I have heard this asked repeatedly and have even asked it myself before. Does it make a difference if you go with one of the New York publishers or with a small press?
It all really depends on what you want. More and more, the line between the two is getting blurred with people who are self published or small press getting some well deserved attention and sales. But with that being said, what are the real differences between the two?
Exposure is one of the big ones that there is still a definite breach between the two sides. With a big house you are more likely to be seen in a book store such as Barnes and Nobles. You will most likely be seen in trade catalogs that we get at the stores. As a small press that is really not likely to happen. Nationwide exposure for a book is not there in most cases.
Of course, when you are in a bookstore with thousands of other books, the chances that someone will pick your title up is very slim. So does it add much to be in the store?
Marketing is one of those areas that the line is getting really blurry. Anymore, unless you are a big name you will need to do a lot of the marketing yourself. Being with a well-known house is a little easier to market to someone since they know the brand usually. So there is a slight disadvantage to a small press there but for the most part I think people will look at the book itself more then who published it if you are there face to face with them.
Now here is where the line is gone. Completely does not exist anymore: online marketing. Everyone is on an even playing field here. Most online marketing is free. Its called social media. An author needs to really be everywhere online and by doing so they can really grow a large fan-base, sometimes in a matter of days. There is a reason it is called Viral Marketing. This completely levels the playing field in my opinion. As a bookstore owner, I really do not like Amazon. As a publisher, they are my best friend. There is a page on amazon dedicated to each book out there. That author of that book can go and advertise in a zillion places online and start getting people to go to that page. Not everyone will buy it but some will. And then they will tell their friends and they will send more people and their friends will ....you get the idea. You can't do that in a traditional store easily.
Another thing that I tend to think when I look at a small press is someone that is willing to try something different. I feel that small presses are more likely to print something that is not the norm. They are a little more willing to take risks with the type of book and work on servicing small niches instead of taking on a book that appeals to everyone. Don't get me wrong. If they are approached with a book that will stretch across niches and more people would buy it they will print it. That means more sales, but they are also just as likely to take the small-crowd book if they can think of a way to market it right.
So when I look at those I have to ask, does it really matter if you are in the store physically? Some will say yes, others will say no. Most stores, in fact almost every store, will order a copy of the book for you. So even if it isn't on the shelf they can get it. We are for the most part a used store. We will order any thing you want. We do have a few new books in the store. In fact, we have three bookcases by the door as you walk in that are dedicated to new books. For the most part they are Small Press and local authors. Nearly all of them are face fronted, too. We like to support small presses.
There is also something else that will affect what you do. The con circuit. If you are in a field such as sci/fi fantasy or horror, you have at your disposal a large number of conventions that take place. Everywhere. A lot of small press authors attend these shows and so do a lot of small presses themselves. You get to meet a lot of peers by attending these shows. So in the small press aspect the chances of developing a friendship with the owners and editors of a small press is more likely then with a big house. And I think that can be more worthwhile then anything. Developing friendships will give you a better chance to let your book be published. This is one of those situations of networking, its all who you know.
In the end it is up to you to decide.