How the prospering independent publishing sector can become even more prosperous
As indie publishers gather later this week in Austin, Texas, for the annual IBPA Publishing University event, attendees will be buoyed by all the positive news and buzz currently enveloping the sector. Indie presses around the globe are reporting strong growth figures year-on-year. In the UK, Inpress revealed a 79 percent increase in sales across 60 small publishers at the back end of 2017. Meanwhile in Publishers Weekly's annual feature on fast growing US independents last April, half of the companies featured reported triple-figure growth, making 2017 the strongest year for the sector since the publication started its deep dive report 20 years ago.
In a world where big name bestselling authors get snapped up by commercially savvy publishers for seven figure advance deals, and lesser known names flock to Amazon's self-publishing platforms in the thousands, indies occupy the increasingly important middle-ground.. But what is it exactly that makes indies so appealing? And how can they build yet more on this seemingly unstoppable growth and success?
There's something about indies
Indies tend to go about things differently compared to your average publisher, often assessing writers and their work on literary merit as opposed to commercial gain. This is appealing to many authors who, aside from wanting to make money, also want to feel that their publisher has love and passion for their work. In addition, indies are also known to take a longer-term view, investing in a writer's career journey, rather than working with them on a title-by-title basis.
Some authors sign up to indies because they want a publishing house which shares their values and mission, while others have previously published books elsewhere but claim they didn't receive the editorial input or the attention, commitment and dedication they felt they needed. This is a sentiment echoed by Betsy Reavley, co-founder of Bloodhound Books, in her recent interview with the Daily Telegraph: “Some publishers will get behind a particular writer, spending most of their marketing budget on them and leaving others to languish somewhat. Of course it's about selling lots of books and making money, but it's also about being transparent, fair and giving the same opportunity to everyone.”
In essence, author care is very much where the indies excel.
But as independent publishers become larger, growing their author bases and lists each year, the inevitable tends to happen. The more they take on, often without extended resources, the more difficult it becomes to offer consistent levels of care for the author which made them such an attractive proposition in the first place. Time that was previously spent editing manuscripts, accompanying authors on tours, and marketing and promoting their books, is now spent on increasingly unmanageable workflow processes, which become a major drain on resources.
When indies expand exponentially, as they so frequently do, most do not have the appropriate IT infrastructure or tools at their disposal to cope with the dramatically increased volume of books which come their way. Their productivity is hampered and during this process of expansion the publisher's duty of care to the author, their primary USP, is eroded.
Resolving workflow issues early
The best way to avoid this unpleasant situation from arising is to address the inevitable workflow problems as early as possible. Whether you're a large publisher or whether you publish less than 50 titles a year, you will eventually find that keeping up with editorial processes, multiple versions, typesetting, proofing, image rights managements, and cover design, across multiple books, becomes arduous and time-consuming. This is the right time to invest in a software solution that can take on the heavy lifting in the workflow.
At PageMajik we work closely with independent publishers of all shapes and sizes to help make their publishing processes simpler. Our publishing workflow productivity tool takes the rigour out of publishing and can boost efficiencies of as much as 40 percent, allowing indies to get back to being indies and do what they do best.