Fighting for Life – Indie Publishing in Unprecedented Times

I’ve written versions of this piece a few times before, but it feels like now is the right time for a re-visit.

Indie’s are struggling. A lot of industries are. But the ones that seem to be getting the least help are amongst the most important for our collective mental health. The entertainment and arts industries, of which indie publishers are a part. Not to mention the jobs and economic value they bring.

The simple fact is that most people only buy name brands, and only one book or so a year if that. If you’re reading this, you’re not likely one of those people. I certainly am not. As we’ve just passed pay day in the UK, I’ve bought seven in the last few days. Two from mainstream publishers (I’m powerless before a new Nick Hornby novel) and five from indies – a mix of Fahrenheit, Red Dog and Head of Zeus. I’m very aware of my privilege though, I have a stable job that has not been furloughed or impacted by covid, I’m able to work from home. Not everyone is in such a position and so before we go on I want to stress that I really don’t want anyone to feel guilty if they are buying less books this year, everyone has to look after their own priorities and I don’t judge that.

As is so often the case with these kinds of blog posts, a tweet got me to thinking. Or a thread to be more precise, from the lovely people at Fahrenheit Press. Who, its should be pointed out, when dying on their arse this year still found a way to give out free books to those that couldn’t afford to buy. No strings, no guilt, no PR stunt. Just a simple offer of help.

These are some of the tweets in that thread…

I’m not anti-mainstream (cf: Nick Hornby comment above), but I am very much pro-indie. Indie published books tell hugely important stories and often lead the way in representation and ground breaking new approaches to storytelling. Risks that major publishers won’t take are the bread and butter of the indie world. They need to be so that they can set themselves apart and offer something to attract a readership that doesn’t want the same thing in every book they read.

Indie also provides a community for avid readers. There are wonderful people on bookish twitter, and a community of bloggers and readers that’s its great to be a part of. So many recommendations to keep up with sometimes!!

All of which will be lost if indie dies out. So many stories that will simply disappear, so many more that we will never have. This is my Fahrenheit and Red Dog collection:

All of these would vanish if these amazing publishers went under. Amazing and oftentimes unique voices that find their home in this community of readers, some of the most incredible books I’ve read in recent years are on these shelves. Or elsewhere in my collection from other amazing indie publishers like Orenda, Eye / Lightning, Head of Zeus, Salt, the list goes on and on. We simply can’t afford to let them die without a battle.

And this isn’t simply leading up to a GoFundMe or a Kickstarter, a lot of indies aren’t going that route but rather trying to stay in business by publishing great books. Its leading to a simple plea: If you can afford it, go buy an indie published book.

But that’s not the only thing that helps, if you read a book you love – post a review. Either on a blog or a website such as Good Reads or Amazon. Amplify your favourite authors and publishers on your social media. Tell your friends about books you’ve enjoyed. Christmas is coming up fast – instead of the Private Eye annual that you always buy your uncle, get an indie paperback instead. Support comes in so many ways, and they are all essential to this industry’s survival.

However you are able to support in these unprecedented (now there’s a word I’ve come to loathe in 2020) times, one thing is for sure. If we don’t battle for indie publishing, we will lose it. It will burn to the ground and we won’t see it spring back, there is no corporate finance here, this isn’t a cinema chain that can re-open assets in April, once a publisher dies that’s it, it’s gone.

If indie publishing means anything to you at all, fight for it.

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