Posted by: Kathy Temean | September 8, 2021


Why Small Publishers Are Sometimes Mightier Than Big Publishers by Mira Reisberg

There are so many choices when it comes to book publishing that it can make a person’s head spin. Creating a ready-to-submit manuscript is very personal and then sending it to an editor can be scary. You’ve cared for this story since its conception. To put that work into the hands of others is very difficult for some. It can be similar for artists as well. You created your portfolio, but showing that to other people? Will they see your art as special or just ordinary? It can be a lot of pressure. But the thing is, you need to see your work as something separate from yourself so that you can get the distance you need to keep on submitting until someone does get what you’re doing and wants to publish you.

The ideal is to find someone who loves your work just as much as you do. Someone who will spend the time and care for it like it was their own creation. Will the book you help create be special at a big publisher or just another book on their list? Indie Publishers have some major advantages over the bigger publishers.

The Pros

Because smaller publishers publish fewer books, their books tend to stay in print longer and generally get much more marketing attention. This is partly because of the warehouse tax, which is a separate tax for book warehousing. So if a book isn’t selling enough copies, it’s more likely to go out of print with a larger publisher who has more books warehoused. Also, because books by big-name authors and illustrators are more likely to get more attention and sales, more of the marketing budget tends to go towards those books, sometimes creating a self-fulfilling prophecy for lesser-known folks. And while there are always exceptions to this, smaller publishers tend to focus their budgets and resources on a much smaller list. Finally, your book can get lost or abandoned when an editor moves from one publishing house to another. This is often the case with bigger publishers as it’s often the only way that an editor can get a raise or move up the publishing ladder.

The Cons – Advances and Royalties

This can be both a Pro and a Con with smaller publishers. An advance is an advance payment on future royalties, which don’t kick in until after the advance is paid back. With bigger publishers, you’ll more than likely be given a much larger advance. But the Con of this is that your next book is often judged by how quickly your last book earned out its advance. So, a big advance isn’t always so fantastic. The first book that I illustrated, Uncle Nacho’s Hat, only paid a $1500 advance. But it’s still in print over 33 years later and over the years has earned over 30K and probably more. Plus I’m hoping to do a redesign, which is currently a little outdated, to hopefully bring new life to it. We did this with Baby Rattlesnake, which has been around nearly as long, and it definitely gave it a new lease on life. None of this would happen with a big publisher and both those books would probably be heartbreakingly out of print.

Another Con with Indie publishers is that sometimes they’re not as well resourced as they need to be. For this reason, it’s important to find out before you sign with them how they’re going to market your book and how reputable they are.

So as you can see, there are pros and cons to both big and smaller publishers, but because smaller publishers have MUCH lower overheads without massive NY offices, well-paid upper-level management, and much more. So for this reason, smaller publishers are often more likely to take a chance with an unknown author or illustrator.

And while many of our former students’ over 700 books have been published or contracted with big publishers, many have with smaller publishers as well, launching their careers in wonderful ways.

Each of these publishers has acquired books from our former students and several have also taken courses with us and know the quality of our student’s work. So I want to introduce you to them before inviting you to join us on September 18th & 19th in the Picture Book Palooza and having the opportunity to submit to them PLUS FOUR other wonderful agents in an optimized way!

Joni Sussman is the Publisher at Kar-Ben Publishing, headquartered in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

With over 400 titles in print, Kar-Ben publishes 20-24 new, high-quality fiction and nonfiction Jewish-themed children’s titles each year for preschool through 6th grade. These include holiday books, life-cycle stories, Bible tales, folktales, stories about Jewish history, stories about Israel, and many other Jewish topics written by both Jewish and non-Jewish authors. Find Joni at Kar-Ben Publishing here:  ​


Gnome Road is a small, family-owned independent publishing company eager to expand the careers of both developing and established creatives. Our team comes from a variety of backgrounds and has a range of experience in the children’s book publishing industry. We are also parents, business owners, and all-around daily task-masters. Together, we are joined in the common goal of bringing stories to our readers that will be treasured for a lifetime. Find Sandra here:

Yeehoo Press is dedicated to publishing fun, enchanting, and socially responsible children’s books for audiences around the world. Yeehoo books are currently being published and sold in English and Simplified Chinese editions. Yeehoo Press has offices in Los Angeles and San Diego, California. They create and publish fun, enchanting, and socially responsible children’s books for audiences around the world, with an emphasis on quality writing and appealing illustrations. Find Helen here:

With a heart filled with passion and a big dream, Callie Metler founded Clear Fork Media in 2009. In 2013, she added Clear Fork Publishing which she operates out of her corner business on the square in Stamford, Texas.

Recently, Callie expanded her growing company. She is excited to partner with Blue Whale Press, founded by Steve Kemp and Alayne Kay Christian, and Dancing Flamingo Press, a new imprint founded by Lynne Marie.

Find Callie and these imprints right here:

And now for a handy dandy wee worksheet to either copy and paste or create your own. Using the short descriptions above, begin making a list of things you want to see in a publisher. The second column is going to need a bit of research as you are going to be writing down the publishers and editors who match your needs. You’ve got a good start with the people above. Tip: Websites are great, but also look at the social media of editors and publishers to learn more about them!

Hopefully, our publisher presenters will give you a good start to seeking out the right publishers for your book or illustrations. Make sure you have a good list of publishers before you start sending out your work. Check if the publisher will let you submit to them directly. If they say they don’t take unsolicited manuscripts it means you need an agent first. Don’t forget to put some research into your cover letter before you type it up! Searching examples of query letters to publishers with a web search will give you lots of examples to follow.

For more information about the wonderful world of Indie Publishing be sure to join the Picture Book Palooza! There will be 6 panels, and Meet Fabulous Indie Publishers is only one of them. With over 27 speakers, 26 prizes or giveaways, 2 parties, 6 worksheets, and EIGHT agent and editor submission opportunities, pitch and bio makeovers, Q and A, interaction, a whole year of access to the recordings and support materials after the event, and so much more all for only $99 making this the most generous conference you’ll ever attend! The Picture Book Palooza is happening soon on September 18 & 19, so register here for this 2-day interactive conference that has changed people’s lives with this link:  ttps://

Proceeds go to fund low-income and diversity+ scholarships to the Children’s Book Academy. You’ll be learning a lot so you can create the best work possible while helping other writers and illustrators create wonderful books as well! Learn more about the event and sign up here:

And as a special bonus, I’ll be training folks in how to craft a winning pitch and bio and doing some makeovers for participants to increase their chances of publishing success.


Sending much love for you and your creations,

Mira & the CBA gang xoxox

Dr. Mira Reisberg is the Director of the Children’s Book Academy and an acquiring editor and art director at Clear Fork Publishing’s kidlit imprint Spork. She loves helping children’s book creatives make magical, meaningful, or just plain fun marketable kid’s books. She has worn just about every hat in the industry, except as a publisher, and looks forward to helping more creatives make and publish wonderful books before hopefully retiring or semi-retiring next year.

Talk tomorrow,



  1. Thanks, Mira, for sharing this great info. 🙂


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