Publishing Houses: Going Small vs. Going Big

 The most important thing to know is that no matter which channel you go through–big, small, or self-published–a well-written book, a killer cover, luck, and a determined author is what really makes a book successful.

Knowing the difference between a big publisher and a small publisher is good for everyone. It keeps an author’s search for acceptance relevant and strategic and it helps acquisitions editors everywhere from having to shuffle more manuscripts into the slush pile. The most important thing to know is that no matter which channel you go through–big, small, or self-published–a well-written book, a killer cover, luck, and a determined author is what really makes a book successful.

First and perhaps the most obvious difference is that indie publishers aren’t as fancy as bigger publishers. Often times, people in smaller houses are performing multiple job responsibilities. (Your editor could just as well be your cover design artist, etc.) The biggest, and most obvious difference is the amount of money that floats in and out of a small house compared to a big one. Here’s the truth: nothing happens without money so this does cause detrimental differences in terms of advances, royalties, and marketing. Another problem for small houses is trying to convince authors and staff to stick around when they get better offers. Sadly, many writers don’t even consider indie publishers until they’re turned down by bigger publishers.

The difference between a small and big publisher is best understood by considering the difference between a community college and a university. You can get the job done through both channels but the amount of money spent, influence, and networking is different.

The Basics:

What’s up with indie?

  • Don’t expect an advance. If you do get one, it may be anywhere between just a few hundred dollars to a few thousand but, generally not more than $3,000.
  • Acceptance is less competitive.
  • Focus is author and quality driven. Going indie is a great  option for writers who haven’t been published before. If you get a few books published first and then get picked up by a big publisher, it could definitely result in big profits down the road.
    • You’ll get more intimate focus on the quality and image of your book. A good publisher will help a writer produce only the best version of their work through editing, cover design, proofreading, and coaching. This is the biggest incentive not to self-publish.
      • ***Side note on self-publishing: If you go this route, you can outsource just about any project these days and then keep 100% of your profits after. If you need branding and collaboration or just don’t want to go it alone, definitely go with a publisher versus self-publish.
  • It’s cheap for authors. If the independent publisher–given it’s not a vanity publisher and there’s a lot of those hiding out–doesn’t charge for editing and design services and just collects a percentage of sales, all you spend is your time.
  • Limited reach. Will you see your book on every bookstore shelf publishing through an indie publisher? Probably not. Will your book get picked up by a popular reviewer? Sure, if you’re willing to pay for a publicist. You’ll also have to do some marketing on your own, sometimes, all.

What’s up with big publishers?

  • Expect an advance! This is the biggest incentive to go for a big publisher.
  • Acceptance is very competitive so don’t expect to get picked up right away. Acceptance is highly competitive but it’s still worth trying. You may need an agent or an “in” to even get looked at.
  • Focus is sales and quality driven. Big publishers want great books that can make them money quickly.
  • It’s even cheaper for authors if they get accepted to a big publisher. A big publisher often has the money to support an author so that they don’t have to worry about marketing costs on top of covering editorial and design costs.
  • Large reach. You don’t have to do much marketing on your own, though to be honest, a big publisher will only invest money where they think they’ll get the most return. Not all books that are accepted by big publishers get the marketing deal of a lifetime. There may not be tours or air play for you–it all depends.
    • Most likely a big publisher has connections with Net Galley and reviewers!
    • It’s not guaranteed but it’s very likely that your book could end up in a distribution channel that supplies bookstores. This all really depends on the publisher and your book.


Revised 1/8/17

An Interview with a Hawaii-Based Publisher’s Editor-in-Chief, David Shinsato

 Q: Let’s start off light. So, what’s the funniest thing that has happened to you?

A: Funniest thing that happened to me… Well, this wasn’t exactly funny for me at the time, but other people sure found it funny when I told them. It’s probably the most embarrassed I’ve ever been in public. 

While I was studying abroad in Okinawa, I won a $50 trip to the Kansai region. I was one of three undergrads who were chosen by lottery. The rest were grad students. Anyway, the first night, there we were at a hotel having a big dinner. There were about 50 of us. After dinner, they announced that all of the people from each country present had to walk up, introduce themselves in Japanese (a language I could barely speak), and sing a song from the country we came from. Being the only American, I had to go up by myself. There were like 20 Chinese people so they got to sing in a big group…

As I walked up to the microphone, my yukata (a casual summer kimono, which I was not at all used to wearing) got caught in a sound cord and everyone got a pretty clear view of my underwear! Laughter ensued and I was pretty embarrassed. I proceeded to do my Japanese self-introduction, which I did terribly. It was made even worse by my embarrassment. Then, I couldn’t think of a song (something I should have done earlier) and I sang Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and forgot the lyrics. It was the most humiliating walk back to my seat.

That was probably the “funniest” thing that has happened to me.


Q: That’s so brutal! On a positive note, I’m sure you cheered up a lot of people that day. What were you like in high school?

A: Honestly? Shy, if you didn’t know me, and annoying if you did. I’d like to say that I grew out of that stage, but that depends on who you ask (haha). Personally, I don’t really like High School David.


Q: How would your best friend describe you?

A: Ambitious, confident, fun, goofy, loving, and a hard worker. They’d describe me as someone who isn’t satisfied with a superficial relationship and who takes the time to actually get to know people. 

Full disclosure, I don’t know how to answer questions like these. So, I just asked my wife who is my best friend and that’s what she told me.


Q: What’s the most interesting thing about you that we wouldn’t learn from your resume alone?

A: Uhhhh, I’m not sure. I don’t really find myself very interesting. I did enter a chess tournament once and I lost every match. I guess that’s something I wouldn’t put on my resume.


Q: You’re Savant Books and Publications’ newest Editor-in-Chief. What’s your most favorite thing about being an Editor-in-Chief?

A: Being able to find quality manuscripts that are enjoyable and consistent with Savant’s mission. I–like most people–love a good story and am happy when I can be involved in the process of getting that story out to the world. 


Q: And, your least favorite thing about being an Editor-in-Chief?

A: I’d say it’s rejecting manuscripts. I’m not at all happy when I have to do it.  For many people, being published is one of their life dreams. People work very hard on their books, but sometimes their work just isn’t a good fit for our publishing house. This is definitely my least favorite thing.


Q: If you couldn’t work in publishing anymore, what would you be doing?

A: If I couldn’t work in publishing, I’d do something else where I could be a part of the storytelling process–maybe in TV or movie production. I love animated films and shows, so I’d probably do whatever I could to get into that field.


Q: Let’s talk books! In your opinion, which is the best book ever written or which book do you wish you had written?

A: If you’re talking about a fiction book, that’s tough–it depends on the genre. But if I had to, what I believe are the best books ever written (at least one’s that I’ve read) I’d have to say, John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, Lord of the Flies by William Golding, Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, and a short little sci-fi story I absolutely love called, The Dandelion Girl. For non-fiction work, definitely, The Bible.


Q: If you could live in a book’s story, which would it be? Which character would you be in it?

A: If I could live in any book, it’d probably be The Stormlight Archive series by Brandon Sanderson. I love the world that he’s built and the complexity of the magic system in it. I’d probably be the character, Kaladin. I find myself a lot like him in many ways. If I had to pick a more popular book, I’d pick Lord of the Rings and be Sam. In the end, it’s fantasy worlds that really appeal to me.


Q: What’s the best advice you were ever given?

A: That’s hard to say, so I’ll just say the first meaningful piece of advice that came to my mind: don’t waste your life.


Q: Speaking of meaningful, in your opinion, what’s the most meaningful thing a writer should have or do to be a successful author?

A: The most important thing a writer should have to be a successful author is skill. There’s no other way around it. People will buy and read good books. If you can craft an intriguing story with interesting and relatable characters, people will take notice. Of course, timing, marketing know how, and connections are all important, as well.

But, in the end, none of those things will help if your book is terrible. There are exceptions; some books are mediocre at best, yet they have sold millions of copies. I can’t fully explain that. However, the works that have withstood the test of time are all literary masterpieces. If you are an aspiring author, the best thing you can do for yourself is: learn to write well. 


Q: Here’s the question writers are waiting for. What’s the one thing authors do that hurt their chances of being accepted into a publishing house?

A: The one thing authors do that hurt their chances of being accepted into a publishing house is not following submission guidelines. If you can’t be bothered to properly submit your work, then publishers can’t be bothered to take you seriously. “Gimmicky” stuff usually doesn’t work either.


Q: Lastly, what’s your definition of success?

A: That’s an interesting question. I feel like true success is something no one will ever feel that they have really “achieved”. I think it’s important to always have multiple goals and new dreams–to keep pushing yourself to new heights. I wouldn’t know what to do with myself if I ever felt like I had “arrived”. For now, I guess that’s my answer. Perhaps one day I’ll have something closer to an actual definition. 

At the risk of sounding cliche and kind of corny–which I don’t really care if I do–I will leave you with these lines from Disney’s Tangled. A great movie I might add.
Rapunzel: I’ve been looking out of a window for eighteen years, dreaming about what I might feel like when those lights rise in the sky. What if it’s not everything I dreamed it would be? 
Flynn Rider: It will be. 
Rapunzel: And what if it is? What do I do then? 
Flynn Rider: Well, that’s the good part I guess. You get to go find a new dream. 

 To learn more about David go to or contact him directly at

Hope you had fun!






Get the Inside Scoop from Savant Books & Publications’ Publisher, Dan Janik

I wanted to share an interview Connie Dunn did with Dan Janik recently. I was blown away about how much information is in it so I wanted to share it. If you’re interested in learning about a new publishing house and what’s going on in the industry, this is definitely something worth checking out. It’s definitely an interview I would’ve loved to sit in on when I was climbing my way up in publishing. I’m still passionate about finding all that I can about publishing and learning where the heck it’ll be in the coming years.

Find the interview directly on Connie Dunn’s website here:

Or, click on this link: Connie Dunn’s Dan Janik interview.


Curious to Know How Much Authors are Actually Earning per Publishing Platform?

I was, too. Check out these reports on This website offers interesting data on who’s making money in the publishing industry if you haven’t learned this bit of information yet.  According to reports published on this site, Indie published e-book sales are doing a lot better than traditional publishers.  Surprise, surprise.

Indie publishers are even eating a lot of the pie when it comes to what sells in general.  Okay, maybe I already knew this. It seems like right now, wherever you look there’s a new indie publisher popping up.