One author’s decision to go with a small press (and her fantastic cover!)

Please welcome Kell Andrews to my blog. She’s my publishing sister with Pugalicious Press and after her cover reveal I invited her to talk about her decision to go with a small press. I absolutely love the cover and can’t wait to read the book!

Why I Chose a Small Press

My debut middle-grade novel, DEADWOOD, will be published later this year by Pugalicious Press, a new small press that is releasing five new titles in its first year of publication. I didn’t start out my publication journey with small presses in mind, but I’m convinced I found the right place for my book.

A few years ago, I had an agent and all the big dreams that go along with that – maybe a six-figure deal from a Big Six publisher. It didn’t happen. My agent and I parted ways. I wrote another middle-grade novel, which turned out to be DEADWOOD, and I felt that it was better than my first novel had been. But when I queried it, I had some close calls, but no offers of agent representation.

So then what? Trunk it? No. I felt that it was a good story that deserved a chance to reach kids. Self-publish? Maybe. A lot of self-published e-books are breaking through but from my observations, the middle-grade market still seems to lags. Younger readers haven’t adopted e-readers as widely as adult readers, and children’s novels still have to pass muster with additional gatekeepers. To get into readers’ hands, a middle-grade novel needed the support of parents, librarians, teachers, and reviewers.

To win that support, I thought I needed a publisher, and that’s why I began researching small presses.

Small Presses: The New Midlist?

The heated discussion seems to be the issue of traditional publishing versus self-publishing, but small presses are hot too, snapping up books that once would have been on a bigger presses’ midlist.

Certainly all small presses aren’t the same. There is a wide range in the category — new and old, tiny and mid-size, traditional, e-only, and POD. Some offer advances, and some don’t. Some are genre specialists, and others are literary fiction vanguards. Some are open to unagented submissions, and some are closed. Some have great bookstore distribution, and others sell chiefly online. Inevitably, some will grow into the big presses of the future (look at the growth of Entangled!), and others will disappear. And yes, there is a range of quality in acquisitions, editing, marketing, and covers, from the highest standards to strictly amateur.

I studied my options and sent my queries.

Finding a Home

When Pugalicious offered, I was thrilled. I loved their artwork, their narrow focus on middle-grade and YA adventure, historical fiction, and fantasy, and their emphasis on building relationships with reader communities.  It was a match for DEADWOOD and for me.

I’m realistic about what being published with a small press means: my book will have an opportunity to reach readers. I have a gorgeous cover and an expert editorial and marketing team behind me.

I also know what it doesn’t mean: I probably won’t be in the major bookstore chains and big box stores. But you know what? A Big Six publisher is no guarantee of B&N placement either. The playing field isn’t even, but at least I have a chance.

And next time? Well, another book is always another story.


Kell Andrews writes picture books through middle grade. DEADWOOD is her debut book for young readers. Visit her at or


DEADWOOD by Kell Andrews

Coming from Pugalicious Press, December 15, 2012

There’s something evil in Deadwood Park.

Twelve-year-old Army brat Martin Cruz hates his rotten new town. Then he gets a message from a tree telling him it’s cursed — and so is he. It’s not just any tree. It’s the Spirit Tree, the ancient beech the high school football team carves to commemorate the home opener. And every year they lose.

But the curse is no game, and it gets worse. Businesses fail. Trees topple like dominos. Sinkholes open up in the streets, swallowing cars and buildings. Even people begin to fade, drained of life.

Martin teams up with know-it-all soccer star Hannah Vaughan. Together they must heal the tree, or be stuck in Deadwood Park at the mercy of the psycho who cursed it.

Add it on Goodreads:

Thanks Kell! What a great post! Kids are going to love this!

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28 Responses to One author’s decision to go with a small press (and her fantastic cover!)

  1. Louise August 6, 2012 at 11:11 am #

    Kell, your book looks delightful, and thanks for sharing with us your thoughts on small presses! I love the idea of small presses, too – especially for MG, which, as you said, is harder to market through self-publishing. Looking forward to reading Deadwood when it comes out!

  2. Natalie Aguirre August 6, 2012 at 11:33 am #

    Loved hearing why you chose a small press and the things to consider in choosing one. Your book sounds great Kell. Good luck with it.

  3. Ansha Kotyk August 6, 2012 at 11:47 am #

    Love love the cover, Kell! Can’t wait until it’s out!

  4. Kip August 6, 2012 at 11:49 am #

    Thanks for sharing the details on your path to publication, Kell! Sounds like Pugalicious Press was definitely the perfect choice for you. Looking forward to reading DEADWOOD!

  5. Kristine Carlson Asselin August 6, 2012 at 11:50 am #

    Great guest post–thanks Kell and Laura for the insight. Very cool to know how many great options authors have these days. And the gals at Pugalicious are awesome!

  6. Heather Sunseri August 6, 2012 at 1:24 pm #

    Great information, Kell! And your story sounds wonderful. I’m so intrigued by small presses, and have been following the success of Entangled for a while. Thanks for introducing me to another.

  7. Stina Lindenblatt August 6, 2012 at 2:20 pm #

    LOVE the cover! It really does seem to big hit and miss if a book makes it into a store. I order mine online, so it’s not a big deal.

    My kids aren’t into ebooks, but my 8 yo recently bought a blackberry playbook and has asked about getting ebooks on it. Not sure if she’ll read them, though. I have enough trouble getting her to read the ones on her bookshelf. She complains they’re all boring. 🙁

    • Laura August 6, 2012 at 4:10 pm #

      I have one son who just isn’t a reader. I can’t get him interested in anything! He’s read Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Geronimo Stilton and Magic Tree House. That’s about it! But he can read and it’s okay if kids like to imagine and pretend and not read. It’s okay.

  8. Alex J. Cavanaugh August 6, 2012 at 2:55 pm #

    I’m with a small press as well and couldn’t be happier!

  9. Laura August 6, 2012 at 4:08 pm #

    Thanks everyone! Deadwood sounds really exciting. 🙂 And I love the quality of covers and books that Pugalicious has put out so far! I do think just like with agents, writers have to do their research when it comes to small presses…and with big presses. 🙂

  10. Lydia Sharp August 6, 2012 at 4:09 pm #

    I recently signed with Musa Publishing, another small press that has taken leaps and bounds in its first year, and I’ve been nothing but pleased with the experience so far. I have a *team* of people working with me, as I assume would be the case with any of the larger presses– editors, cover artists, publicists, etc. But one thing I think a small press has over a larger press is an overwhelming sense of family among the authors and staff, which provides a network of unconditional selfless support. As a new author this is priceless to me.

    LOVE the cover, and love your attitude even more. Best of luck to you!

    • Laura August 7, 2012 at 9:40 pm #

      That’s terrific and congrats Lydia. How exciting!

  11. Kell Andrews August 6, 2012 at 4:24 pm #

    Thanks for the comments about the cover all!

    Another thing I thought about is how far the goal posts seemed to be moving for traditional publishing. I had gotten an agent quickly, and I had great response from editors for my first novel. But as time moved, the market seemed to be getting tighter and tighter. I believed I was a better writer, but I was farther from my goal.

    In addition to friends who have self-published successfully, I have other friends who are holding out for a bigger press, even if it means waiting for many years and many manuscripts. I understand those decisions, but I thought my book was ready and I was too.

    • Laura August 7, 2012 at 9:45 pm #

      Deciding which way to publish is a very personal decision based on so many factors! Thanks for adding that in.

  12. Maria Cisneros Toth August 6, 2012 at 5:32 pm #

    Congrats on your first book! Awesome book cover art!!! A real eye catcher. Kids will snatch it up! Also, your story premise will hook readers, too. I know, I want to know what happens. All the best!

  13. Karen Lange August 6, 2012 at 6:58 pm #

    Thanks for the intro to Kell, Laura! I appreciate the info and hearing about her experience. 🙂

  14. Stacy August 6, 2012 at 7:46 pm #

    What a great cover! I chose to go with a small press for my first novel, and I don’t regret the experience. I’ve learned a lot about the business side of writing and made some great contacts, too.


  15. Jenna August 7, 2012 at 3:41 am #

    I’m so excited to read this one! It sounds like it’s been a positive and rewarding experience, and that’s all we can hope for!

  16. Jaye Robin Brown August 7, 2012 at 11:40 am #

    Kell – I am so excited for you. And the small press: midlist comparison was one I’d not heard – it makes sense.

    I’ve already commented on your gorgeous cover elsewhere but yep, still gorgeous. :0)

  17. Margo Berendsen August 7, 2012 at 4:48 pm #

    A cursed town and a mysterious tree – and what a cover!!! I like the description of this book and its publisher. Haven’t heard of Entangled before and its growth but off to google it, too.

  18. Anna Staniszewski August 7, 2012 at 5:57 pm #

    This book looks great! I’m so glad you were able to find the right publisher for your story. 🙂

  19. Kelly Polark August 7, 2012 at 8:35 pm #

    Cool cover!!! Congrats to Kell!

  20. Stephen Tremp August 8, 2012 at 1:33 pm #

    Its great to meet Kell and good luck this December with Deadwood!

  21. Leigh Moore August 8, 2012 at 1:56 pm #

    Wow! That’s a great-looking cover, and super congrats to you, Kell! I think you made the right choice for your book–and I completely hear your point about small presses picking up the midlist. It does seem the larger publishers don’t even consider midlist titles anymore, which is weird. But here’s wishing you much success. The book looks and sounds awesome.

    Thanks, guys! :o)

  22. Susan Sipal August 8, 2012 at 6:50 pm #

    What a great cover! And your blurb sounds intriguing. I look forward to reading it when released!

  23. Karen Strong August 9, 2012 at 12:23 am #

    Oooh, I LOVE this cover. MG kids would be all over it just for the cover. Looks creepy.

    I love how authors are looking at all the options. It’s a changing world and now writers can find better fits.

  24. Theresa Milstein August 9, 2012 at 1:32 am #

    Laura, thanks for introducing me to Kell Andrews. I like the voice in the premise. This is something my 10-year-old daughter would want to read. I’m looking it up!

  25. Leslie Rose August 13, 2012 at 2:00 am #

    That cover is kickin’. Congrats on the book. When a kid loves a story its means of publication doesn’t matter as long as it gets into their hands,

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