I like to think of independent publishers as little minnows swimming bravely into ponds dominated by big fishes. Despite having competition in every corner, independents carry on with their end goal in sight. Now, you must also understand that when I say “independent publishers”, I don’t mean self-published authors. I am speaking of those small companies running the race in lanes next to big-name publishers such as HarperCollins and Penguin Random House. These are the companies run by people who are willing to take a chance in a very risky and unpredictable market. However, despite many a valiant effort, independent publishers have yet to gain the recognition they deserve. It’s time to shine the spotlight on these small businesses and give them a round of applause. Let me tell you why.
1) Authors Come First
Before anyone gets out of sorts, this isn’t where I start condemning mainstream publishers. This is where we discuss an independent publisher’s ability to give their authors closer attention. Unlike mainstream publishers, independent publishers usually maintain only a handful of authors. Having a shorter list allows indies to provide more focus and attention to their author’s needs. They can provide editors who can be called in the wee hours of the morning when things go awry, even they’d prefer to be sleeping. Essentially, independent publishers become the trusted bedfellows of their authors. That’s more than an author can hope to attain from a large company with an extensive list.
2) Solid Storytelling Can Survive
At the risk of sounding overly negative, I think mainstream publishers sometimes fall short in producing unique novels that the market hasn’t seen before. Yet, I can’t blame them. Sticking with authors readers know is guaranteed to maintain sales while infringing on familiarity can create unstable ground. Despite the uncertainty, independent publishers are more willing to take on the fledgling authors. They are the publishers looking for fresh stories and potential instead of revenue and sameness. Don’t get me wrong, independents also need money to survive, but they have more opportunity to grab hold of a good story when it’s sent their way. By taking on this mindset, these companies have the potential to discover the next Pablo Neruda or Ezra Pound. You just never know how, or where, no-names can become big names.
3) Less Is Always More
Although the idea of having limited office space, fewer resources, and a smaller employee base seems daunting, many indie publishers have created solid business models that survive. Realistically, some may fail, but there are those who have the ability to thrive. Take New York publishers New Directions, for example. It was founded in 1936 by a twenty-two year old with a love for books and a dream. Fast-forward eighty years later and the company is still thriving while maintaining only nine employees. Their key to success has involved welcoming unknown authors and being the first U.S. publisher of names such as Jorge Luis Borges and Anne Carson, among other admirable accomplishments. New Directions is just one example of how publishers don’t necessarily require size to flourish, but attention to quality their readers can rely on.
If you’d like to explore the world of independent publishers a bit more, follow the links below: