Dead ends

<p>In general, I find independent publishers to be a stoic bunch. They realise that they have to try 10 times as hard with most retailers to get their books noticed as the big publishers do, but they bear this with good grace. At least they have until now.</p>
<p>There is a rising feeling of rebellion among small publishers. They are beginning to get a bit pissed off. If their books are good enough, and they are prepared to support the ever-increasing demands of retailers, then why shouldn't they have as much of a chance as the big faceless corporations? I am hearing tales of publishers simply being ignored for months, with no replies to emails, letters or calls&mdash;a quick &quot;no thank you&quot; is simply good manners. Some publishers are avoiding taking on new books in particular genres as they know they don't stand a hope of being read and considered.</p>
<p>Take Myrmidon Books, a new imprint based in Newcastle. I have been impressed by the remarkably high quality of its list (<em>Thirteen </em>by Sebastian Beaumont is the best thing I have read this year). It has had a torrid time trying to get their books supported by retailers, with only Borders, library suppliers and independents making any sort of effort. This is daft: anyone who took the time to look at or read its books would recognise something special. So I can imagine its delight when <em>The Gift of Rain</em> by Tan Twan Eng was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize last week. I suspect it will find its emails and calls returned a bit more quickly now, but it is a sad indictment of our industry that it has sold far more of that book on export than the combined sales to every bookshop in this country. If the same novel had been published by any of the larger houses, it would have been front-of-store in every high street in the land.</p>
<p>Increasingly Borders is being seen as the last refuge of the independent publisher. Its Independently Published bay is affordable and sells a decent volume of books. No other retailer offers anything close; most are now seen by many indies as black holes that swallow up all submissions and emails with no hope of a response.</p>
<p>Given the current competitive retail climate, this seems daft. Surely stocking and recommending a range of exciting new books that aren't on sale in supermarkets or garage forecourts is a good way to drive incremental sales and market share? But perhaps I am wrong. Maybe selling huge blockbusters at less than cost price is really the way to boost profits. What would I know?</p>