Written by A Guest Author February 8th, 2024

So you want to run a Micropress (or just want to know what it’s like?)

By Elizabeth Davis

So for whatever reason you have taken leave of common sense and sanity and decided that being an author was not enough. You want to run your own micropress.

First, what is a micropress? Well, take a small press and then squish it down, to about two people running a business in a basement. Now in my case, remove the basement because something about the soil or primordial curse fossilized in the limestone makes them expensive and that’s how you get Dead Fish Books.

All joking aside, you may decide to run a micropress because you have a circle of friends and family that write fiction that are tired of going at it alone (whether it be the endless list of rejections or the loneliness of being self published). The bad news is now you are going to have to learn the ins and outs of running a business, one that can be a bit tricker than just your Etsy shop. (Because who doesn’t have one these days.) What you will need is:

1. Become friends with your local small business bureau. This is the place to go and answer any questions about how to legally file for a business, any specific selling permits, or questions about taxes. Don’t forget about trademark registration and other Intellectual Property matters.  Because those will come up (and weirder questions, such as what are the regulations for running your own book vending machine or leaving giant art installations in the park). It’s very tempting to push those issues to the side and hope that they will go away. Sadly they don’t, so be prepared to be confused and uncomfortable. You will be feeling that a lot.

2. Learn about publishing contracts. So many contracts – you will be using these a lot as you grow and reach out to new authors. Don’t just rely on handshake agreements or just email exchanges. Even if you are friends and family. No expectations. This protects you and your authors, and makes everyone’s expectations clear. The good news is that you don’t need to write them in legalease, and you might already have some fine examples if you have been published before. If not, they’re are various resources to check out, such as the Author’s Guild.

3. Start working on your digital and physical presence. This may mean setting up a website (like a free WordPress one) so you always have a home base to fall back on when a social media site gets nuked. It may mean playing with mailing lists, social media, or trying to record a podcast. You will fail a lot. So much. The big thing is to remain consistent, and that’s my New Year’s Resolution because it turns out I’m bad at remembering to post as I am at remembering to eat. We can be each other’s accountability partner, okay?

Physical presence is things like attending conventions, fairs, and other physical events. It may also mean putting on an event at your local library or bookstore. It means book signings no one attends. It means getting comfortable with saying hi to strangers, and trying to pitch your books to people who walk by. It means a lot of rejection in person which can hit harder than all the email rejections. It means weird conversations with the public about how governments are hiding aliens or in which you diagnose their glaucoma. Once again get used to being uncomfortable and unsure. But it also means trying out odd and unusual ideas – such as sending cards to readers at Christmas or in my case, thinking about hand making bookmarks with our logo and hiding them in library books. It might mean printing out snippets of your book and sticking them on people’s windshields like flyers.

That’s just the beginning – we can talk about cover shopping, cultivating a flock of editors, and author egos. After all this you may be wondering why someone will put themselves through the hell of all this. Isn’t writing hard enough? It’s not for the money – everyone will tell you that. It’s because you have looked at the world and other publishers and decided that they didn’t offer the brand of weirdness that is you. That the world needs that weirdness. That no one can stop you from publishing an anthology about owl people (anthology publishing is its own article right there), to write a libretto to go with your space opera, or making your own hand-drawn illustrated editions of your friend’s erotic thriller. That’s the drive to make your weirdness other people’s problem and hopefully discover other like minds out there? That’s how we end up with micropresses.

Bio: Elizabeth Davis is one of the Co-Owner of Dead Fish Books. When she is not procrastinating on writing, she is making databases. When she is not procrastinating at databases, she is writing. If you want to know more please check out Deadfishbooks.com.


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