An article by Valerie Weaver-Zercher (vweaver-zercher.com), editor at Herald Press and author of Thrill of the Chaste: The Allure of Amish Romance Novels (Johns Hopkins University Press), wrote this article for the Post-Gazette about the indie publishing market. Below are some excerpts.
The last Saturday in April — tomorrow — is Independent Bookstore Day, which honors booksellers like Hearts and Minds. More than 500 independent bookstores are participating in the festivities. There are readings and open-mike nights, concerts and book signings. Live llamas will visit one store, literary pancakes will be served at another. “It’s taken on the feeling of a holiday,” IBD program director Samantha Schoech told Publishers Weekly.
Small publishers are flourishing too. PW’s 2017 report on the fastest-growing independent publishers notes that “it is hard to find another year when publishers on the list reported such impressive growth rates.” PW reports that print book sales were up 3 percent in the first 15 weeks of the year, compared with the same period in 2017.
Yes, multinational conglomerates own most of the industry. The merger of Penguin and Random House in 2013 created the planet’s largest book publisher, which is responsible for one in four books sold. And Thomas Nelson and Zondervan, once rivals in Christian publishing, now belong to a Brady Bunch-esque blended family; they dwell under the roof of HarperCollins, a subsidiary of News Corp.
Yet as long as there are niches into which the multinationals can’t squeeze themselves, there is room for the rest of us. Margins are tight, but we can take risks large houses can’t afford. Advances are slight, but we can publish authors whose words resound with truth and beauty in an age of celebrity.