I am not a patient person, which probably explains why I travelled the small press route.
I tried the big publisher route and came close with two books, garnering both agent and editor interest. The problem is I'm a deadline person. Give me a deadline, and I'll meet it. Tell me to do something whenever, well, doesn't really work. For about five years, I'd been fiddling around with my writing and not really getting anywhere. I'd been working on The Gift Horse for three years and couldn't seem to build up enough steam to finish it. I needed a deadline. I needed someone telling me that the book had to be done by a certain date.
So about a year and a half ago, I decided to shed my small press snobbery and investigate this option to publishing. A lot of things entered into this decision, but I'll highlight the major ones. I needed a structure and motivation to write. As I mentioned, I needed deadlines. I wanted some real experience with editors in the hope that they'd make my writing better and point out plot holes and character issues that a critique partner didn't see. I wanted experience promoting my book, and I wanted to build a name for myself. I also wanted to write what I wanted to write, not what was selling in New York.
Being the type of person I am, I started researching small presses. Once I narrowed down the list, I contacted authors with those presses. I bought some of their books. I researched what makes a good small press. I wanted a small press that offered both print and ebook formats. I also wanted one that distributed their books to all the major book distributors. And I looked at their covers. Let's face it, covers sell books. Then I submitted to those small presses.
Within 48 hours, I had a contract offer. I poured over the contract, showed it to some author friends, and compared it to other small press contracts (which you can often find on their websites). It seemed reasonable and straight-forward. All the authors with this small press loved the publisher and had nothing but good things to say. I even paid for a business background check to make sure there weren't any credit issues.
I accepted the offer on January 1, 2008. I've now sold three books to this small press and have one more under contract. I never regretted my decision for a minute. Small presses are a very viable alternative to publishing, especially if you're interested in writing equestrian fiction.
The big publishers seem convinced that most equestrian fiction doesn't sell well. Small presses have less of an investment in time and money, so they're more willing to take a chance on books that don't fit the big press mold of what sells. I've read many small press books that are honestly as good or better as what larger presses put out; but because they didn't fit in a marketing niche, New York publishers wouldn't take a chance on the book.
You won't get rich writing for a small press, though I personally know several small press authors who make a good living. The name of the game is to be prolific, especially in the romance genre. The more books you write, the bigger your readership.
Would I like to be published with a large press? You bet. It's my long-term goal. But for now, I'm happy writing what I want to write and knowing there's a market for my stories.