Rewired publishing, not self-publishing

Justin Pollard

71869166 1 300x253 Rewired publishing, not self publishingAt an event hosted by The Book People the other week, the author Anthony Horowitz gave a rather witty speech about the relationship between writers and their publishers. It was entertaining, and I agreed with much of it. Apart from the bit that really annoyed me.

Like him, I’m an author. But I’m also a publisher. Yet his speech provoked a good deal of recognition, not schizophrenia. I agree with him that a publisher’s job is to deliver ‘story, character, style, originality, design, typography, literacy, good grammar, education, enlightenment’, that publishers aren’t (often) Luddites. That the challenge they face is a world which talks of ‘content’, not ‘books’ and which is undergoing the most fundamental change since the invention of the printing press. I also agree that authors and publishers often need fact checkers. Anthony Horowitz clearly does.

His argument all started to go a bit peculiar when he got to a part of the topic I know very well. He’s said it before, on the BBC when I and two other writers launched Unbound, our crowd-funding publishing company. And now he said it again:  ‘I could,’ he said, ‘go it alone and self publish with Unbound, as Terry Jones did last year.’

Go it alone? Self-publish? A spot of research wouldn’t go amiss. Just a visit to our site would be a start.

Or he could have asked Terry Jones or Kate Mosse or, if he dared, the terrifying polymath Jonathan Meades what being published by Unbound actually involves? If he had, he would have learned that his notion of ‘things publishers do’ – i.e. making exactingly edited and imaginatively promoted books – are being performed here by people who have worked in ‘proper publishing’ for many decades.

Of course we don’t mind Anthony having a bit of a dig at us – he has every right to decided for himself if we can produce well crafted books, provided he’s read them.  What is sad that is that he should feel the need to have a dig at our (and his fellow) authors.   Does he really think that they need to self-publish? Take our latest offering, put up for crowd-funding last week.

Reigning Queens is a book which will take an in-depth look at the six English Queens who have ruled in their own right from Mary Tudor to Elizabeth II.

It will not be a series of potted biographies, but a survey of each queen’s life, giving a lively focus on character and story to create a series of vivid, in-depth portrayals.

Such a book could offer intriguing insights on Elizabeth II and her female predecessors at the time of her Diamond Jubilee – one which with your help we can make happen.

And who’s writing it? The History Girls – a collective of the finest female historians in the UK: Alison Weir is the top-selling female historian in the United Kingdom, and has sold over 2.3 million books worldwide; Kate Williams’ Becoming Queen was a Book of the Year in the The Spectator and Tatler and The Times selected it as one of the Top 50 Paperbacks of 2009. She presented Timewatch: Young Victoria for BBC2; Sarah Gristwood is the author of two bestselling Tudor biographies, Arbella: England’s Lost Queen and Elizabeth and Leicester. and her eighteenth century story Perdita: Royal Mistress, Writer, Romantic was selected as Radio 4 Book of the Week; Tracy Borman is author of several highly acclaimed biographies, including Elizabeth’s Women, which was Book of the Week on Radio 4. She is Chief Executive of the Heritage Education Trust; Siobhan Clarke has worked for Historic Royal Palaces for ten years and has lectured for The National Trust and The Smithsonian Institute.

These are not people who need to pay to be published. And to suggest so simply reveals that someone doesn’t understand what we do. We find a public for our writers. We are still performing the function of gatekeepers, but we open the gate earlier in the process – we invite readers in to join us; instead of just simply piling up books in bookshops and hoping that the bright colours might entice them. We’re working to a different model of book publishing. But we’re still publishing books.

Anthony Horovitz is in no danger of losing his place at the booksellers’ high table. But the old-fashioned virtue of fact-checking wouldn’t go amiss.

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  • booklover177

    Basically, having studied the site closely the books being selected are the usual middle class stuff – nothing cutting edge, lots of stuff from so-called ‘polymaths’, books about kings and queens, tedious offerings with right on messages. Dull. Dull. Dull. You advertise an idea and get people to fund it – making sure that the offerings that are picked are safe and will sell. Where are the stories from real people with real stories? Just a load of same old same old croneyism dressed up as new. This piece is just a gloried advert and not becoming in The Independent. Horovitz is spot on – there is nothing new here – and entitled to his opinion. As I am.

  • Treemouse

    “Of course we don’t mind Anthony having a bit of a dig at us – he has every right to decided for himself if we can produce well crafted books, provided he’s read them.  What is sad that is that he should feel the need to have a dig at our (and his fellow) authors.”
    I am more disturbed that the author of this piece couldn’t be bothered to proof-read it properly, bearing in mind his second paragraph.

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