The Word(s) is Independent Publishers

by Kendra Bonnett on November 23, 2009

catnav-book-business-active-3Post #11 – Women’s Memoirs, Book Business – Kendra Bonnett and Matilda Butler

Okay, so it’s technically two words…if you followed the link from my post over on SCN’s Telling HerStories, you know that I’m trying to define the world of publishing in as few words as possible. While CHANGE is my first choice, I demand to toss EBOOK into the field for discussion. And I really want to include one more concept: Independent Publishers.

publishingThe past several months I’ve been actively involved in discussions about books and publishing over on several of the Linkedin Groups. The discussions have been pretty animated…and fun. Here’s the bottom line, in a nutshell…sorry I just couldn’t resist the mixed metaphor: Many first-time authors are frustrated at their inability to get either an agent or a publisher. In a cloud of frustration and anger, they turn to the self-publishing firms, such as Lulu and AuthorHouse. I don’t want to take anything away from these services; they’ve opened the world of publishing to a wider market, and the books produced will either flourish or languish according to their merit and the ability of their authors to market effectively (a subject for another day).

My complaint is that many new authors incorrectly label self-publishers and independent publishers as one and the same. Not so. Self-publishers are service providers; they provide editing, printing (print on demand), marketing, publicity and, sometimes, distribution services for a fee. You can buy what you need as if you were ordering off a Chinese take-out menu. And that’s fine. But a solid, but small independent publisher (what we call an indie) can provide experience, advice, and an imprint that will enable you to submit your book to any reviewer or award committee, which is not always the case with truly self-published titles.

Matilda and I published our collective memoir Rosie’s Daughters: The “First Woman To” Generation Tells Its Story through IASO Books, a subsidiary of Two Bridges Press, a San Francisco-based indie. We had the opportunity to learn more about the publishing business, and our book won a 2008 IPPY national book award. Today we have our own publishing business: Knowledge Access Books and a subsidiary for our business clients called Riparian Press. Through Riparian we just published Dr. Greg’s Dog Dish Diet: Sensible Nutrition for Your Dog’s Health, and in 2010 we’ll be publishing two books under the Knowledge Access imprint.

My point in all this is two fold: First, I want to warn aspiring authors not to confuse self-publishers with independent publishers, and second I want to reprint a list of independent publishing resources that I put together back in January. The post is on our Two Women Business blog, which we’ll be taking down soon as we consolidate everything on our Women’s Memoirs site. I didn’t want to lose the list, since I’m often asked to share the information with my Linkedin friends.

Join Us as We Continue the Discussion in February

Before I provide the resource list, I want to encourage everyone to join Matilda and me in Austin, Texas, this February 5th through 7th. We’ll be attending and presenting at Story Circle Network’s Fifth National Women’s Memoir Conference: Stories From the Heart V. In the weeks to come, Matilda will be talking more about our two-hour, pre-conference workshop, but I want to take this opportunity to invite you to the “Getting Published” panel discussion on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. You can find more details here on my Telling HerStories blog or you can go to the Conference site and read about everything that SCN will be offering: excellent keynote presentations, panel discussions, workshops, open mike night and plenty of opportunity for networking…all with a generous dose of Texas hospitality.

I also want to encourage you to help us shape the agenda. What aspects of publishing would you like to hear more about? Our moderator Helen Ginger has asked the panel for suggestions, and I’m going one step further and asking you for your thoughts. Please leave your questions and topics in the form of Comments below. Matilda and I look forward to seeing you all in Texas come February.

Okay, here’s the resource list I promised:

Independent Publisher (IP) calls itself “THE Voice of the Independent Publishing Industry.” Here you’ll find useful articles, trends in titles, marketing strategies and publishing news. IP also hosts the IPPY, Moonbeam and Living Now awards. IP shows us that there is no reason to think less of an independently published book.

Publishers Marketing Association is now Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA). You’ll find a nice directory of book distributors as well as answers to questions about their publishing philosophy, growth plans and the types of book they prefer to publish. And like IP, the Independent Book Publishers Association sponsors a book award—The Benjamin Franklin Awards.

Here’s are just a few of the smaller and regional publishing associations:

Center for Independent Publishing

Center for Independent Media

Small Publishers Association of North America

Bay Area Independent Publishers Association

Colorado Independent Publishers Association

Midwest Independent Publishers Association

The Council of Literary Magazines and Presses

Association of Independent Publishers

Book marketing consultant John Kremer provides several useful lists of independent publishsers on his website:

The Top 101 Independent Book Publishers

Top Dependent Book Publishers

Indie Book Publishers Hall of Fame

Indie Book Publishers: Bestselling Books Hall of Fame

You’ll be encouraged to see the number of indie titles that have sold in the 100s of thousands and even the millions, which is possible when your book remains in print long enough and you accept the sales and marketing as part of your job as an author.

If you think the indies make a poor showing at the major book conventions, think again. Each year the indies make a bigger and more impressive mark on BookExpo America. The annual BookExpo America convention combines the largest selection of English-language titles with industry events, author workshops and excellent networking opportunities. Each time I attend BookExpo America I’m impressed by the increased floor space and prominence given to independent publishers. This May the convention will be in New York City. If you want to talk with independent publishers and editors, bring your book proposal or synopsis and get to New York this May.

And lest you think the indies lack a decent journal, it’s time you checked out the bimonthly ForeWord Magazine. This is THE journal for reviews of independently published and self-published books. You’ll want them to know about your book several months before publication. You can submit electronic manuscripts, ARCs and galleys. And ForeWord Magazine has it’s own Book of the Year Awards.

{ 2 trackbacks }

Award-Winning Authors — Memoir Writing Blog
June 23, 2010 at
Find an Independent publisher for your memoir — Memoir Writing Blog
April 15, 2011 at

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Karen Walker November 23, 2009 at

Phew. You guys are good. This is so helpful. Thanks so much.

Donna B. Russell November 23, 2009 at

Kendra and Matilda, thank you so much for this information. What a wonderful resource, and I look forward to exploring all the links. Thanks, too, for explaining the difference between Independent and self-publishing so clearly. Wish I could join you in Austin. Is it possible to post some transcripts of some of the sessions after the fact? Thanks, again.–Donna

Susan Weidener November 23, 2009 at

I think it all comes down to experience, talent and writing chops. If you think your work is good, my advice would be to go for the self-publisher… it is cheaper and faster and lets the author move foward with her own marketing quickly. If you need editing help, etc., then you will might opt for the independent publisher, at least from the sounds of it.

Nancy Brook November 28, 2009 at

Hi – Thanks for the great information.

First, the conference looks outstanding. When I visited the site many months ago, I didn’t see the agenda and list of speakers. I’m definitely going to see if I can fit this in.

Second, regarding self-publishing vs. independent publishing, I’d like to see a list of benefits of each. My understanding is that self-publishing requires the money up front for editing and printing and one has to take care of his/her own distribution. Independent publishing requires no money up front and has distribution, but the earning potential is limited, as with traditional publishing.

Independent Book Publisher May 6, 2011 at

Kendra and Matilda, thank you very much for your excellent information resource.

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