On chat with my wonderful editor (two houses, five books), Michelle. We got to talking about the Small Press Paradigm. We wonder whether the small press sales you rack up are an asset to the agent-hunt? or possibly even a liability?
See, I'm not hearing it specifically from agents, but by and large there's a perception out there that if you're published by a small press, it means automatically that your work is substandard, because small presses are all the same. They will publish anything sent to them. They do no screening nor do they do any editing. They put out rubbish, so that's why it's necessary to screen small press titles out of some review sites, many award competitions, RWA type contests, and the like.
This is rubbish. Small presses have standards. They DO screen the fiction that is sent to them. They reject a high percentage of the submitted material. They DO edit. There is nothing basic that prevents small press books from competing on any playing field you choose--save the perception out there that these are second class work that must be suppressed at all costs.
So, Virginia, do not send a small press your 600,000 word epic fantasy or your angst-ridden memoir. They're looking for better things.