Have you ever written a book review?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Why Publish with Savas Beatie?

That question came up today in a phone conversation.

This is an on-the-fly post, written after hanging up with a potential author. It was an interesting call that boiled down to why he should publish with us and not with a larger East coast press. He had submitted his manuscript to us recently and was thinking of doing the same to the big guys.

AUTHOR: Typically, a larger publishing house has more financial resources, more marketing clout, a more established reputation, and often lots of big name authors. Do you agree?


AUTHOR: But I love the books you do, and your authors have lots of good things to say about you and the company. So in one minute or less, tell me why I should publish with Savas Beatie and not XXX?

SAVAS: Lots of reasons. Large presses are generally over-committed and are not in love with their books. It is pure business and numbers to them. The decision-making process is agonizingly slow in almost every department, including marketing. It often takes six months or a year or more just to get a contract offer. Once the decision is finally made, it often takes 2-3 years before your book finally sees print.

Smaller presses like Savas Beatie provide more personal attention, almost always bring projects to market much faster, and your book could become the lead title instead of a project that is buried on page fifteen of a large catalog. Why not be one of ten new books instead of one of 125?

Smaller presses only take books they have a passion for and know they can sell and sell well. Larger presses throw a lot of books out there, and see which take off and then reinforce those, discarding the rest into remainder bins. (I am generalizing, but it is generally true.) Just ask someone who has worked with a large press whose last name was not Clancy, Rice, Cussler, or Rowling.

[One author who was with a larger house and now with Savas Beatie told me he worked for three years on his last book, and his "large" publisher got him a grand total of one radio interview and one book signing, and then told him he was on his own and stopped returning his calls. Typical.]

AUTHOR: So it really depends what you expect as an author.

SAVAS: There are pros and cons either way you choose, but smaller vibrant houses with a firm track record ideally suited to your trade project niche are almost always a better bet than a Penguin or a Random House, and usually even a university press.

[If I could share my email from some of these disappointed authors, more writers would understand why that is true.]



J David Petruzzi said...


Didn't have much to say - in fact I didn't read your post. I just really like that picture of the t-shirt.

Okay, read your post. You're very right, of course. As to getting books to market quickly - we finished the Complete Gettysburg Guide in February, and it hit the shelves by mid-June. That's amazingly fast from what I hear from folks with "big" houses or University Presses. Once you submit your mss, if you see the book in 2-3 years you're lucky. It still astonishes me how quickly you get books in hand from mss completion/layout.

As for marketing - there's no comparison. SB will support authors that promote their books until we all fall from exhaustion, and thank goodness! Just for the guide, y'all set up a radio interview, about a dozen signings, and a TV interview. And all that in less than 90 days.


Anonymous said...

Ted - Excellent post. The only thing I would add is that there is another side to the "big publisher" coin for aspiring authors: don;t be too eager to sign on with a small publisher (right away) just because it's a chance to be published. Make sure you do your homework. I made that mistake. Although the production was well done (i.e., a very nice book wa smade), the communication and distribution have been terrible, which makes the fact that you have a nice book in hand somewhat moot. Fortunately I have busted my arse making my own speaking engagements, arranging book reviews, etc., and I like to do that, and it will pay off in the future, I know. Just a word to the wise: get references, etc., from previous authors with the publisher before jumping into a contract. You may get a book, but the experience can take a lot of fun out of what should be a gratifying path.

Keep up the great work,


Anonymous said...

Ted -

Great post! As we've discussed, I'm currently involved with a university press that has that l-o-n-g publishing window that you write of. On the other hand, their vetting/external review process necessitates a longer timeframe and, IMO, has been well worth the time investment as it's contributed to a better book. So there are definitely pros and cons. All of which got me thinking, with regards to the Civil War, can you give a brief overview as to what type of subjects you're interested in - and for that matter, not interested in?


TPS said...


Indeed, the vetting and time can be very worthwhile (and almost always is). The downsides to academic presses (and I would argue not only for authors, but for the reading audience) are anemic marketing campaigns (in most instances), less input by the author, and sticker shock.

There are literally shelves of books I do not own, but would have purchased, if the price had been more reasonable. I recall about fifteen years ago a 350-page biography of William H. T. Walker was anounced by a Georgia university press (might have been Mercer). I was excited by it and could not wait to read it. Then I found out it was priced at $50.00. I never bought it. If it was $35.00 or less, I would have.

How many sales are U presses losing because of their unsustainable pricing model? But then, most do not have to turn a profit in the real world because grant money underwrites many of the projects--which is why you often see titles on esoteric topics that almost no one buys. I think there is a lesson there somewhere.

Also, thanks for your follow up question:

"Can you give a brief overview as to what type of subjects you're interested in - and for that matter, not interested in?"

That got me thinking. I will address it in a formal post early next week (and maybe sooner, perhaps right after the Vikings dismantle the 49'ners tomorrow).