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Why indie publishers are necessary 26 Feb 2010

In the publishing industry indie publishers are often overlooked. This appears to be very different from the way indie music producers are regarded. I’ve noticed that the media when it talks to indie music producers or indie film producers has a kind of regard that is unusual towards publishers.

Maybe I just don’t know enough about what goes on in the background – all the emails, phone calls, networking that goes on. Whatever the case, let’s look at indie publishing.

I’ve been in publishing for more than two decades, most of it as an independent publisher. In the 1980 and 1990s there was a thriving English-language independent feminist publishing scene in USA, Canada, NZ, UK, India and Australia. There were also similar publishers across Western Europe.

Feminist publishers used to make up a substantial proportion of the independent publishing world. These days, in the English-language world, only India can claim a thriving network of feminist publishers. The feminist publishers in other English-speaking countries can be counted on the fingers of one hand. We used to meet annually at the Book Expo in America – with at least 50 publishers and more than 200 booksellers. Globalisation, and the advent of superstores saw an end to many of these businesses who were not only publishers and booksellers but also hubs of communication within feminist communities.

European feminist publishers held out a little longer because the juggernaut of the English-language system took longer to have its effects. German publishers often bought rights from those publishers – and so like a caterpillar it slowly digested the energy.

Independent publishers – among them feminist publishers – are necessary because they tend to take on risky books. They feel passionately about what they publish about what they publish – and mostly their loyal audiences feel just as passionately.
Indies do not engage in bathplug publishing – that is, the same product in different colours because for most of them content, production values, and editorial relationships are all extremely important.

In the world of digital publishing, the same passions and energy will drive independent digital publishing. While there are new skills to learn and some new ways of doing things, ePublishing will only be as interesting as the imaginations of those engaging in it. Indeed, it may open the door for new kinds of marketing that depend on connection to communities.

Associated Author: Susan Hawthorne

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