The Meaning of Independent in Independent Publishing
The first definition of independent is:
“free from outside control; not subject to another’s authority.”
Must be a delicate subject in independent publishing today for I look at top independent names out there and they’re surrounded by backing, by influential friends, contacts at their beck and call. In other words, they are not free from outside control, and they must at various points throughout the day face the authority of others.
A second definition:
“not connected with another or with each other; separate.”
Alright, maybe we’re just young, naïve and broke. Maybe we’d kiss the hand of Penguin or the Arts Council if they turned round with an inviting cheque for running their programmes. Nevertheless, here we are, an independent publisher. We choose what we publish because we like it, not because it’s on someone else’s agenda or would sell well in the independent niche or might have a chance for the Booker.
We distribute how we like, using technology that’s appropriate to our budget and not for a grand scale world domination project. We’d like our books to be read anywhere, in New Malden or Shanghai, but we don’t aim for a particular demographic. For you see we’re not calculated businessmen, we’re just here to do a good job with original writing.
So, how can these established businesses possibly call themselves independent? What independent leg do they stand on? Some only accept manuscripts through agents. So, as a writer, if I want to submit, I need to be dependent on my agent. Not a very independent thing to ask for in my free and thoroughly independent opinion.
It must sound good, though, in various overwritten manifestos. But there’s an error there, friend. Independent. And errors must be crossed out.