Limited or unfettered?
It may be harder for a book to get noticed if it is published by the small press. The unit cost per book may be higher and this at some point may cramp sales. They do come and go a little. I recently finished an article about the short story market only to find one of the imprints I was describing had shut down. Yet there are some clear advantages of being published by the small press.
The big houses have their problems too
There are mergers and takeovers. Editors come and go. If your book’s publisher gets swallowed up by another, the new house may not be so interested in promoting your work or even in taking on your next book. If your editor leaves the company you may not be able to follow as you have your contract with the publisher, not with the editor. Whoever takes over may not be as committed to your book as the editor who has left.
This is less likely to happen in the small press - most are organised by a handful of people who multi-task.
Often small press are financially robust
The small press is often financially cautious – they usually work in such a way that they don’t pay for books until they have sold them on. This is one factor that puts up the unit price – they’ll often use “print-on-demand”. It leaves little room for spending on advertising and promotion. However, because there is only a little financial outlay for each book – basically the price of setting up the digital file and maybe paying for some art work for the cover, it would be very rare for any book to make a financial loss.
Artistic merit alone
The small press has few if any overheads. Each book does not have to be a commercial success. It does, however, have to conform to brand. So, the small press may still reject. The small press doesn’t have to sell in large quantities and may republish an author even if a previous book hasn’t sold that well. It may publish an author that it likes even though a minority of the public may also like her.