Saturday, 3 March 2012

Traditional versus Indie: The Debate Rages On.

So the indie debate rages on and for me on a personal level it's been an interesting week in the arena. Increasingly it appears that the indie publishing movement is gaining momentum with ever more positive articles and references in mainstream media. This week I stumbled across the following article,'Do We Still Need Publishers?' by Anthony Horowitz in the Guardian Newspaper.

It's a fascinating article which came out of a talk he delivered at a conference sponsored by the major booksellers 'The Book People.' It is a brave article too in which he levies open criticism of his publishers' 'services'. One of the most lasting impressions from the article are that his recently published (by Orion) Young Sherlock Holmes book has no less than thirty five type errors; stunning lack of quality control for a professional and established publisher such as Orion. Type errors are rarely tolerated by the discerning reader and can be damaging to a writer's reputation. This lack of quality control is often one of the main criticisms levied towards the indie publishing movement, and it is certainly something you would expect your largely commissioned publisher to protect you against.

So as Horowitz asks 'Why do I need a publisher?' Horowitz offers the following anecdote, "I asked my own publisher why I needed her and she came back with the reply that she'd ring me next Tuesday.'

A major publishing house has many benefits of course; expertise, tradition, contacts, marketing budgets, media contacts, quality control (although this is, it appears, sometimes questionable) There is no denying that there is something to be said for the expert mature hand of an elder guiding you through a scary process but...

There are also drawbacks - big drawbacks and increasingly it is something that successful, talented writers are learning and which is why many are tempted to turn their back on the traditional institution and strike out boldly alone.

Because the thing is, traditional publishing houses are just that - traditional. They have been surprisingly slow to take advantage of the social-media revolution, they have been slow to embrace the creative diversity and talent that e-publishing has allowed for. They have remained almost dogmatic in their screening process for new work - making massive assumptions about readership, and of course they have continued to demand a very large slice of the cake.

Now authors wouldn't mind this if they felt they were partaking in a balanced and fair relationship with their publisher but when you have to do almost all of your own marketing, organise your own book signings, even hire your own proof editors to proof check the publishing house's in-house edits, there has to be simple question - What am I paying them for?

A very dear and successful author friend of mine has informed me that this month she has waved goodbye to her traditional publisher and is determined to go it alone, publishing the second book of her series independently. Since making this bold decision she has been overwhelmed by the sense of community and co-operation within the indie movement. She has had offers of Beta-Readers, designers, typesetters, marketing blog-tours, reviewers and slots on various media platforms as well as many messages of support and notes of advice. As well as all of this she knows that she is going to be banking 70% of her own e-book sales - a nice way to earn enough for a print run.

So yes, back to publishers - there's no denying that for the lucky few who manage to be taken under the wing of a major publishing house and convert their relationship into one whereby the publishing house needs them rather than the other way around, there are massive perks. However there is another way... and at last it's being taken seriously.

Horowitz's article can be read online (edited version) at


  1. NIce post, Katie. I also linked to the Horowitz article and one other (Bransford) in a very similar post. Stop by my blog for the link if you like!

  2. Thanks. Fascinating isn't it. I'm amazed how openly 'established traditional' authors are being about the whole indie possibility. Makes for exciting things. Please do post the link in this comment chain; I am sure others will be interested to take a trip between the two :)