Saturday, December 8, 2007

Major Talents at Small Presses

Troy Cook (Guest blogger)

Our guest is a reformed filmmaker who decided, after working on 80 movies, that he’d rather write novels. His first crime novel, 47 Rules of Highly
Effective Bank Robbers, was nominated for major mystery awards. His second, The One Minute Assassin, was released this fall.

Troy Cook here, with a topic near and dear to my heart, the indy presses. In light of recent changes to the MWA guidelines for their list of approved publishers (which I won’t go into here), I wanted to take a moment to champion some of the wonderful companies that have been bringing us great books and new discoveries.
But why should we care about
the magnificent independent presses? We all love the big NY publishers and want to be published by them, so why do indy presses get me excited?

It probably starts with my background in independent filmmaking. In the film business 80% of all films are produced by the independents. Yes, a lot of them are crap, including plenty of the 80 films I made in my career. But it’s also where you discover the next great filmmakers of our time: Quentin Tarantino, Ron Howard, Martin Scorsese, and Francis Ford Coppola, among others. These guys, with their crazy ideas about filmmaking, explored and created works of art in the independent world before being snatched up by the big guys.

I think it’s the same with big publishers as it is for the studios. Big publishers
are defined by their stockholder value, which makes it next to impossible for them to take too many risks. And every new author is a risk. That’s where the independent presses come in. They can take a chance on a new author because they don’t need huge sales numbers to be profitable. They can grow an author from scratch all the way to big sales.

Of course, then the NY pubs swoop in and lead the author to bigger and better distribution and sales. Which is pretty cool.

Will this happen to me? To you? It remains to be seen, but it is possible to make a splash even when you’re with a small press. My debut mystery picked up rave national reviews and won multiple awards, garnering interest from a big NY pub, selling out its print run, and landing me a film deal. So I think it’s plausible.

A couple of examples of the small press rags to riches story are Sean Doolittle and Victor Gischler. Well…rags to riches might be a stretch since very few authors get to the riches stage. But these guys were with a cool small press called Uglytown, with good sales, and eventually got snatched up by Bantam/Dell. One day, I hope to follow in their footsteps.

Visit the author’s web site at


Sandra Parshall said...

I can't resist making a plug here for my publisher, Poisoned Pen Press, which publishes some of the best mysteries around. And I want to point out that Capital Crimes, the small press that discovered Troy Cook, also publishes Robert Fate, whose debut novel, BABY SHARK, has drawn lavish praise and award nominations.

Troy Cook said...

I have to agree, Poisoned Pen Press is a fantastic indy. They've published some wonderful authors. Also, Bleak House, Midnight Ink, Perseverance Press, etc. They're all doing a great job bringing us new and talented authors.

Steve Lewis said...

I'm coming in a little late, I'm sorry to say. Are the small mystery presses mentioned so far approved or not approved by the MWA?

If not, they ought to be ashamed of themselves. But I hope they are?

Sandra Parshall said...

Steve, some are on the approved list. A publisher has to be in business at least two years, I think, and publish a minimum number of books.