Big Publishing House, Small Publishing House… Red Fish, Blue Fish. What the Heck do you do?????

Help me think through this, ‘cause it’s driving me nuts. I’m finishing up my novel, Fire in the Woods. I felt pretty cozy about it going in to the beta process. Now, rounding to home plate, I’m really excited.

I’m excited because, as authors, we always think what we’ve written is great. The Beta Process is usually a slap in the face as reality sets in. For me, the slap was not so hard. Yes, it needed tweaking, but every single beta reader is just as excited about this novel as I am. Wow… it’s a pretty great place to be. (Ten beta-readers, in case you were wondering)

So now I am sitting here with a novel that I am reasonably sure is good enough for a big publishing house. No brainer, right? Send it on out!

This is where I hit a snag. Am I a patient person, or an impatient person?

The truth is, that the big houses that I am interested in… Baen, Daw, Tor, Random House, Entangled (a little smaller) are now — are you ready for this –


Wowzers! No need to take a year to find an agent, and then wait another year to get your stuff read. (If you can get by without an agent-there are pros and cons to this)

Anyway, the problem is that many of these houses do not accept simultaneous submissions. That means they expect you to send your manuscript to them… and only them. Now, this would not be a problem, but all of them, in their submission requirements, give themselves a HUGE timeframe to review novels. I understand that they get a lot of submissions, but you want me to take a year before I even hear back from you? And then if you decide to pass, I’ll need to wait another year to hear back from the next one?

My goal is to have Fire in the Woods traditionally published in printed copy format. I want the perks of professional editing and layout and cover design (etc) However, there are plenty of small houses out there who will read your query in a day, and read your manuscript in a month or so.

So, what, I wonder… other than prestige… would I direct myself to a big house when I have the possibility of getting my novel in the hands of readers in a year, as opposed to two to three years or more?

Hmmm. I think typing this just made things more clear to me.

Anyway… what are your thoughts?

(Self-publishing is not of interest at this time. I don’t have the time or money to do it right)


21 responses to “Big Publishing House, Small Publishing House… Red Fish, Blue Fish. What the Heck do you do?????

  1. I’ve been leaning toward finding an agent and traditional publisher for “Marriage Interrupted.” One of the many reasons I chose to create my own press and self-publish Journey Into Probate back in 2008 was the time factor. In hindsight, four years down the road, it doesn’t matter any more. The time passed by anyhow. I have a good, helpful book that has (so far) only received good reviews, but it didn’t go anywhere and I’m still trying to figure out how I could’ve/should’ve marketed it. I’m not a pushy person as far as promotion and selling and I I needed help with the title and with so many other things. But you are smart and I think you’ll make the right decision. A writer should be able to write, let go, and write more without having to worry about all this other stuff, right? Anyhow, that’s what I’m trying to do. 😉 Hang in there and best of luck!

  2. Wait. Random House accepts unsolicited manuscripts? Where do they say that?

    • Scanning through I found it at one time. Some of them only open for short periods. THat’s risky too, though, because you are just one in a huge floodgate.

      • I never have seen that. Knowing that RH sometimes calls for unsolicited manuscripts, I’ll be sure check back periodically.

        In my opinion, I would start with the bigs and work your way down. If you find a house that feels like a perfect fit for you, however, start there.

        • Yeah, I have my eye on one that I really really like. THe are not huge, but they are the biggest under the big guys. Other than distribution to brick and mortar, I’m not sure what the 1-2 year wait would be for. You know what I mean?

          I don’t know where I saw that they take unsolicited, but I have them on my list of possibilities, so somewhere a long the line I found it possible. (But they like the agented selections better, of course)

  3. If you are impatient, querying the big houses might be very painful for you, but it’s rare for them to accept unsolicited, unagented manuscripts. This might be the time to go for it. As for the smaller publishers, like has been said, check them out, find out about their authors and their titles before deciding. Whichever you decide to do, I wish you the best of luck. 🙂

  4. Hi,
    Having been on both sides in one way or another, I am in a unique position to answer this. I have noticed that increasingly for new authors the primary thing that large publishers offer that small press can’t is wider distribution. Other than that the experience is very similar for those who have not yet established themselves.

    Small press has the potential for greather longevity for authors who do not sell in great numbers to start because there is little to no overhead, whereas with the large press publishers if you do not hit their target sales expectations you could see your book go out of print a little over a year after it comes out. Or worse, if you get a multiple book deal and the first book doesn’t do as well as they anticipate they can elect not to release the other books, while still retaining the rights if they keep the first book in print.

    I could go on, but this is the thing that keep me cautious and have me chosing to take my titles to known small-press publishers.


  5. If you have something ready, don’t you hesitate. This is the moment you’ve been waiting for.

  6. I envy you that you even have the choice Jennifer. I don’t have the patience to wait a few years so I’d definitely go with the smaller houses.

  7. Every writer will have a slightly different take based on his personal preferences/experiences. I’m a fan of lean, mean, smaller publishers. Asking a writer to forgo multiple submissions and then taking up to a year for a response? Arrogance.

    Yours is not the “impatience” of someone who doesn’t know better and rushes to self-publish before editing the first draft. You know when your manuscript has been well-vetted and polished. A big publisher is no guarantee of success, and small houses have produced bestsellers.

    Follow your instincts!

  8. When a New York Trad publisher held my manuscript for two years, it made me realize I didn’t have that much time to wait again. To each his own though. It’s never an easy decision what to do with your paper/electronic babies.

  9. Not an easy choice, is it? I held out for a bigger publishing house earlier on, but then I decided it was time to you-know-what or get off the pot. My hope is that signing with a smaller publisher now will at least help get my foot in the door, and maybe I’ll find a bigger publisher next time. Guess it comes down to whether you can wait that long for a big boy publisher and whether you are up for the self-promotion involved with a smaller one. Whatever your choice, I wish you well. You have the drive and determination to make either work. 🙂

  10. Given your independent spirit, I’d think a smaller house would be better for you (or even Entangled). Unless your aim is world domination, then maybe hold out for one of the Big Guys. You’d also get a lot of beating you over the head with stuff with that choice, but it could be a growing experience! Good luck–what’s the new story about?

    • Right now, along with edits, I’m working on a Paranormal called Une Variante that’s pretty close to completion. Then I’ll have two in the beta process. — and a few new things brewing in my head of course. 🙂

  11. Work for the big one (Random Penguin or HarperCollins). It may take longer, but it is worth the wait. 🙂

    Subhan Zein

  12. You could always submit and while waiting the year or so for them to get back to you, work on other projects. I think it’s a big ask when both literary agents and publishers ask you to not submit to anyone else.

  13. Another thought to throw into the pot – do you know, or is there a way of finding out, whether the big publishing houses that you spoke of prioritise reading unsolicited manuscripts from already published authors? They may say it can take a year as a maximum, but those that have already had published work, particularly recently published work (which shows you are of current appeal?) may get read quicker. Just a thought.

    Also, wow, 10 beta readers!

    • I think this is a great point, Vanessa. I’ve heard editors at conferences talk about the fact that the manuscript sits in the slush pile longer if it’s not represented. Best to find out whether this is true (or not) of the places you’re interested in submitting to.

      And good luck!

  14. Yep. You answered your own question there. A tip: When you narrow down your field of small publishers, check out their authors. Contact them if you can. Ask questions.