BookMachine in partnership with TLS: These are boom times for small independent presses

BookMachine in partnership with TLS: These are boom times for small independent presses

This week we were at the wonderful BookMachine event which this time was in partnership with the Times Literary Supplement – this was all focused around small independent presses and we had an impressive lineup with Thea Lenarduzzi, Commissioning Editor at the TLS chairing three excellent speakers. John Mitchinson, Writer, Publisher and Co-Founder of Unbound; Sarah Cleaver, Publishing Manager at Comma Press; and Cecile Menon, Founder of Les Fugitives.

With an increase of 79% in sales by sixty of the UK smallest publishers - are small indie’s on the up? The panel had a fantastic discussion on how these publishers have been successful through crowdfunding, translation and dare we say it Brexit (although this was only a small mention!)

Thea was armed with some great questions, establishing that the book scene has seen some big changes such as consolidations, acquisitions from bigger publishers and an increasing number of new presses coming up with interesting and edgy designs and concepts. It is wonderful to hear is that some of the acclaimed prize winning books have been published by smaller presses with authors such as Deborah Levy.

John Mitchinson has over 30 years’ experience of “doing things with books” and went from being a seller of books into publishing – he co-founded Unbound in 2011 as an award winning crowdfunding platform for books to offer a direct route to allow authors to deliver their stories to the world.

Historically small presses have played an equalising role, and there is evidence that shows that after the financial crash the smaller publishers did well whilst larger publishers became more margin focused and risk adverse. Whilst this is the case, both Les Fugitives and Comma Press both publish books that have a strong identity rather than just publishing those books that “fall through the cracks”.

In the same stream, John spoke about not really having mainstream authors at Unbound as they tend to be snapped up from the larger publishers – they do however have what they like to call the “old rebels” like Raymond Briggs in addition to 1st time writers. 

John shared his experience of joining forces with a larger publishing house for a temporary collaboration – he felt that in this situation, whilst it was hugely beneficial for the company there is a feeling being constricted on what they can do. Smaller presses love to be independent and embrace the opportunity to be part of this community – they have the benefit of being in a wonderful position to be able to grow at their own pace and be supported by other independents, including local booksellers .

Although economics may look grim, there are certainly exciting times ahead for independent publishers – it is a great time to be an independent publisher and it is so wonderful to see their success at the frontier of incredible times for innovation in publishing!