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Memoir Workshop Part III & Small Presses

Tom McAllister handed out 3 x 5 cards on session I. He used this last session to answer the questions raised.
A lot of the questions had to do with publishing and small presses. For that he was joined by Josh Isard, @JoshuaIsard who is the director of the MFA Program in Creative Writing at Arcadia University in Glenside, PA. His debut novel, Conquistador of the Useless, was published by Cinco Puntos Press http://www.cincopuntos.com/
Josh enjoyed the publishing experience with the small press. In part because he likes keeping in touch with the editors and publishers. In fact they all are Facebook friends now. What he liked best was the feeling of being in the same boat; they really wanted the book to be good, they wanted it to succeed, they shared a common goal. A small press might go under if one or two of their books do poorly.

Barrelhouse http://www.barrelhousemag.com/ is a small press, an independent non-profit literary organization. Tom McAllister is their non-fiction editor. They have published four books to date. They also publish four magazines a year. Barrel House pays between $500 to $1,000 per book. And they take care of all the other publishing stuff, and as Josh implied, with real pros.
So what is different between small and big presses and self publishing?
Small presses are legitimate, particularly in academic or literary circles. There is no loss of prestige. They often publish non-standard stuff, books that may not fit in any particular shelf. Small Presses are best suited for those books that don’t fit neatly into existing categories. They take chances. A big press will need to know where the book belongs so they can tell Barnes & Noble. In fact, that is a major advantage of a big press; they can get you into B & N. But after three months, your book will disappear from their shelves. The three months fizzle is common to big and small presses, but, in either case, as long as your book remains in print, it remains available, and if it was also an ebook, it will be forever available. I think.
Small presses are un-agented, hence you get to keep 100% of the royalties. Josh’s deal with Cinco Puntos gave him no advance, instead he gets a 50% royalty, after all the production costs were covered. He think it worked out about the same. Nonetheless, that’s quite impressive. (Maybe Josh’s has a bright future as an agent?)
But you can only submit your work to a small press during the open period. Sort of like hunting season, I guess.
One question you should ask is about distribution. It will be somewhat similar to big presses, who have their own, but small presses sometimes use a consortium, sometimes their own system. This is important and something you will need to understand. Where will their distribution system get your book into? (awkward phrase)
As I said earlier, a big press will get your book into the big bookstores. A big press has enormous power. If they choose to put it behind your book. This hearkens to point #10 in Session I. Did you go to the moon?
McSweeney http://www.mcsweeneys.net/ is an example of a very good small press.

Tom made references to “Electric Literature,” and “The Great Indie Press Cheat Sheet.” I didn’t quite follow, but, culled from http://electricliterature.com/the-great-2015-cheat-sheet/ “…The feature began originally as an idea born from a discussion online with a number of indie press editors, authors, and readers about the deluge of “best-of” and “most anticipated” features and how the majority of these articles continue to be disproportionately favorable to the larger publishing houses…Why wasn’t there a comprehensive gathering of what the indie community has to offer? …“The Great 2015 Indie Press Preview,” [is] a compendium of some of the most exciting titles of this year and curated by an array of indie press authorities and it’s companion piece, “The Great 2015 Indie Press Cheat Sheet,” which functions as a comprehensive list of what indie publishing has to offer. Consider … it … an A-to-Z go-to reference for all of your indie book buying needs.”
I guess the point is that this cheat list could also be used to survey the landscape of small publishing houses.
Some small presses:

Outpost19, Barrelhouse Books, Graywolf, Hobart, Dzanc Books, Quick Books, Coffee House, Curbside Splendor, Five Chapters, Algonquin (a big small press), 21st C prose, A strange Object – all digital.
Finally some random stuff:
Cover letters should be simple. Whatever they ask for and little more. Four sentences maybe enough. Try not to annoy people.
Self publishing is fine but, there are unscrupulous people asking you to pay editing fees, etc. Stay away from them.

To read essays go to: Essay Daily ww.essaydaily.org a space for ongoing conversation about essays & essayists of note, contemporary and not-so-much. They publish interesting essays, Q&As with essays or essayists, and reviews of essays, essay collections or book length essays, or literary journals that publish essays, etc.
Phew! That’s it fellow memoirists. And thanks Tom.

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