Friday, November 24, 2017

In Praise of Micro-Publishers

On November 23rd, The New Publishing Standard reported that sales from micro-publishers in the UK have soared by nearly 80% in the last year.
I'm glad to hear it. Micro- and small presses are responsible for my career, and I'm proud to have been published by four of them, three from the UK: Babash-Ryan, MWiDP, and Kotu Beach Press. Popcorn Press  which published two of my books in 2011, is in the US.

Babash-Ryan and MWiDP have stopped publishing, and Popcorn has gone back to exclusively publishing poetry and games. But Kotu Beach is still going strong. Next month they'll publish my nonfiction book, THE AUTHOR BLOG: EASY BLOGGING FOR BUSY AUTHORS.

I'm not surprised that smaller presses are doing so well. Things in big publishing are getting very same-y. There hasn't been a major new trend for a number of years.

The biggest trends in publishing generally come from small presses. The primary goal of small publishers is to produce good books rather than please corporate shareholders. With the smallest
the ones called "micro-presses"the owners are the editors and marketers as well, and they are often labors of love. 

That's why small presses start trends, rather than follow them.

Consider the Harry Potter series, first published by Bloomsbury, a small UK press, in 1997. And Fifty Shades of Gray was first published by an Australian digital micro-press, the Writer's Coffee Shop, in 2011. 

Why Small Presses Thrive in an Innovation-Starved Market

In another article on the subject this week, The UK's Guardian suggested a number of other reasons for the recent uptick in small press sales
  1. Smaller presses based outside London have found success by reaching markets beyond the white middle classes and recruiting authors from more diverse backgrounds.
  2. They pick up established authors dropped by large houses after disappointing sales or when the authors want to write in a different genre.
  3. They offer "something that readers want rather than just another novel with a dead girl on a train."
  4. They support literary fiction. "Advances from independents compare well with those offered by larger houses for literary fiction. And in some cases, they can be higher."
  5. They offer something new. “People are tired of being sold books based on what they bought earlier.”
When I was querying agents with my first two books, Food of Love and The Best Revenge, the almost universal response was "great writing, but this isn't on trend." If I got offers of representation, I would be given instructions to rewrite the book to the conventions of category romance or then-trendy shoes-and-shopping chick lit.

They all told me that literate romantic comedy with a social conscience was impossible to sell to big publishing.

But it was exactly what indie presses were looking for.


I will be forever grateful to James Brown, Michael Hall, and Richard Eadie of Babash-Ryan (later called Shadowline Publishing) for taking a chance on an unknown Yank writer and even giving me a place to stay in their sprawling printshop/warehouse/office/ living quarters in Gainsborough, Lincolnshire.

My biggest cheerleaders were James Brown, a wild man who followed no rules of publishing, or any other institution, and
James Brown
Michael Hall, a literary techie with a Ph.D. from the University of Nottingham. Together, they inspired my character of "Peter Sherwood," who appears in two of my Camilla books, Sherwood, Ltd. and So Much for Buckingham.

Like the fictional Peter Sherwood, the real James Brown disappeared off his boat in 2005, and his body was never found. 
Michael Hall

Babash-Ryan/Shadowline didn't survive more than a year after James' disappearance, in spite of the hard work of Michael Hall and Richard Eadie.

So I was out of print and back on the query-go-round. I went back to freelance writing for a number of local publications and got a steady gig at Inkwell Newswatch, the journal of Freelance Writing Organization—International

Popcorn Press

I spent five discouraging years trying to find a new publisher, and in 2010, I started my blog for writers, now at I was considering jumping on the new self-publishing bandwagon, when a new publisher found me. Lester Smith of Popcorn Press started reading my blog and offered me a contract to republish the two Babash-Ryan books, Food of Love and The Best Revenge.

Although Popcorn primarily published poetry, Les took a chance on my books, and gave me the encouragement I needed to keep writing.


At that point, the UK's Mark Williams International Digital Publishing was expanding like mad. Mark's own thriller, Sugar and Spice (written under the pen name Saffina Desforges) was a top-selling indie-published book—11th in the UK for 2011. He and his partners wanted to spread the wealth around, and took on 30 or so authors, including me, and published two of my new books, The Gatsby Game and Sherwood, Ltd.
Mark Williams

I discovered Mark Williams' "international" tag is literal. He moved back and forth between London and Banjul, in the West African country Gambia, where he supports a school in a remote village.

In Africa, Mark caught a life-threatening tropical disease and was airlifted back to London, where it took nearly a year for him to recover. His partners were not able to keep the company going, so MWiDP fell apart.

Kotu Beach Press

Mark Williams at his Gambian village school
But Mark finally recovered and returned to Africa, where he continues to publish my books with his micro-press, Kotu Beach Press, as well as supporting his school and writing his books.  He also is now the managing editor of The New Publishing Standard.

I'm going to keep hanging on as long as Mark is willing to be my editor. He can be fierce, but he's almost always right. I know it's not easy for him to fit me in with the daily power outages, iffy Internet and water shortages in his village.

These days, Mark's focus is on the international publishing scene. Besides his work at the New Publishing Standard, he moderates a Facebook community, the International Indie Author. 

Have you read books from small presses? Have you ever been published by a small press? What kind of books do you wish micro-presses would publish?

SHERWOOD, LTD: Camilla Mystery #2 
Only $2.99!

Inspired by my epic adventures with a UK small publishing company! 

Suddenly-homeless American manners expert Camilla Randall becomes a 21st century Maid Marian—living rough near the real Sherwood Forest with a band of outlaw English erotica publishers—led by a charming, self-styled Robin Hood who unfortunately may intend to kill her.

When Camilla is invited to publish a book of her columns with UK publisher Peter Sherwood, she lands in a gritty criminal world—far from the Merrie Olde England she envisions. The staff are ex-cons and the erotica is kinky.

Hungry and penniless, she camps in a Wendy House built from pallets of porn while battling an epic flood, a mendacious American Renfaire wench, and the mysterious killer who may be Peter himself.

Sherwood, Ltd. is available in ebook from all the AmazonsiTunesGooglePlay Scribd24SymbolsInkteraKobo, Nook, and SmashwordsAnd in paper from Amazon and Barnes and Noble
Sample Reviews:

"A wily tale of murder, deceit, and intrigue that can stand with the best of them. Her characters are all too real and her dialogue took me from laughter to chills" David Keith on Smashwords

"Smartly written and nearly impossible to put down, I found myself counting the hours until I could leave work and get back to reading! Well done!" T.L. Ingham on Smashwords

I've just finished Sherwood Ltd and I loved every scabrous word. It's an hilarious lampoon of crime fiction, publishing and the British in general. Anne Allen gets our Brit idioms and absurdities dead to rights. Whether you enjoy crime suspense, comedy or satire - or all of them together - you'll have enormous fun with this cleverly structured romp. Highly recommended!...Dr. John Yeoman

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