Friday, September 9, 2011

A Look at Small Press Publishing in Hydra's First Year

A Look at Small Press Publishing in Hydra's First Year
by Frank Hall (Publisher, Hydra Publications, and owner of That Book Place in Madison, IN)

Over the years my family of antique dealers acquired a large number of books. After I left college I decided I would try selling them online. A little over five years ago, my girlfriend at the time, now my wife, and I decided to open a used bookstore. Last year we decided to step it up again and add a small press to the mix. Thus Hydra Publications was born.

The past year has definitely been interesting. Borders has come crashing down, e-book sales have gone wild, authors have had to boycott their own publisher when they stopped sending royalty checks. There is no doubt about it: the publishing world is in flux.

I see a lot of change coming, some voluntary, some not so much. The big houses are so entrenched in their ways it is hard for them to change. That is why this is a perfect time for Small Presses to take over. We are more willing to adapt to change. We are more willing to take a risk.

The glory of having your book published is a wonderful feeling. I see the look in authors when they are at their first signing, or when they see the copy of their book for the first time on the shelves of a store. At a store like mine, we have the advantage of being able to display local authors, or ones from a local small press. If you are lucky enough to get your title in big chain store you will be fighting for space with tens of thousands of other titles. Is that worth it? The odds of someone finding your book is pretty low. Indie bookstores are where you should be focusing. You will get more exposure there than in a chain.

That is where publishers need to focus. That and online. As a bookstore owner I really hate Amazon. As a small press owner I love Amazon. Anyone, anywhere in the world, can get your book from Amazon. It is the best venue for small presses.

We as small presses need to work on honing our online marketing skills. Social media sites like Twitter and Facebook will lead to more sales in the long run then anything else we will be able to do. Through our own marketing efforts and working with our authors to make them marketing experts online, sales can only increase.

As much as it pains me as a bookseller, ebooks are the future for a publishing house. They are outselling print books around 3 to 1 currently. This doesn’t mean that physical books are going away. Sales have been steady for them. It just means that more then ever, more books are being sold, a majority of them ebooks. That is a good thing.

More people are writing, more books are selling, and more people are reading. So the outlook is good in my opinion for small presses and for indie bookstores.

Want to try out some Hydra Publication books? Here are a few to look at:

Or a Hydra eBook!


  1. Keep up the good work, Frank! Nice to see small presses giving authors their first step up.

  2. Great post! Thanks for the insight into the world of indie bookselling!!!

    Leslie Soule
    Author of Fallenwood

  3. See, this is why I am with both Hydra Publications and Seventh Star Press. Excellent article and inspiring vision, Frank!