By Holly Kinsella, author of Tell Him About It.
I read a slightly disturbing article the other day which alleged that staff at major publishers might be posting up bad reviews of independent authors and books which are impacting on their sales on Amazon. I know a number of people who work for trade publishers and I would be surprised if this was happening on any considerable scale. However, major publishers should be concerned about the rise of independent authors. Indie authors, buoyed by increasing sales via the Amazon KDP programme, are a flourishing community. Their success has been built upon enterprise, mutual support and, in more cases than perhaps a sneering section of the book trade might like to admit, no little talent.
Should major publishers be starting to draw battle lines between themselves and independent authors then it's partly due to the fact that the latter are winning the war. Even if, or when, publishers merge to create larger companies their overall market share will still diminish. One need only look at the music industry, which has changed beyond all recognition since Apple and Spotify replaced Woolworth's and HMV, to see how Amazon will impact on the likes of Penguin and Waterstones. EMI today is approximately one third of the size of the company it was twenty years ago. Arrogance would have to marry itself to ignorance for HarperCollins to think that its influence and profits will not similarly contract over the coming decades.
It will not just be debut authors and minor names who will chip away at the dominance of the major publishers. Already there have been authors, such as Joe Simpson and David Mamet, who have elected to defect from the likes of Random House to start up their own publishing ventures or join smaller, independent publishers. Authors are and will be disillusioned with the low royalty rates and underwhelming publicity campaigns that weigh down the appeal of publishing with legacy publishers. Advances have also been slashed over the past five years for the mid-list. Necessity may have to become the mother of invention and more and more authors will become independent authors (but more and more writers will make more money from doing so as a result).
One of my reasons for setting my latest romantic comedy within the publishing industry was to highlight some of its failings, both to readers and fellow authors (independent or otherwise). HarperCollins and Random House need not completely despair though. EMI is still a large, profitable company. Major publishers can be too. Enterprise, mutual support and talent can be found within its ranks, as well as within the indie author community. There are also some new faces at the helms of some publishers, which suggests a change in direction and fresh impetus. Let us hope that they will not just be swapping deckchairs on the Titanic.
And so independent authors of the world unite. The future is now. Whether staff from major publishing houses have flamed your book or not I urge you not to look upon trade publishing as an enemy that should be attacked in return (I know from experience how independent authors are not immune from having an agenda and posting bad reviews too of rival titles). Both independent authors and major companies can co-exist and be profitable within the book market. The pie is big enough to be shared around. How do I know this can happen? Because it's happening now.
Holly Kinsella is the author of Tell Him About It, published by Endeavour Press. Tell Him About It is on a free promotion from 11th February - 15th February 2014.