2020: an indie publisher's A-Z

2020: an indie publisher's A-Z

As a new independent publisher launching our first list in 2020, here at BAD PRESS iNK the year has been, well let’s just go with… a learning experience.

So what have we learnt?

In fact we’ve learnt a whole alphabet full:

A is for Authors, and a need to recruit hustlers up for the sales fight, not shrinking violets, or cruisers.

B is for Business Model, part music industry manager/producer/promoter, part venture capitalist looking for potential winners in creative people and products to back.

C is for Covers. Authors generally do words, not pictures. Why didn’t we realise that before? Also, Competitions, great potentially free(ish) publicity, and picking our entry for next year’s Booker prize is a real buzz, ‘Gotta be in it to win it…’

D is for Distribution, and how to arrange it when the wholesalers are shut down. See E for setting up an eBay listing…

E is for E-books. Where it turns out sales actually happen.

F is for Foreign Rights and the cash that can be generated upfront therefrom to plough back into marketing, thank you very much.

G is for Gardners and getting onto their stocking list. See also Holy Grail (1.0).

H is for Horror, some of which we seem to have ended up publishing.

I is for Indies, the bookshops we put at the core of our strategy and marketing spend for the year. Hmm.

J is for Jam fans, who bought our upcoming author’s non-fiction book and might be interested in his next.

K is for Kindness. There’s a lot of it about in the industry. Also Kudos for those established authors who have been prepared to support newcomers – thank you Cathy Kelly in particular. And the value of just Keeping Going or KBO for those familiar with the sayings of Winston Churchill.

L is for Launches and Lockdowns. Not a good mix it turns out.

M is for March and going ahead with a launch of our most challenging book anyway. Not a good result it turned out. And Mentoring, we can’t overstate the value of seeking advice and support from industry experts. Also Merch, get your fan T-shirts here…

N is for Noir as a genre, as well as Negligible sales for some titles. See also Nightmare.

O is for Ownership, and having our authors share in the equity.

P is for Partnerships, with our authors, with the bookshops that are taking an interest, and with overseas publishers. Also Portfolio, working on the approach that we’ll have some winners in the list.

Q is for Questions. Was this a good idea? How do we get this to work?

R is for Returns, biting the bullet for 2021 to accept that we will have to take the risk and put all our books out on a returns basis if we want to sell through Indies. See G for Gulp.

S is for Social Media. We have writers, they sit in their rooms and write. Isn’t that the very definition of antisocial? And Shopping Agreements, the equivalent of jam the day after tomorrow in the TV adaptation world.

T is for TV deals and jam tomorrow.

U is for Upside, of which more below. And USA, a market best tackled by partnering with like-minded established American Indie publishers.

V is for Varied, trying a range of genres to see which ones work for us. And Virtual, which is where all the effective launch activity has gone.

W is for Waterstones, one day. See Holy Grail (2.0).

X is for Rejections, the difficult first step in building a quality list.

Y is for Yes! when we read that great manuscript.

Z is for Zero, the support you can expect for a start-up business from HMG.

And on the upside...

So apart from the sucking sound of our black hole of a bank account, how has our first year shaped up?

Well, we have put out our first list and survived.

We’ve learnt a hell of a lot. And perhaps the most important has been it’s all about building relationships.

With the obvious candidates, our authors, our key business partners, designers, illustrators, tireless PR consultant, with indie bookshop owners, with our trade association – the Independent Publishers Guild – who have helped us find a mentor, and with our authors’ audience.

But also by thinking more widely with some less obvious relationships, for example from fellow publishers here in the UK and overseas, particularly in the USA, with whom we can cooperate and co-promote, to a tiger conservation charity which chimed with one of our books.

And to build those relationships we have had to be business-like. When we thought one of our titles had film or TV potential, we knew we needed to network to create relationships with producers, so we turned to the place where business people go to network – LinkedIn – and just started making approaches. Result? Interest from a pair of up-and-coming TV producers.

And most of all, we’re still here and ready to go in 2021 with our second list of another four titles so far. After all, it has to get easier in our second year.

Doesn’t it?

Iain Parke is an author and the founder of BAD PRESS iNK, an independent publisher based in Norhthumberland.