that, too. He’s a poet, he loves video games, he loves being with his best friend, he’s very close to his parents, he struggles trying to accept his boyfriend’s death (but you would assume he’s homosexual if I didn’t have him state he’s asexual), he was once an alcoholic, he tries to be strong when he feels weak, and so on and so forth. And while his asexuality does play a part in the book, the story is primarily about internal survival and escape. 

I would rather not have to analyze a character’s asexuality. I want it to be explicitly known. And all the other sexualities that have a habit of being invisible. 

People’s sexualities are important when you’re writing a book with LGBTQ+ characters. Otherwise, the writer entirely misses the point of diversity. 

The Dancing Writer's Advice

diary-of-a-wanna-be-a-lister said: Hello ! I love your blog and how much committment you put into it and obviously into the art of writing. I have a really good question! What would you tell someone who knows they're born to write &tell many stories but isn't so great in Literature?

You don’t have to be fantastic in a literature class to be able to write a work of fiction. Writing essays and writing fiction are two completely different forms of writing. One requires that you use analysis with passages to back up your statements and the published essays of critical literary theorists. The other requires imagination and knowing how to string a good story together. 

Of course, I wouldn’t neglect sharpening your literature skills. Being able to analyze literature to the depth you’re required to in college has taught me to be a better fiction writer. But you don’t have to become a better writer through fiction courses. You can just learn a lot more about writing than you realize just by studying literature in-depth. 

The Dancing Writer's Advice

Anonymous said: Have you chosen the winner of your giveaway yet

Krack-kitty was the winner!

The Dancing Writer's Advice

Anonymous said: You said you could risk being sued if you'd use song lyrics without permission of the artist in your story, but it's okay to mention an artist, right? Like: "As Max walked past the open door, he recognized the rock music from Avril Lavigne, probably Jones' favourite artist."

Yep, it’s absolutely okay to mention them in passing.