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The "Standard of Ur" from ancient Mesopotamia

The "Standard of Ur" from ancient Mesopotamia

10 July 2014

In praise of small presses

The Publisher's Stroke
In February, Eric T. Reynolds, publisher and owner of small sf/f press Hadley Rille Books, had a stroke that landed him in intensive care, then a regular hospital ward, and then a rehab facility for almost five months. He is now continuing recuperation at home.

After Eric's stroke, HRB authors immediately pitched in—in ways big and small—to help keep the press going. We  kept the audiobook program alive and producing audiobooks of past releases; we released one novel and will release another this fall; we started a planned Indiegogo to raise money to raise the profile of HRB and its books.

I say "we" because like other HRB authors, I offered to help. But my schedule and health allowed me to help out only in a small way. The weight of the work fell on the shoulders of Terri-Lynne DeFino, author of several fantastic fantasy books, who is temporarily running HRB at the expense of her own writing and personal life. Authors Karin Gastreich, Julia Dvorin, and Kim Vandervort also have sacrificed greatly for HRB.

What is more remarkable is what didn't happen. To my knowledge, no one pulled a pending book, and no one went looking for a new publisher.

Like many small presses, HRB runs on love, and the HRB authors consider ourselves a family. Eric  treated his authors fairly and with respect, and it was only natural to help him out when he needed us.

Reasons I Love Being a Small-Press Author

In the continuing debates between those who favor traditional publishing and those who favor independent publishing, the small press often gets left out. It's a shame, given that being with a small press can offer the best of both worlds. Here are some of the reasons I'm a HRB author.

* HRB has high production values, and its covers are increasingly beautiful. (See some of my favorite HRB covers at right.)

* The authors have input into their cover art.

* Books go from manuscript to printed book in one-third the time a New York publisher takes.

* Small presses can specialize in niche audiences. One of HRB's specialties is archaeologically and/or historically accurate historical fiction by people with degrees in the field who know their stuff.

* HRB is not rooted in the past or in passing trends; the future of publishing is already here at HRB. The books feature characters of various ages and ethnicities and do not hide that fact. The women are realistic and varied, true strong heroines with believable motives and backgrounds. The big publishers still struggle with the concept of a "strong woman" and publish books whose women demonstrate their strength by swearing a lot, beating people up, or being rude.

* HRB contracts do not require the author give up all rights forever or to not write books for anyone else. Big publishers increasingly are squeezing authors with restrictive clauses.

* The HRB royalty rate is several times as high as my friends at large publishers receive.

* HRB books stay in print forever, and HRB continues to promote them. The typical large publisher gives a book a brief time, sometimes only a month, to sink or swim. Increasingly, big publishers drop authors whose books sell consistently but never are best sellers.

HRB's IndieGogo

HRB is currently raising money to help it become a bigger press. Our financial goal is $12,500. With the help of the funds raised, we hope to hire a professional publicist, go to more conferences, get on the shelves of more brick-and-mortar bookstores, and otherwise increase awareness of HRB's books and sell more.

If you agree that readers of fantasy, science fiction, and historical fiction need the innovative books put out by small presses I urge you to check out HRB's Indiegogo at You can contribute as little as $5; larger donations get you increasingly cool perks: signed books, an exclusive teeshirt, a walk-on role in a future novel, a chat with an author, a fifty-page manuscript critique, and more.


Terri-Lynne said...

I am truly honored and touched, Shauna.

Shauna Roberts said...

It's only the truth, Terri-Lynne.

Charles Gramlich said...

This is part of the reason I was so upset by the death of Robert Reginald. He was such a joy to work with.

Shauna Roberts said...

CHARLES, I'm sorry that you lost such a good publisher.