Last week we went to listen to author Kit de Waal talk about her experiences of publishing – and yes, it has taken us this long to write about it – but that’s because there was plenty to think about and reflect upon in what she said.
First, the bad news. It’s depressing to hear that so little has changed with the ‘big five’ publishers, that they’re still centred on (and understand) London and, all too often, exhibit an inherent bias against work from the regions or from working-class writers. We’re not suggesting that people who work for big publishers are actively seeking to suppress alternative voices, by the way. There’s no need to embrace a conspiracy theory to explain what’s going on. However, it is fair to say that if they’re asked to evaluate a piece of work when they know next to nothing about the world it’s set in, or don’t recognise the language it uses, then it’s next to impossible for them to offer an informed opinion, and far more likely it’s going to leave them cold, bore them, and end up on the ‘reject’ pile.
Ah, you say, but isn’t this where independent publishers like ourselves come in? Thanks for asking. We wondered when you would.
The good news is that the advent of desk-top publishing and digital printing has been a game changer. It’s easier than ever now to get a book into print. That means the playing field’s been levelled out, right? Well, no. For starters, we don’t have the marketing budgets or the publicity contacts of the big five. Their budget and these contacts mean they’re more likely to get their books reviewed, and make sure the public know about their books, which helps them sell, which reinforces their belief that they’re choosing (and publishing) the books that people want to read.
This isn’t a moan about how hard life is for us at Ignite Villas. We’re very happy with what we do. We’ve achieved respectable sales for all of our books, and every single one of them has turned a profit (sometimes a very small profit, but a profit nonetheless, and you can help that by shopping for our books here). That’s not just important for us, it’s important for our authors, too. As is the fact we share those profits with them, because putting money in their pocket matters to us just as much as it matters to them.
We’re doing fine. Now just imagine what we could do if we had the contacts of the big five.