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Agony Editor: A flop at a big publisher doesn’t mean an author won’t shine at a small press

(Evan Munday)

Dear Agony Editor,

I was dropped by my large-house publisher due to poor sales. My new book is coming out this fall with a small press. While I want to be excited, I can’t shake my feelings of failure, not to mention my bruised ego. How do I move past this?

Size Matters


Dear Size Matters,

While it might be nice to think your writing career is going to have a consistently upward trajectory, that just ain’t reality. Your writing career, like every other aspect of your life, will have peaks and valleys and a few unexpected turns. Change is inevitable, even when it doesn’t immediately seem like it’s for the good.

What’s important is that you keep an open mind. While I understand that going from a big to small publisher might sting, you need to reassess those feelings of failure. Sometimes, the move can create new opportunities. You may experience more creative control or a welcomed sense of risk with your work. You could also find working with a smaller house more personally rewarding.

But don’t take my word for it. I spoke to one author who made the move to a smaller press for her last book. “It hurt my ego to be dropped by a big publisher too,” she said. “But what I found with the new publisher is a much greater sense of collaboration. The smaller publisher really supported my vision for my book, and wasn’t always driven by marketability.

“True, the money isn’t as great, and you may run into some challenges with bookstore placement and invitations to festivals, but smaller publishers react more quickly to what is happening with readers and are far more creative with promotion. Being published at all is a great privilege, so try to remember that.”

One other point to consider – the people who will buy and enjoy your book don’t care who published it. All they’ll care about is your work. So if it makes no difference to them, why should it make a difference to you?

Brian Francis is the author of Natural Order and Fruit. He teaches creative writing­ as part of the International Festival of Authors.

Have a question for Brian? Email info@quillandquire.com.