Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Is Small the New Big?: Is Boutique Publishing the Model for You

A few months back, Publisher's Weekly and other news outlets discussed the demise of Abingdon Press' fiction line. This is only one in a series of closings that have seemed to rock the Christian fiction world. Combined with the merging of houses, and the fact that a number of houses aren't currently seeking to acquire, it can seem like a discouraging time for authors and publishing hopefuls.

Over the past few years, browsing CFs new releases for LIBRARY JOURNAL, I've noticed in spite of the tumult several new boutique publishers seem to be attempting to carve a niche in the market.

Many successful CBA authors such as Brandilyn Collins and James Scott Bell have turned to the independent market. Yet another market seems to be building steam, leaving writers to ponder whether small is the pathway to publication.

Boutique, or hybrid, seeks to combine the strengths of both traditional publishing and self-publishing.

Small and slow payout rates, far ahead publication dates and diminishing market size are some reasons authors are looking at the small pub model. Some authors are reluctant to take the plunge with indie publishing. First, there is the status that a traditional house still holds in the minds of many. Secondly, a few feel inadequate to handle the marketing involved in self-publishing. Covers and the visual aspect of novels also intimidate writers.

Boutique publishing might be able to offer a third option to those looking for a strong market for their books. Authors like giving feedback, though might not want to handle the editorial process on their own. Small houses keep writers involved throughout the publication journey. For instance, Brown Girl press offers monthly meetings to help its authors grow in their craft. A larger house might not be able to enable such opportunities on a regular basis.

Ebooks are a hurdle that some writers don't enjoy. Self-publishing can feel like a headache. Many small presses offer an alternative. And some offer in-print books as well as digital.

Redbud Press founded by authors Regina Jennings, Lacy Williams, and Erin Taylor Young is poised to market to those interested in inspy romance. Their Timless imprint seeks to publish the backlists of authors published in the traditional market. These are titles that often sit in drawers but with epublishing they can find new life. Their Hometown Romance line ministers to contemporary fans of small-town life. They use a digital-first model. Karen Ball, Rene Gutteridge, Diane Noble, Gayle Roper, Camy Tang, Cheryl Wyatt, and Kathleen Y'Barbo are just some of the authors who have found a new home with Redbud.

Brown Girls Publishing fits a unique niche in the market that isn't fulfilled elsewhere. With African American CF lines closing, some see faith-filled fiction as a place that isn't as diverse as it could be. For more see Mike Duran's "Does Christian Fiction Have a Race Problem?" for some thoughts from agents and others in the industry. Brown Girls Faith was founded by ReShonda Tate Billingsley and Victoria Christopher Murray, both published authors. Brown Girls has three main lines: Faith, Teens, and the Jacquelin Thomas line. They are seeking to publish not only African American voices but all ethnicities and so might offer a market for those who have been unable to find a home in CBA.

Mountainview Press is another model. Founded by C. J. Darlington, author of BOUND BY GUILT, the line will be publishing the Jerry B. Jenkin's Operation First Novel winners. Historical author Peter Leavell and Don Brown, author of the Naval Justice series are some authors writing for Mountainview. These presses give help with the marketing process, sending books to publications such as Library Journal, Publishers Weekly, and RT Book Reviews.

There are so many more boutique presses available but these are three that have launched in the past several years to give you an example of what the small publishing model might offer you. Many authors have started out with smaller presses and later found themselves gaining traction with the larger houses. Its just one of many paths that could be the right one for you. You never know unless you check it out.


kaybee said...

Good points made, JULIA. I personally am intimidated by the prospect of going indie and doing ALL my own marketing. I understand that we're expected to participate and I'm game, but I'd like to have a publishing house in the background. Somewhere. I wouldn't mind publishing with a smaller firm. My crit partner recently signed with Pelican/White Rose and is happy so far.
This is just one example of how the world is changing, and oh do we need to be ready.
Kathy Bailey
Flexible in New Hampshire

Julia M. Reffner said...

Yes, I think many are intimidated by the marketing aspects, or even covers and things like that. So I think boutique is an alternative to consider...Yes, so many changes! Thanks for stopping by, Kathy!

Jeanne Takenaka said...

Julia, I learned so much in your post. I am like Kathy. I'd like to have a publishing house somewhere in the mix of getting published. I hadn't thought seriously about working with a smaller publisher, but I can see there could be great advantages to doing this. I'd love to hear some specifics on how things work with boutique publishers. The process for getting started with them, where they're able to place books, what the author's role is and the publisher's role in this model.

You've got me thinking about this. Thank you! :)

Julia M. Reffner said...

Great questions, Jeanne. I'll try to follow up further in future posts after I ask a few more questions.

Pepper Basham said...

This is a FANTASTIC post!! And very much some of the 'buzz' being discussed at ACFW. They said 'hybrid' is the wave of the future.
For me, I've LOVED working with Vinspire (a small gen market press). They've been a great place to learn and grow as a debut novelist. Would I indy pub some time? Maybe. I don't want to seriously consider that right now because of the time-intensive work of independent marketing, but the hybrid idea makes sense.
Thanks for sharing such thoughtful and relevant posts!

Julia M. Reffner said...

Yes, lots of buzz for sure! Have you written an alley post about the advantages of small market? I'll bet others would love to hear your perspective.

Pepper Basham said...

That is a great idea!!