Monday, 29 February 2016

The Blogger and The Independent Press by The Mole

On Friday 26th February we attended an event at Nottingham Writers' Studio entitled "The Only Way Is Indie". After coming away I started to digest everything we heard and felt that I, as a blogger, had a small voice to be heard in all of this.

The event was attended by various writers (fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoirs etc) and small independent presses of various genres, ages, and sizes - the idea being for independent presses to put their case for submission of work to them.

One of the benefits of it has to be that the small independent is prepared to take a risk if they think that the book is really worthwhile as against the big five publishers who want "safe bets".

As reviewers we have no aspirations to writing and we do it because reading is one of the things we enjoy doing and it's from that, neutral, perspective that I am trying to express myself.

I want to address writers here as much as anything because we see a lot of books from authors of all types:- self and vanity publishing, small independent presses as well as the big five.

So you have a story, you've written it up and you've had friends and family read it and give you an honest opinion... or have you? Does your partner really believe in you and when they say "Well, it needs more work" are they really frightened that if they let you believe it's fantastic, should it fail they don't want to have that failure held against them? And the inverse of that - they tell you it's great but every publisher sends a rejection? And that goes for friends and other family members. Can you really get an HONEST opinion from them?

We receive many review requests from authors and the first thing we check is who has published it. Is it self published? Now that in itself is not a reason to reject a book - we have read quite a few self published books that were very good. Brilliant? Rarely, but maybe with work they could have been better. And proof editing... this is a subject that I find can stop me reading a book and self published books can be terrible for it. I read one for which I prepared a list of about 30 common errors - not a definitive list - and sent it the author who was very nice about it but went quiet for a while. They then came back to me and told me that he had found a product on the web that he submitted his manuscript to and it found all of mine plus more - yet he thought it was proof read. Essentially it had been a good book unlike others that were never finished and polite emails were sent explaining that "we couldn't get on with it". We are now wary about self published but we still consider them when time allows.

When you submit your manuscript to a small indie and it's taken up they are putting their money and their reputation on the line and so will work hard with you to make it as good as they can. They will have read it with an independent eye and will believe in its potential at the very start but be prepared to listen and be involved in the necessary edits and suggested changes that they raise - don't be prissy for the sake of it.

When a request comes in to us as reviewers and is published by an independent press the first thing we do is check whether we have read anything from that press before - and did we like it? And this is another point that was made at the event:- read some things from the indie that you plan on submitting to and see if (a) you like what they print and (b) if what you've written is in the same genre. If you are convinced that they are right for you then READ their submissions policy and follow it. These small presses generally have day jobs and really don't want their time wasting - and yes they generally are just one or two people.

We know quite a few indies who we like to think of as friends and I'm sure that their published authors do too. It's a great relationship for everyone BUT at the end of the day that indie, that PERSON, is putting their money into your book so please respect that. But friends or not we will always endeavour to publish an HONEST review - recently I suggested an author take the main character out for a drink and get to know them better.

Now our relationship to indies... we support indies wherever possible but we don't blanket accept books from them. We don't just accept books from anyone. We do get books delivered that we didn't agree to and if neither of us want to read it then it won't make the TBR pile but rarely will we turn round and ask for a book if it's not offered first. We both read a wide range of genres from very young children's through to literary fiction and reading the catalogue of a few presses would limit that. BUT if an indie press would like us to review one or two of theirs (even if we've reviewed some in the past) we are happy to consider it and if we say no then that doesn't mean we won't say yes to others. And we may well accept more in the future.

Getting published with an indie is certainly a start for your work, you may get rich (which the indie will appreciate as they are generally breaking even on books!), you may not, but you will learn a great deal about the industry, make some great friends and it may just lead to a contract with one of the big five somewhere down the line. But go on... make an indie rich.. for me?

The Independent Presses represented were:-
Ross Bradshaw from Five Leaves Publications Jane & Claire from Bird's Nest Books CIC Jacqueline & Martin from Stonewood Press Tracey and Phil from Wild Pressed Books Sara-Jayne Slack from Inspired Quill (Event Organiser) Dr Teika Bellamy from Mother's Milk Books (Event Organiser) Kate from Three Drops Press Emma Wright from The Emma Press Georgina from Mud Press Ashley Stokes from Unthank Books Anne McDonnell from Pewter Rose Press Stephen Holland from Page 45


  1. Small presses are the cutting edge of literature. Neil Griffiths says it better than most

  2. Great to see him again at the event and was interested in your write-up from the blogger perspective. Have you seen the contemporary small press site where a post of mine is sparking some discussion?