How Small Publishers Can Still Sell Books

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October 2013
by Martin Shepard

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What follows is what we at The Permanent Press have learned over the past 35 years when it comes to promoting and selling books, particularly the kinds of books we usually publish. Many of the things I mention may seem self-evident, but I think they are all worth thinking about.

The vast majority of the books we publish are fiction, and we try to select artfully written titles, be they mysteries or general fiction: books that are character driven and outside the realm of what the Big Five generally select. With 250 or more imprints, the Big Five may produce 85 percent of the books sold in America, but by and large they tend to go for the lowest common denominator—for the widest audience—while our target audience is the more thoughtful and sophisticated reader. They publish name-brand writers. We don’t. We pick from among the 5,000 queries and submissions we receive each year and publish the best 12 to 16 manuscripts we read.

Selling books depends on reaching potential readers, and for us that starts with review coverage. Since my wife and I began The Permanent Press in 1978, there have been many changes in the way one finds an audience. Once upon a time there were newspapers that covered books and had book editors who respected and helped get the word out for quality writing by relatively unknown writers published by small independent presses….IBPA Members – Click here to view the full article (login required).

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