Thursday, March 10, 2011

Small Press--Huge Opportunity!

HANK: Kate George grew up on a northern California ranch alongside two brothers, feral cats, at least one mountain lion and cattle. (If there were fewer cattle, eventually, somehow, probably the mountain lion had nothing to do with it....I tucked in this photo because we've never had a mountain lion on JRW before.)


After working in a variety of occupations from actress to motorcycle safety instructor (both extremely valuable to a mystery author) she earned a degree in anthropology from UC Davis before deciding to return to writing. She now lives in Vermont with her dogs, kids, husband and currently several feet of snow.

She's also a pioneer. A ground-breaker. A trail-blazer.

Her mystery Moonlighting in Vermont was the very first novel published by...well, let her tell it.

Small Press--Huge Opportunity!
by Kate George

At a time when publishing seems uncertain at best, and harrowing tales of cuts at the major publishing houses are making authors quake in their boots, there is a publisher that has been steadily increasing the number of books it publishes. Mainly Murder Press, LLC opened its doors in early 2009 and published its first novel, Moonlighting in Vermont in August of that year. They currently have twenty-one titles for sale with one release a month for the rest of the year. Not bad for a small press.

How do they manage? Well first of all your manuscript must be ready. MMP does very little editing or revision. If they like the story, great! But you are responsible for making sure there aren’t any typos in the manuscript.

They will format for the printer, and make small suggestions, but don’t expect to get a manuscript back with suggested revisions and a promise to re-read when the revisions are finished. Either it’s ready or it’s not. I suggest having someone read for typos before you submit. If you can’t afford a copy editor – and many of us can’t – then find a good friend or family member with an eye for detail and promise them dinner if they’ll proof your manuscript.

Up until January 2011 MMP only published mystery and suspense either set in New England or written by a New England author. However as of the next submission period, October 2011, they’ve opened the presses to all mystery and suspense authors. A wide spread of subgenres are represented among the MMP titles, from cozy to international suspense, so if your work is good and falls under the mystery and suspense heading then it’s worth it to give it a try.

The downside, because isn’t there always a downside? Is that MMP doesn’t pay an advance. The upside is that their royalties are somewhat higher than publishers offering an advance. So it balances out. It also doesn’t take quite so long to get your work into print. The tough part is that if you want your book to sell, you will have to do your own promotion. But that’s the case for everybody who isn’t a best seller these days. The advantage of being with one of the big houses is that they actually but books in stores. As a MMP author you will have to ask bookstores to carry your books.

And yes, if you were wondering, Moonlighting in Vermont is mine. I was the first author published by MMP and I’m afraid I let them down in the area of promotion. With my second book, California Schemin’, hopefully I’ve learned a little bit more, but I’m not sure. For me it’s the hardest part of being an author –discovering venues for meeting prospective readers and going to events. For one thing, I live in the hills of Vermont. It’s a hike to get to the bookstores. For another, I’m shy. Like many authors I find promoting my work to be excruciating.

I’ve been working on online promotion, following the methodology of Draculas and other online successes. So far I’m not doing that well. I haven’t been able to find that magical mix that gets people reading. But I’m working on it.

The long and the short? If you’re a mystery writer with a polished manuscript who’d like to get your work into print then give Mainly Murder Press a try. Go to and read the submission guidelines and while you’re waiting for submissions to open again polish your work.

And here's a bit about the book:

California Schemin’

A California vacation sounds like a great idea to Vermonter Bree MacGowan until a dead woman falls into her life, she’s abducted from her bed, and her boyfriend disappears completely. It’s enough to make a girl wish she’d never heard of California. Luckily for Bree, a rugged undercover federal agent is determined to keep her from becoming a casualty in his latest case, but Bree is less than cooperative. It could be she doesn’t know he’s on her side, or maybe she’s just plain hardheaded. Either way, it’s enough to make a guy wish he’d never heard of Bree MacGowan.

California Schemin’ available at, and can be ordered from any bookstore.

Questions about small preses? Kate's publishing experiences? Any other Mainly Murder authors out there who'd like to chime in?

(Tomorrow--a true icon of the mystery world will be here to visit. You won't want to miss it! I mean, her.

And Saturday, a special offer just for JRW readers!)


  1. Welcome, Kate. I'm also a California girl who moved East, so I'm going to look for your books.

    A friend is also published with MMP. She says they won't consider her second book until the sales from her first book reach a certain number. Did you have that constraint, too?

    And had you tried the agent route first without success? I'm curious about why you chose to go with a small press.



  2. Hey, Kate!

    Oh, that's intersting, Edith. Yeah, what's the scoop, Kate? Although I guess that's essentiallly the same with any publisher...

  3. The problem with promoting small press books is that people who hear about the book online can't find it when they walk in the book store. Yes, I know. They can order it. But they don't. They buy something else to read right now. That's why they went to the bookstore.

    Also, no advance means no active membership in Mystery Writers, no major reviews, no panels at many of the mystery conferences. Your promotion is more difficult.

    Don't mean to be too negative. You're a published author! Congrats. It's just a tough road and you have to be prepared for many slapdowns. Good luck! My body was bruised after two years of it.

  4. Hi Edith, Yes I had to sell a certain number of copies of Moonlighting in Vermont before they would even look at California Schemin'. But I think that's understandable. They don't start making money until 400 - 500 copies sell.

    And yes I get more orders from Amazon than from bookstores - which I think is unfortunate. But it's not entirely MMP's fault. I've contacted many bookstores here in Vermont who say they can't sell local authors, as much as they would like to promote them. Apparently people are looking for bestsellers when they walk in the bookstore? I don't know.

    And yes I tried to sell to many agents and many editors before electing to go with MMP. Because face it, doesn't everyone want money up front for the years of work?

    However, from what I understand new authors aren't getting a lot of money or promotion from the big houses either. The benefit would perhaps being IN bookstores across the country, as Jack said, but that's not a guarantee those books will sell without publicity or prominent placement.

    Word of mouth seems to be the way to financial success, and like everyone else I'm in the dark as the best way to get that started, but I'm not giving up!

  5. Kate's right, whoever you're published by, word-of-mouth is key. That was a finding from the latest SINC consumer report and also from Digital Book World which I attended. Which is one reason I love chatting up other authors (as well as myself ;-) and going to libraries where one conversation can be multiplied many times over.

  6. After working hard to hone one's writing craft, a writer now has to learn the business side of publishing and how to practice it. As you point out, Kate, not all writers have the temperament for seeking publicity. You do what you have to, as the saying goes. Good luck with all your promotion endeavors. Do we still believe hard work produces results?

  7. Thanks, JRW, for hosting Kate! I've read CALIFORNIA SCHEMIN' (and MOONLIGHTING, too, of course)and can highly recommend both. I sure hope MMP does a third, too! Bree is a fun character.

  8. Oh, Pauline. Does hard work produce results? One hundred per cent yes. On so many levels. Don't you agree?

  9. I'd say working hard on your craft produces results. Hard work promoting in the right venue produces results. Hard work in the wrong venue is likely a waste of time, unless you count learning lessons as results!

  10. Welcome to Jungle Red, Kate, and congratulations on your latest book. I grew up in California and consider it another world.

    I think it speaks to MMP's integrity -- or maybe just good business sense -- that they wait to see how book 1 does before publishing book 2. But what a lot of pressure. It's hard enough to write the book by yourself - on top of that you have 100% of the responsibility for editing and promoting. Author as pioneer - not an easy row to hoe.

  11. It's fascinating,isn't it? What we go through to have a book?

    Wouldn't most people just say--forget it?

  12. Hank, most people wouldn't have written the dang book in the first place. Or, if they started it, wouldn't finish writing it. Almost everyone I talk to *wants to* write a book.

  13. I think even NYT bestselling authors are doing at least some of their own online promoting these days. It has become a necessary and unavoidable part of the job. But while it requires a lot of effort, it's a blessing for those of us who are shy (that would not be me:-))

    And I think the online promotion and the Amazon sales are the key, not, unfortunately, going around in person and selling books to individual stores.

    Good luck with your book, Kate! It's great that your first sold enough that your publisher is doing a second!

  14. This is fascinating, thanks. As an aspiring author who's a member of writing orgs., been to conferences, pitched to many agents and received plenty of interest that hasn't yet translated into a working relationship, I've been eyeing small presses lately. (Also constantly working to improve the writing itself. Frustration will do that for you, but trying to be responsive to reasons for rejection can also, I'm afraid, push you away from your core strengths if you let it.) Seems like small press publication at least opens doors of opportunity. Would you agree?

  15. As a bookseller, I have a question for you. Does your press take returns? I ask, because this can be the biggest problem in getting stores to order. If I go in to our system to shortlist a book because a customer asks for it (or has placed an order), I'm supposed to check that issue. There are several books I've read and would love to sell, but was unable to convince my boss to order...non-returnable. that said, if it's on I'll find it :o)

  16. PS. The reason I'm not using my Google account to post is that my posts seem to keep disappearing
    It's been that kind of week :o(

  17. Welcome Kate, and thanks for telling us about your books and your path. We are in such a state of flux right now--it may well be that what you describe will become more the norm than the exception! I know every one of us here at Jungle Red works like a dog (or a mountain lion) to get the word out about our books--it's definitely expected.

    And Kate George, Kaye George--wow, are you guys related?

  18. Well, since you asked, Roberta, you can see my latest blog for some insight into that. :)

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  20. The problem Maryann raises of course goes away with e-Books. Kaye, is your book in e-Book format? Maryann, is your bookstore able to sell e-books now? Soon??

  21. I just can't get over it--you all are wonderful! What a group!

    See you tomorrow for...well, you'll just have to come check it out. But let me just say--a major league author reveals her guilty secret!

  22. Oh, and Saturday? One writer's reinvention of herself--with wild success! How'd she do it? She'll let you in on it--on Saturday.

  23. I've been keeping an eye on small presses for awhile now, and the one that seems most interesting at this time and in this climate is a small outfit out of Austin TX called Tiny TOE Press.

    Tiny TOE Press is unique because it handpresses its books. This is not only a great way to minimize costs, but it also adds some charm to each copy it produces.

    Right now they offer 2 great books:

    The Mosquito Song by M. L. Kennedy


    Austin Nights by herocious

    They also seem to be looking for new writers.