In praise of the Independents – Bea Davenport
First of all, let me be clear about the subject matter. When I talk about independent publishing, I mean being traditionally published but by a smaller press that is not part of a larger conglomerate. I do not mean that I have self-published and set up a company name to give the appearance of a traditional publisher.
The annexing of the term ‘indie’ by self-publishers is something of a frustration to those of us who have a traditional publishing contract with a smaller press, because the two experiences are not the same. I don’t really mind what self-published authors call themselves, and I can certainly see the appeal of the term ‘indie’, but I do wish they had found a term that was not already in use.
So independent publishers, for me, are those small but traditional publishing outfits that give their authors a contract, an advance and agreed royalties, even if they don’t run into six figures. And in these days when the larger publishing houses are hard to crack and are often accused of being risk-averse, hurrah for these indies.
It is almost impossible to win a contract with a larger publishing house without an agent. The agent, by necessity, is looking for writing that is guaranteed a level of commerciality, so that their own work is rewarded with a percentage of a reasonable amount. It follows that it is also pretty tough to get an agent, if your work is a little niche, is ‘mid-list’ or simply fails to fit into any of the more popular categories. Yes, I feel sure you can quote me an exception, but as we know, the exception proves the rule.
Every year, the independent publisher Legend Press runs a competition for new writing and any writer for adults can enter. The Luke Bitmead Bursary is, in part, a tribute to one of Legend’s talented authors who died at a very young age. Had it not been for a shortlisting in this competition, I do not imagine my writing would have been plucked from the slush piles, but Legend’s open door policy gave my work a chance. Now on my second crime/suspense book with them, I have found them friendly, approachable and ethical.
One way I believe the independent publisher stands out is in its distinctive, thoughtful book covers, which never fall into that ghastly ‘copycat’ syndrome that makes more generic covers a target for Private Eye and other publications (such as this piece in the Huffington Post).
This very smallness and independence seems to encourage, also, a camaraderie amongst Legend authors, who link up via social media and cheer each other on. I don’t know if authors for large publishing houses do the same, but it’s something I would miss if I moved on.
Most writers agree they do not write just for the financial rewards, so I am not sure why many new authors are dismissive of the independent publisher route. It gave me the chance to realise my dream, which was simply traditional publication and an industry affirmation of my work – not big bucks.
Bea Davenport’s next crime novel, This Little Piggy, is published by Legend Press on 1st October 2014. www.beadavenport.com
Read more about Bea on her CRA Profile