Small but perfectly formed - why independent publishers are good for authors

My mother always told me that ‘good things come in small packages’ – but then we are both five foot four – but I think it’s a great way of describing a lot of independent publishers. 

I, like everyone else, always love a good story of a self-published author who becomes a success despite having received rejection letters from the ‘Big Six’. But now there are a raft of sites, blogs and blog posts out there that say the only ‘author-friendly’ way of getting your book to market if you don’t have a ‘big six’ publisher is to self-publish – as if life for the small independent publisher wasn’t tough enough.

Some of the negatives levied at smaller publishers are that they don’t have adequate: editorial support, cover design, marketing & pr, and distribution, and that net sales terms are simply an attempt by the publisher to ‘leave the author penniless’. I’m lucky, I have experience of working both for a big six publisher and for a really great small publisher so I can tell you that in terms of the publishing process it’s only scale that differs between the two, and that small publishers have their place for both the trade and authors.

Being small means that as well as trying to land great mass-market project editors can also bring to the table interesting and important books within our ‘niches’, and authors get the chance to move up the list becoming a ‘super-lead’ where before they may have been ‘mid-list’ – which means that with a pedigree of producing great books in key genres small publishers can also be relied on by the trade to be giving them top quality books.

I can only speak in specific terms about the way that we work but I am sure most of this is true for other indies too. We have great editors who bring in authors they believe in, help them shape their projects and hold their hand through the writing and editorial process. We have designers who work hard to create really stunning jackets that have great on-shelf and on-screen impact, as well as stunning page-layouts and type-setting (all with varying levels of input from the authors). Then we have production teams who make sure that the books are printed to high-standards finding the right paper and innovative finishes all for a good price as well as producing reflowable and fixed format electronic versions of our books.

I’ll admit to being biased here but with our marketing and PR, who work across the whole spectrum of the media to promote our book, we work in innovative new ways to help get the message of the book out there and here we work closely with our authors, and actively encourage and support them as they connect with their readers directly through blogs, websites and social networks.

Finally we have a sales team who work hard to sell our books across the world, including a dedicated foreign rights team. In the UK, as well as dealing directly with promotional and special sales, we currently work with the lovely team at Simon & Schuster to sell-in to head offices and bookshops, and we have top level distribution deals in the US and Australia – which effectively make us a global publisher. We now also duplicate this in our electronic publishing with agreements in place with all the major retailers to sell our ebooks worldwide.

So whilst small publishers may not be able to put £100,000 in marketing spend behind a book, or offer £50,000 advances – we can offer authors a truly professional and passionate proposition. So before you dismiss small indie publishers, remember that ‘good things come in small packages’.


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