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Independent publishers: hustling hard
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SamMissingham
The IPG
Posted by IPG
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Lounge Books’ Sam Missingham highlights some recent strategies and campaigns for independents to learn from
Like a lot of others, I have thoroughly enjoyed watching independent publishers scoop so many book prizes over the last few years. A sharp focus on quality rather than quantity and hustling hard for individual books has certainly paid off, while at the other end of the scale, big publishers have pursued strategies of more books, more authors and more imprints. They spread the risk widely, and with every bestseller the coffers are refilled. It’s a model that works commercially, but it doesn’t seem to produce so many books that excite prize judges.
Independent publishers exploit their assets brilliantly. They use free platforms effectively, spend their energies on more granular marketing and stretch their budgets very well. Here are a few examples of independents that have excited me lately in seven different areas of publishing and marketing.

1 Websites

An effective website is a pretty easy and cost-effective way of showcasing publishers’ books and authors. Good examples include Dead Ink Books, Salt Publishing and Head of Zeus.

2 Social media

There are so many examples of independents using social media brilliantly—both free options and paid-for opportunities. Smaller publishers would do well to concentrate efforts on one or two social media platforms rather than spreading resources too thinly. Orenda Books uses Twitter and blog tours very well, Dead Ink held a Reddit AMA with the authors of its new horror imprint, and Canelo does some fun stuff on Instagram.

3 Databases and emails

Building a database of current and prospective book buyers is time well spent, and emailing them is a cheap, measurable and effective way to promote and sell books. Bloodhound Books currently has a giveaway of three free ebooks in return for email addresses, and Phaidon used a giveaway to build a database in the run-up to Christmas. Like Phaidon, Taschen offers a brilliant example of interesting newsletters.

4 Publicity

Independent publishers are fantastic at creating stories around their books and stimulating debate on topical issues. They are gifts in terms of publicity, giving journalists many hooks to hang their coats on. We have seen this with books including Reni Eddo-Lodge’s Why I'm No Longer Talking To White People About Race from Bloomsbury and A Change is Gonna Come from Stripes Publishing.

5 Crowdfunding

Unbounders is a shining example of a publisher whose marketing happens as a natural part of the crowdfunding model. It has worked brilliantly for the likes of Nikesh Shukla’s The Good Immigrant and Dan Dalton’s Johnny Ruin, which was funded in two days. Dead Ink and 404 Ink meanwhile used Kickstarter to fund Know Your Place and Nasty Women respectively, and during the process created a huge amount of buzz.

6 Bloggers and influencers

We are blessed with amazing book bloggers sharing the love of our books. Many independents work with bloggers to create a buzz for their books, and Orenda Books leads the way here: rarely a day goes by when I don’t see one of its books pop up on a blogger’s website. All indies should spend time building relationships with bloggers and influencers.

7 Amazon

Independents are very good at exploiting all the opportunities Amazon offers to sell books. Responsive ebook pricing, category selection and timely paid-for promotions can all shift books at volume, especially in genre and commercial fiction. Canelo and Head of Zeus are experts at this.
Other independents that hustle for their authors—pushing every door, seeking out every opportunity and developing every relationship—include Bluemoose Books, Jacaranda Books, WW Norton, Farrago and Tiny Owl Publishing. Having great books helps of course—Oneworld's double Man Booker winners, Profile's success with Sarah Perry’s The Essex Serpent and Canongate striking gold with Matt Haig all spring to mind—but we all know there is no magic bullet for successful marketing. All independents can do is give their books every chance of success.
I embrace the hustling-hard approach of independents at Lounge Books, and have a Meet the Indies section dedicated to them. Each publisher has its own page on the site where they get to promote six to eight of their titles and provide blogs from their authors and editors, curated lists and other things that fit within our editorial scope. We also run features on new books from independent publishers.
Lounge Books has sold more than 1,300 books so far—and while it’s not creating bestsellers just yet, it is certainly pushing a few new readers towards books. I would be delighted to hear from any independents that would like to get involved.
Sam Missingham is founder of Lounge Books. You can email her at sam@lounge-books.com.

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