24 March 08 | Chad W. Post

The most recent issue of Publishers Weekly contains an interesting piece on the state and nature of independent publishing in the UK:

“Independents,” for these purposes, are U.K. trade publishers that are not one of the Big Four (Hachette, Random House, HarperCollins and Penguin) or the Not-Quite-So-Big Three (Pan Macmillan, Bloomsbury and Simon & Schuster). As in the U.S., there are plenty of them around. The U.K.‘s Independent Publishers Guild has around 460 publishing members with a combined turnover of £500 million, and they are gradually increasing, not shrinking, in number as technology lowers the cost of entry. But the premium layer is visible and influential in a way that most U.S. independents are not. [. . .]

Their size, however, does give them one more pertinent common feature, neatly summed up by a publisher who has operated at both ends of the scale. “The bigger you are, the more you’re affected by the market,” says Tim Hely Hutchinson, CEO of U.K. market leader Hachette Livre U.K. “If you’re small, you make your own success.”

Most of this article focuses on the “entrepreneurial attitude” of indie presses—the way they find new ways to be successful, even in the face of market obstacles, such as display space:

These three-for-twos and other promotions paid for by the publishers—mostly the big ones—now fill the front of the major bookstores. This forces independents to rethink how they publish, maintains Anthony Cheetham, chairman of fast-growing Quercus Publishing. “The entire front of the store, the face-out space, is sold to the books that have the largest mass market potential,” he says. That effectively means sold to the six largest publishers, who have 90% of the weekly top 50 bestseller list. “The midlist—good books on history, science, philosophy, books by good, new literary writers—is squeezed out. The front of the store can’t respond to market forces if something from the back takes off, because the space is sold. So the big chains have their hands around the neck of the trade, and independents must look elsewhere.”

There’s also a bit of info about the Independent Alliance, which is an intriguing set-up:

The most visible face of independent publishing is the Independent Alliance (sometimes known as the Faber Alliance), created in 2005 in response to the darkening retail climate. [. . .] The idea was to present a united front to retailers by sharing Faber’s sales and administrative muscle with a number of smaller but distinctive publishers. They learn from each other’s best ideas and have begun hosting alliance conferences on topical issues, mostly recently on the digital world.

What comes through loud-and-clear (and is even referenced in the title of the article) is the devotion of indie publishers to every book they publish. There’s a stronger sense of ownership, of taking responsibility for making a book a success, which really appeals to me. There are some indie presses—like Arcadia—that probably should’ve been included in this article, but on the whole it’s a decent overview of the situation and how these presses function.

Although hopefully one day the statement from the opening paragraph—“But the premium layer [of independent presses] is visible and influential in a way that most U.S. independents are not”—will be grossly inaccurate.

Comments are disabled for this article.
Lost in Translation: An Illustrated Compendium of Untranslatable Words from Around the World
Lost in Translation: An Illustrated Compendium of Untranslatable Words from Around the World by Ella Frances Sanders
Reviewed by Kaija Straumanis

Hello and greetings in the 2017 holiday season!

For those of you still looking for something to gift a friend or family member this winter season, or if you’re on the lookout for something to gift in the. . .

Read More >

The Size of the World
The Size of the World by Branko Anđić
Reviewed by Jaimie Lau

Three generations of men—a storyteller, his father and his son—encompass this book’s world. . . . it is a world of historical confusion, illusion, and hope of three generations of Belgraders.

The first and last sentences of the first. . .

Read More >

Island of Point Nemo
Island of Point Nemo by Jean-Marie Blas de Roblès
Reviewed by Katherine Rucker

The Island of Point Nemo is a novel tour by plane, train, automobile, blimp, horse, and submarine through a world that I can only hope is what Jean-Marie Blas de Roblès’s psyche looks like, giant squids and all.

What. . .

Read More >

The Truce
The Truce by Mario Benedetti
Reviewed by Adrianne Aron

Mario Benedetti (1920-2009), Uruguay’s most beloved writer, was a man who loved to bend the rules. He gave his haikus as many syllables as fit his mood, and wrote a play divided into sections instead of acts. In his country,. . .

Read More >

I Am a Season That Does Not Exist in the World
I Am a Season That Does Not Exist in the World by Kim Kyung Ju
Reviewed by Jacob Rogers

Kim Kyung Ju’s I Am a Season That Does Not Exist in the World, translated from the Korean by Jake Levine, is a wonderful absurdist poetry collection. It’s a mix of verse and prose poems, or even poems in the. . .

Read More >

Kingdom Cons
Kingdom Cons by Yuri Herrera
Reviewed by Sarah Booker

Yuri Herrera is overwhelming in the way that he sucks readers into his worlds, transporting them to a borderland that is at once mythical in its construction and powerfully recognizable as a reflection of its modern-day counterpart. Kingdom Cons, originally. . .

Read More >

The Invented Part
The Invented Part by Rodrigo Fresán
Reviewed by Tiffany Nichols

Imagine reading a work that suddenly and very accurately calls out you, the reader, for not providing your full attention to the act of reading. Imagine how embarrassing it is when you, the reader, believe that you are engrossed in. . .

Read More >

A Simple Story: The Last Malambo
A Simple Story: The Last Malambo by Leila Guerriero
Reviewed by Emilee Brecht

Leila Guerriero’s A Simple Story: The Last Malambo chronicles the unique ferocity of a national dance competition in Argentina. The dance, called the malambo, pushes the physical and mental limits of male competitors striving to become champions of not only. . .

Read More >

The Little Buddhist Monk & The Proof
The Little Buddhist Monk & The Proof by Cesar Aira
Reviewed by Will Eells

Aira continues to surprise and delight in his latest release from New Directions, which collects two novellas: the first, The Little Buddhist Monk, a fairly recent work from 2005, and The Proof, an earlier work from 1989. There are a. . .

Read More >

Agnes by Peter Stamm
Reviewed by Dorian Stuber

The narrator of Peter Stamm’s first novel, Agnes, originally published in 1998 and now available in the U.S. in an able translation by Michael Hofmann, is a young Swiss writer who has come to Chicago to research a book on. . .

Read More >

The next few events from our Translation Events Calendar: See More Events >