Bridge Works for the past 17 years has taken risks introducing promising new authors, Tom Perrotta among them. What is unique about the current economic circumstances is that most booksellers and print reviewers have lost the resources they once had to lend even limited support to such small-publisher literary offerings.
Booksellers, fighting to stay alive as customers cut spending, have to cut inventories, and as they buy fewer copies of fewer titles the unknown authors are the first to be eliminated. Book stores feel safer with known names and/or purchases from big publishers with big promotion budgets to spend.
It is the same with the once-supportive book editors at newspapers and magazines, as their publications' declining ad revenues have brought cuts of 50% or more in space available for book reviews. With such triage taking place everywhere,, new authors and small publishers are the first to feel the pain.
Agent Robert Brown is right, in his earlier comment on your blog, when he says that it is reader word-of-mouth recommendations to friends, not book advertising, that is most effective in creating demand for particular books of merit. Large publishers have an advantage here, too, as they can afford to flood booksellers and book clubs with advance galley copies to try to create word-of-mouth.
But hats off to those book clubs, web sites, online reviewers and other discriminating readers still willing to seek out the gems still coming from small publishers who are dedicated to discovering and investing in the author stars of tomorrow. Though the economy and book business are tough, let's be thankful we are not car dealers, stock brokers or investment bankers these days. They are even more familiar with what glut on a market can bring. -- Warren Phillips
On to more comments about small publishers: I do have some small knowledge about publishing and small publishers as my partner and I decided, about four years ago, to make the plunge. We were tired of seeing great books good un-published, so we mounted our chargers did battle--for about a year. We found two writers who were willing to fight the battle with us, even though it was a huge risk for all concerned. One thing I'd suggest to anyone who wants to do this is--DON'T. Don't do it unless you want to work 16 hours a day, seven days a week and wish there were eight days a week. Also, make sure you have lots of money that you want to risk--(read that throw away). We put out two titles that actually did fairly well--combined the did well I should say. And we even sold reprint rights on one, which helped us break even. "Break even you say, what about that year's work? Surely breaking even was after wages, right?" Wrong. No wages. We broke even by getting our initial investment back is what I mean by break even. But what an education! The education alone was worth all the effort. What did we learn? Everything. We took a book from a raw manuscript, edited it, ordered revisions, edited again, copy edited, set the book up, made galleys, printed, bound and shipped our own review copies (actually printed and folded pages and bound them with covers--all by hand). Arranged for printing, hired a cover artist, designed a cover, wrote cover copy, found distribution, warehoused books, and did shipping and handing.
What are you doing next Monday? L.P.
O.K. That's it for today. See you next week. Barbara Phillips