In Praise of Small Presses

Updated on September 4, 2016
LJ Bonham profile image

L.J. Bonham is a freelance author, novelist, and historian who lives in the Rocky Mountains with assorted critters.


Science-Fiction and Fantasy's Life Blood

Where would Science Fiction and Fantasy be without small presses? Adrift in a mediocre sea filled with mass market, focus grouped worlds, characters, and stories. Small presses are the genre’s lifeblood. Often run by one person, perhaps just a few, these under-capitalized and overworked publishers are home to the wild-eyed dreamers, the outcasts, and the eccentric authors who drive the literary leading edge. Almost every innovation in Science-Fiction has come from small presses pushing the envelop and reader's expectations beyond the horizon.

What is the most important benefit of small presses?

See results

Small Presses, Big Talent

No small presses? No Chithulu, Ray Bradbury, John Dalmas, or Ursula K. le Guin. No Bizzaro, no Avant Guard, no Furry. We have these and more because somewhere a half-crazed, overworked, behind on the rent, devoted editor saw one small spark in an unknown author’s work and brought it to the world.

Many years ago, the small Naval Institute Press published a manuscript rejected by every major publisher. The thriller’s plot, written by an obscure insurance salesman, featured submarines, and—well, they thought—the Navy has submarines. Tom Clancy had his chance, and the world got The Hunt for Red October. Somewhere, editors at the Big Five houses are still pounding their heads on their desks for that one.

This is the small presses’ beauty. They see opportunity and innovation where the majors only see something which does not fit into a neat, "it’s always worked in the past," pigeon hole.


Unfair Criticism

Small presses sometimes receive unfair or disproportionate criticism. Slow royalty payments and limited marketing budgets can frustrate novice authors unused to the business practices common with the Big Five houses. Yet, small presses—often run by authors—are among the most author friendly publishers. The Big Five usually seize an author’s rights for the author’s lifetime, and beyond. Much shorter terms, often between five and ten years, are the norm at many small presses. While most do not deal with literary agents, this results in a much higher royalty percentage in the writer’s pocket. Some agents disparage small presses as not worth the serious author’s time when their real (unstated) reason is because they do not pay advances—the agent’s life blood. Small presses are hidden gems lying in the grass between all the snakes.


Courage to Dream, Courage to Act

Small presses are far from perfect. They are works in progress, more oft than not begun by people who were Sci-Fi addicts first and business people second. Yet, they have one quality the big houses lack—courage. They have the courage to risk much on the unknown rather than wait for the next Dan Brown or J. K. Rowling to walk through the door.

Small presses—imagine your life, your writing career, and Science-Fiction/Fantasy without them.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)