Big Publishers Versus Small
The difference between being published by a major publisher and being my own (very small)
publisher is in my experience marginal. But that is because I have always sold very few copies of
my works, whether I am published by Penguin or by myself (in fact my highest sales are for a
book I published myself under Levellers Press).
The reason is that even large publishers no longer have automatic access to the large bookshop's
shelves. Unless you are a big seller a large publisher's sales rep is going to have a hard time getting
any shop to devote shelf space to your book (especially if it is a play text). All they can do, is list
the book on their own website and, as any publisher can do, get the book listed on the booksellers
website (as I have done). Aside from that the publisher will have you in their catalogue along with
their other writers, and will maybe do other informal things to try to promote you as a writer, such
as mentioning and praising you to the right people, and inviting you to parties (My publisher,
Oberon, used to send me food parcels very kindly each Christmas). On the other hand they might
not. If you don't sell, they may very well pulp your book. Or they may have printed very few
copies, no more than we would. We will only print less than 50 copies initially, but will print more
as soon as there is demand.
The difficulties faced by large publishers caused by the closure of small bookshops and the
domination of the big mass sellers and the consequent narrowing down of the selection of titles
found on shelves, have made this in a way a good time for very small publishers, in that the few
means of resistance left to publishers large and small, are almost the same. A big publisher can do
very little for a low selling writer that he cannot do for himself, or that a tiny publisher like
Leveller's Press cannot do (we do actually get our books on a few shelves in both large and small
So, if you cannot get a big publisher to publish you, or if they won't publish certain things you want
published, then you might consider two things; either publish it yourself as I have done, or try to
get me to publish it for you. The result is roughly the same, you can get your book on the website
of the major bookshops, so that it is visible, listed and people can buy it. You will not sell large
quantities or make any money to speak of (You will get 10% of the cover price as you would get
from any major publisher but I cannot afford any advance against these royalties).
I cannot, beyond these listings, and it being listed in our own website and our page on Amazon
Books, promise to promote your book as I frankly don't have the time or any staff to do it (who
knows, that might change in the future). You can however promote your book yourself, on the
back of it being published by Leveller's Press. I would be very happy to co-operate in any
initiatives you have.
As our list grows then the collective impact of the books multiplies - but that is in the
future. You would be coming in with us at the beginning.