Sunday, January 11, 2009

Publishing Opportunities for Equestrian Fiction

It's come to my attention recently, that many of our readers have an interest in writing equestrian fiction. So my post this week is about publishing equestrian fiction. As you may have noticed, the large New York publishers consider equestrian fiction a bad risk, insisting it doesn't sell well (unless you wrote the next Horse Whisperer) so small presses might be a good option for an aspiring author.

First of all, you need to understand some terminology, such as small press, large press, vanity press, and print on demand. In the interests of saving space, I posted this terminology on my author blog.

We'd all love to sell to a large publisher with a huge advance and be on Good Morning America and Oprah. The chances of that happening are slim to none. So you wrote a book and now you want find a home for it. Let's assume you're not interested in self-publishing. Let's also assume you've tried the large publisher route or truly believe you aren't ready for the big-time yet.

Should you consider a small press or e-publisher and why? Here are some of the pros and cons of small presses to help you make your decision:

Pros (What working with a small press can do for you):
  • Provide a viable option for books that don’t fit into a New York niche. (Small pubs can afford to take risks). Equestrian fiction definitely fits into this.
  • Gain valuable experience (which can look good to a large publisher).
  • Learn to promote your book and yourself.
  • Gain experience working with editors and publishers on professional duties such as cover art and edits.
  • Prove you can meet deadlines.
  • Provide encouragement to finish the book and write more books.
  • Build name recognition the publishing business.
  • Improve writing and editing skills.
  • Reduce the number of discarded and destroyed paperbacks. GO GREEN!
  • Make valuable contacts with other authors and the book publishing industry.
  • Build confidence in your writing.
  • Enjoy less pressure.
  • Enjoy more creative freedom.
  • May receive more personal attention from publisher and staff.
  • Easier to find your books, longer “shelf” life, don’t go out of print.

Cons (What working with a small press can't do):

  • Low pay and royalties, in most cases, considering the time investment by the author.
    Risky if the small press isn’t stable and established. (But then NY is risky as editors move around and lines close all the time. They may tie up book for a few years and never publish it.
  • Time-consuming, as you often perform the tasks that large publishers would do for you, such as promotion, blurbs, cover art suggestions, etc.
  • Lower quality of editing in some cases.
  • Limited chance for book to be in bookstore.
  • Requires extensive research of different companies. (Not all small presses are created equal in royalties, editing, and business practices. Talk to authors, do a background check, search the Internet)
  • Limited possibilities for booksignings.
  • A smaller market of people to buy your book.
  • Limited distribution on your book.
  • Lack of respect in many circles.
  • Limited reviews—may be harder to get reviews

If you are considering the small publisher route, do your research. Check out that publisher carefully. I actually paid for a business background check on the company and the owners to make sure they were stable. Anyone with an Internet connection can start up and small publishing company, so beware. Make sure they send their books to distributors and don't just sell via their bookstore. Find out if the book will be offered in print. Make sure the contract offers clauses to get your rights back if the company folds. Also, email some of their current authors and make sure you like their covers.

I hope this has helped some of you that are considering taking your writing to the next step. I'll be running a more detailed "workshop" on small pubs on my blog in the next few weeks. So you can check there for more information.

BTW, I had a GREAT ride on my mare yesterday. My trainer is out of town so I had a lesson from the assistant trainer. I enjoyed it immensely. Sometimes, it's good to get a different eye. Anyway, I'm excited to ride again. I haven't felt like this a while.


Anonymous said...

So true. I was advised not to pitch my WIP as a "horse mystery" but to downplay the equestrian elements in the story.

I was told that "the horse people will find you, but you don't want to turn off other readers with too much horse stuff."

Although I find it ironic that some niches are more popular than others, my job is to figure out how to compromise enough to sell yet stay true to my story.

Still, I believe that horse mysteries are part of "the long tail." That's an online business buzzword, not a reference to Whirlaway ;). That the Web allows niche topics to find an audience as never before.

But I "got the memo" -- my mystery is not just about horses. And I need to stop describing it as such.

mugwump said...

This stuff is invaluable Jami, thanks.

Leslie said...

Appreciated the post on publishing, Jami. Always helps to get information in a nice neat package.

The confusing part of writing/publishing, at least I think it is, agents. Who, what,how come, is one really neeeded? I'll be checking your other blog too. Thanks again!

Jami Davenport said...

Leslie, Agents aren't needed to sell to small presses. In fact, most of them won't waste their time representing you with a small press. The money simply isn't there.

If you want to sell to a big New York publisher, you'll need an agent. They'll handle the book deal for you, check out the contract, etc. Essentially, they'll be your advisor through the publishing process.

Anonymous said...


I am a POD author. My first book, for young readers sat on the POD website, unnoticed.

My second is going to the same punblisher, but I don't want the same result.

So what choice do I and other POD and self-published authors have?

Equestrian authors you know there are people who want to read HORSE books. As RhondaL said "my job is to figure out how to compromise enough to sell yet stay true to my story."

Don't compromise your standards or your book!

I have started a website for horse books only. Free advertising for all horse books. Authors may upgrade for more or stay with free advertising forever. If we can get enough equine authors to advertise then slowly horse enthusiasts will bookmark as The Site for Horse Books.

Please contact me or visit my site.
Best yet tell everyone who writes horse stories that there are alternatives to giving "55% standard commission fee" to large internet retail stores.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the heads-up on your new site, Sharon. And never you fear - my standards remain high. :)

Leslie said...

Thank you Jami for clarifying the agent question. Sharon, I'm heading over to check out your website!