Opening Up To Indie AuthorsCopy of my speech at the Open Up To Indie Authors launch at The London Book Fair

The guidebook we’ve gathered here today to launch is part of The Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi)’s Open Up To Indie Authors campaign (found on Twitter with the hashtag #PublishingOpenUp).

This campaign is aimed at book fairs and conferences, award bodies and libraries, festival and event organisers, retailers and reviewers, and anyone who acts as a bridge between writer and reader — and at self-publishing writers themselves.

Open up to what? To the most exciting and expansive movement in the books business for centuries: author publishing.

Half or more of the books on Amazon’s bestseller lists are now self-published. ALLi has many members who have sold more than 100,000 copies of their books; some who have sold in their millions and many more who are producing work of outstanding literary merit.

Corporate publishers and agents are watching and pouncing on successfully self-published authors, hoping to woo them over.

There is no denying that publishing times are a-changing — but those changes are still not reflected throughout the literary world of libraries, reviews, bookstores, festivals and prizes.

This book, and the associated campaign, hopes to change that.

#PublishingOpenUp

The Open Up To Indie Authors (#PublishingOpenUp) campaign includes a petition, lobbying of the industry, education seminars and now this guidebook by Debbie Young, ALLi’s blog editor, and Dan Holloway, an ALLi community builder.

The book is aimed not only at the industry but also at the self-publishing writers themselves, demonstrating through education and example how each can successfully work together to the advantage of all.

Its aims are threefold. To:

• equip self-published authors with the information and attitude they need to collaborate successfully with other players in the books and literary ecosystem.
• tackle the challenges of incorporating self-published books into literary organisations and events.
• raise awareness of the high quality and professional standards offered by the best self-publishing authors — and encourage their inclusion.

Our campaign urges the book and literary industries to incorporate more self-published books into their programmes. We know there are challenges in doing this and we have discussed them in detail throughout this book. Here I’d just like to address one of the most quoted of those challenges: the sheer size of the books market, now that “anyone” can publish, its exponential growth, and the consequent perceived difficulty of discovering good books among the bad.

The key to unlocking this challenge is very simple, as simple as a change of mindset. From scarcity thinking to abundance thinking; from commercial imperatives to creative.

Traditionally, publishing has worked from a scarcity model, grounded in commercial principles. It selected a very few books to be published and protected their value with copyright. Now we are working from an abundance model, grounded in creative principles.

In an abundance model, excess and redundancy are no cause for concern.  This is how nature, the fundamental model for all creativity works. An oak tree throws a lot of acorns to get one baby oak. A lot of sperm miss out on the egg.

More Books = More Great Books

The challenges of integrating self-publishing into a pre-existing system

But what about what one publishing executive recently referred to as “the mountains of crap”? Yes, self-publishing is enabling more poor-quality books to be published than ever before but what’s important in an abundance model is not how many bad books are enabled — they quickly fade into invisibility — but how many good books are enabled.

Throughout cultural history — in Italy during the Renaissance, in Elizabethan England, in transcendentalist America, in Literary Revival Ireland — whenever new creative forms and formats flourish, an opening up occurs. The means of expression becomes available to more people and, while this facilitates more tyro and aspirant work — our exec’s “mountains of crap” — it also results in more accomplished and virtuoso work at the top. More masterpieces emerge, the expanded tip of an enlarged mountain.

The problems of book discoverability in the new publishing ecosystem is a fear put about by those who are invested in an older order. Online algorithms are actually very effective — and getting better. And book search through categories and keywords are a far more adept discovery tool than the old method of bookstore browsing.

From the reader’s perspective, there’s a book description, independent reader reviews, and a sample they can read before they buy. So good books are actually easier to find than they have ever been. Which is why it’s not so difficult to track down good writing, and good self-published writing, as Debbie and Dan so ably demonstrate in this guidebook.

The unprecedented wave of literary expression that self-publishing is facilitating is, actually, a beautiful thing when viewed through a creative and not a critical or commercial lens.

Creativity is never orderly and neat; it’s colourful and chaotic and kaleidoscopic and we need a publishing scene that acknowledges, and is prepared to be more reflective of, that truth.

To renege on that challenge is to fail to serve the reading and writing community. To rise to it is to create new, exciting and dynamic partnerships. There is a natural affinity between indie authors, indie bookstores and indie publishers that is lost if we are caught in resisting change and clinging to old ways.

These partnerships can be very usefully extended into libraries, book reviewing, prizes, festivals and awards.

Thanks To Kobo

Speaking of partnership, it has been a joy to work with Kobo Writing Life (KWL), the self-publishing wing of Kobo Books, on this project. Thanks to their links with retail partner bookstores all over the world, we will also launch in bookstores all around Europe, the US and Canada as well as across the UK and Ireland.

KWL is an ebook publishing platform and ebook publishing is the most successful wing of the business for authors. Two percent of recorded book sales globally last year were self-published but this figure increases to 12% when you take print books out of the equation. We also know that there are lots of self-publishing books without ISBNs being published outside of the official statistics, especially in North America, where self-publishing is now well established.

We’d like to thank Kobo most sincerely for its support of this campaign and the launch here today, for the coffee and cookies, and most especially for the open nature of its platform. We encourage author-publishers to work with KWL to publish and promote their books and bring them to more readers.

Sign Our Petition

ALLi’s “Open Up To Indie Authors” campaign has a very simple aim: to remove all discrimination against self-published books within the book industry. If you support the aims of this campaign, please sign our petition on Change.org:

http://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/open-up-to-indie-authors/.

All of us at ALLi look forward to the day when this guide, and campaign, will no longer be necessary.