Monday, 20 September 2010


The second panel discussion Nell and I attended at FantasyCon was entitled 'There are no Small Presses (only Small Writers). It was the most interesting of all the events we sat in on.

I hadn't realised that the smaller, independent publishers were called the 'Small Press'. Apparently it's a piece of American terminology that has been adopted over here and - as was noted by the panel - is a pretty demeaning tag. The suggestion that they be renamed 'Indie Press' seems to me to be a good one (see below).

Cover of the FantasyCon Programme
As best I could make out - it was a pretty free-wheeling discussion - the views of the panel could be summed up as follows:

  • That if the Indie Press and it's writers think small inevitably they will be small. This need for ambition was most forcibly expounded by the writer, Sam Stone, who seemed to be of the view that writers should take more responsibility for the promotion of their books.
  • A lot of the woes of the Indie Press could be laid at the door of Waterstone's and their reluctance to stock titles from the smaller publishers.
  • Book reviewers from the mass media (notably the Times, Guardian etc.) have got a negative attitude to horror, SF and fantasy so-much-so that it's nigh-on impossible to get a book of this ilk reviewed.
  • The Indie Press is vital for the health of Speculative Fiction generally as it provides an entry-point for new writers and artists.
The parallels with the discussions I heard when I was on the jazz scene promoting Nelli were uncanny and not a little disturbing.

Far be it from me, a relative newcomer on the scene, to criticise, but it did seem that the Small Press in the UK might be missing a trick. Rebranding themselves 'Indie Press' is one (good) thing but I think with it should come an adoption of the ethos of the Indie scene. The Indie record labels came to prominence championing talent which the major labels were uncomfortable with, whereas - and I may be wrong - the impression I have is that the Small Press is more intent on aping the major publishers. Indie is a euphemism for edgy, dangerous and unexpected and somehow looking at the titles being promoted not terribly many of them seemed to fulfil these criteria.

'Indie' also suggests that things are done differently. I had expected the Small Press to be early adaptors of e-publishing and to be using the Internet very, very aggressively. In fact, that's why I went to the panel discussion in the first place: to try to pick up ideas I could use in promoting 'The Demi-Monde'. I was surprised that the Small Press still seemed wedded to print and pushing their product thru bookshops.

It could be, of course, that I don't know what I'm talking about and as time passes the penny will drop but I've got to say I had expected more left-field thinking.

Strange but interesting.

No comments:

Post a Comment