Without a doubt, one of my favourite aspects of the Edinburgh Napier Publishing MSc has been the exposure to stand-out independent publishing houses across Scotland. Speakers from Floris Books and Barrington Stoke, to name a few, have shone a light on the quality and breadth of content that these publishers produce. Here is a brief summary of why these publishers fall not in the shadow of their larger competitors but illuminate their own unique niches in the market.
- Harbingers of change: Although in significantly more danger if a title’s sales fall short compared to larger publishers, a trademark of many indies is their innovative content that deviates from the expected. Willing to take the risk, indies can inadvertently lead market trends simply by leaning on their staff’s experience and gut instincts. There is also often an active decision to readdress homogenous content by publishing writers whose voices otherwise would not have found a platform.
- Knowing their markets: In contrast to the substantial finances fuelling the marketing campaigns of larger publishers, indies must allocate their funding much more sparingly. Titles must avoid a scatter-gun marketing strategy and have a targeted audience in order to be profitable. Successful indies have used this with great aplomb and use word-of-mouth sales, author visits, and smaller festivals to create a grassroots buzz about their content.
- Carving their own place: In order to distinguish themselves, successful indies focus a lot of their attention on carefully curating their list. Building a reputation for expertise in a particular area allows them to compete at a higher level and attract specialist writers who in turn enhance the publisher’s reputation. This distinct focus can lead to an indie doing remarkably well with an international reach; while other larger publishers are inhibited by multiple drains on their attention.
Ultimately, these independents fight against a bland publishing landscape and are a barrier to a rotation of insular-looking titles. As aspiring publishers, it is in our best interests to support a diverse and consequently creative industry.