Friday, July 31, 2015

Small Presses: Though They Be Small They Be Fierce (Emma Dryden Interviews Rana DiOrio and Alison Weiss)

The room filling up to hear Emma Dryden (right) talk with Rana DiOrio (center) and Alison Weiss (left)

Legendary editor Emma Dryden is the founder of drydenbks, a premier children’s editorial and publishing consultancy firm. Calling herself a "big advocate of exploring your publishing options," she introduces Rana DiOrio, the publisher of Little Pickle Press and Alison Weiss, an editor at Sky Pony Press.

Some highlights of the session

On success,

Alison cites a fascinating perception difference: If a book is expected to sell 100,000 copies but only sells 20,000 copies, versus a book that's expected to sell 10,000 copies and sells 20,000. Both books sold the same number of copies, but the perception of success is completely different.

Emma asks Alison and Rana what arguments they'd use to convince an author whose work might be being considered by both their small press and a major house.

For Alison, the benefits of a smaller house include:

• The degree of accessibility. Being able to reach and talk to almost anyone at the small press, versus how at big houses you often don't even know who's touching your book.

• She cautions how at a big house, if you're very very lucky, your book is chosen as the big book they're going to feature and push. But, sometimes (most of the time) your book won't be chosen. A book can sort of get lost... At a smaller house, it's a lot easier to stand out and shine.

• Smaller presses have "a lot more room for experimentation."

For Rana, the argument for Little Pickle starts with:

• "Together, the author and Little Pickle become parents of your child, your work. It's that important. The success of your book is so important to us." She describes it as "intimate."

• Rana cites the process being much more collaborative than at a major house. For example, picture book authors get to weigh in on who the illustrator is, and get input on the art direction. "It's an amazing process and you're being a participant."

• "We work much more quickly." A picture book can happen in a year. (Versus three years at a big press.)

• Opportunity to serve a social mission - not just Little Pickle's, but yours. (They have a lot of cause marketing relationships.)

• Flexibility in business models, where contracted relationships can look more like joint ventures. She sites one of her authors whose deal was no advance and 30% of revenue, versus a traditional publishing deal of an advance with a royalty rate of between 5-7%.

Additionally, both Alison and Rana describe the acquisitions process at their small presses. They discuss marketing, trade shows, publicity and marketing, their business models (advances, royalties, profit sharing versus revenue sharing) and so much more.

The last ten minutes of the session Emma opens the floor to questions from the attendees (some of whom didn't get a chair and are sitting on the floor and standing against the back wall!)

Visit their websites at these links to find out more about Little Pickle Press and Sky Pony Press.

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