David Stevens, the co-founder of Knights Of children's press, has said indies have "no room to think creatively" when they face potential closure by autumn. Survival is the focus.
It comes as Knights Of and Jacaranda Books spearhead a crowdfunding campaign with writing charity Spread the Word (STW), to raise £100,000 for both indies. Both presses focus on diverse representation in publishing, and set up their crowdfund #inclusiveindies because " minority voices are at the highest risk of being lost". The campaign was inspired by a virtual meeting with small presses organised by STW, where indies shared the "significant financial pressure" they are experiencing under lockdown. A survey undertaken by The Bookseller and STW found that close to 60% of small presses polled said they could be out of business by the autumn.
Jacaranda founder Valerie Brandes said the pandemic had had a "seismic" impact on trade, with all of the events scheduled for this year cancelled. Stevens said Knights Of were not were not expecting the return of literary events, before 2021, and were "already planning rights campaigns without the focus point of book fairs".
Participating in The Bookseller's weekly Twitter conversation, both Stevens and Brandes agreed their presses were "focused on surviving this year" and fulfilling their commitment to authors, despite the challenges posed by the pandemic. Brandes added that furloughing staff was "not an option" for the company and they were down to working two days a week.
For Knights Of, the biggest impact has been a lack of control on business, as they outsource distribution and sales and focus on digital marketing.
Despite the challenges independents face, both publishers felt the "universal adoption of remote working" would have a positive impact on hiring, as publishers have shown they can be flexible on working arrangements. "We’re expecting less resistance to hiring/working with qualified people who cannot work in an office," said Stevens.
Brandes added that there had been "real value in being able to slow down", and their authors "would benefit from that for sure".
But there were also fears that representation in publishing would be impacted as budgets are cut and attention moves elsewhere. "We know from experience that minority voices are at the highest risk of being lost," said Stevens.
"Our model hasn't changed", he added, stressing that during pre-crisis months, sales were at record level.