On the benefits of small publishers

We all know it, but does the public? Small publishers are the incubators of talent that the big guys don’t touch because they’re focused on sales over art. I like the metaphor of the coral reef: colourful fish, oddities, and a teeming lung for the creative planet.

The world of publishing these days is consumed by the big book, the one that seems to take all the oxygen, all the advertising and yes, again I understand the economics of it, and its commercial necessity for booksellers and publishers but these successes used to fund the fledgling careers of new writers – not so much these days.

The big book pushes the smaller presses to the margins and the voices of our authors to the edges. It greets the casual browser with a big hello and says, you don’t really have to go anywhere else in the bookshop because it’s here, the book you want and need, stacked high on this table.

Prior to the demise of the net book agreement in 1995, when books could not be discounted, the publishing decisions were made by editors. Today, the most important decision makers in corporate publishing will be the sales and marketing people. They have lots of graphs and Venn diagrams but publishing and creativity doesn’t have a template.

Amazon may have the best marketing algorithm on the planet, but algorithms are not best placed in finding great new talent and stories. People do that. 

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