In “Dark Wisdom,” we seek writing and/or publishing advice from the horror fiction masters making up Denver Horror Collective’s Advisory Council.
For this installment, we grill Dean Wyant, co-founder and acquisitions editor at Hex Publishers.
What’s the future of small press publishers?
DEAN WYANT: May I have an easier question, please? How I wish I had a crystal ball for this one. There are some things I do understand as far as current publishing goes which I think will continue to influence small publishers as the book business progresses.
Large publishers want that next Harry Potter, Longmire mystery series or a guaranteed big selling author such as Stephen King. Quantity is equally as important, if not more so, than quality. Anyone who has attempted to break into the world of big time publishing knows how challenging it can be. You need an agent–good luck with that–and you need to have a manuscript that will sell. If you’re lucky enough to get published and it doesn’t sell well, you’re dumped. Ouch.
Small press publishing is different. Hex Publishers, which I co-founded with owner and chief editor, Josh Viola, saw a niche here in the local Colorado market for quality horror, science fiction, and crime thriller readers. We went for it. What could’ve easily been a one and done publishing house ended up being much more. We even moved beyond the local market. Years later, Hex is still small and successful. Marketing was a huge factor. There were TV and movie theater ads, beer, music, PlayStation themes and a small multi-state book tour which were all factors in our success. Hex events sold out at local book stores. Our anthologies were both Amazon and Denver Post bestsellers. Big publishers rarely do anything to promote this way.
Time and money. Without those two things, books cannot happen. The costs for publishing and printing books are ridiculously high and continue to climb. Even self-publishing can be cost prohibitive. For a small publisher, the time and money spent editing, searching for quality writers, formatters and marketing is mind boggling. Good authors have to be paid properly. From the beginning Hex paid our anthology contributors more than most other small publishers. Due to time constraints we intentionally made our anthologies invite-only. There’s no way there would ever be enough time to read through hundreds of submissions to find fifteen or twenty great stories.
The advantage of being a small publisher, is that it can accommodate reader demands. Readers expect so much these days. They are more critical than ever. Goliath publishers have a lag time due to their size and bureaucracy. They’re also trying to appeal to everyone. Smaller presses know many of their readers and fans personally. It forces quality product and allows for more flexibility with ever changing reader tastes.
The future? Small publishing isn’t going away. I see new ones cropping up frequently. Printed books obviously aren’t dead. E-books and audio books are great, but damn they’re hard for authors to sign at events. As long as they have the resources and dedication to good work, small publishers will remain an important factor in this complex book business. Small publishers of the future will be more diverse, creative and edgier than ever.
Denver Horror Collective Advisory Council member Dean Wyant is a forty-two-year resident of Colorado with more than a decade of retail book selling experience and a deep network of author contacts. He’s the co-founder and acquisitions editor at Hex Publishers.