Over the weekend, I saw the following update on Facebook:

Written by the team at Morning Rain Publishing, it was a stark reminder of how important it is to not only support your favourite authors, but also the publishers behind the books and writers you take to heart. This is particularly true of indie publishers, since they can often be the first step for any aspiring author and their wish to be published.

After all, for many people, publishing a book is high on their bucket lists. I know it was one of the things I wanted to do before I die and, thanks to Katherine Bull and her team at Que Publishing as well as my co-author Sam Fiorella, I’ve managed to achieve that.

One of the things that became apparent during the writing and promotion process is how much work is involved.

While I was under no illusion that promotion and the right kind of promotion was a key necessity, the difficulty in doing so (without seeming too “in your face”) made me realize why we need to support independent publishers more.

Channels, Conversations and Competition

While many folks may feel a traditional book publisher has a lot of resources at their disposal, there’s a little bit of truth and a little bit of myth in that.

Yes, they do have great partnerships with retail outlets (channels) – or, at least the bookstores that have survived the Amazon onslaught. Depending on the book topic and demographic, these channels can offer a great way for a book to find an instant audience.

On top of that, they can help foster connections for peer reviews (conversations) which is key for any book or author that doesn’t have previous history or works to fall back on. Much like any form of marketing, these word-of-mouth peer reviews can often be the difference between a book launching to a warm market, and a stilted launch that takes time to regain any momentum.

Perhaps the biggest advantage is in the topic (competition) category. Certain publishers excel in specific areas that give them an instant boost over other publishers.

For our book, for example, Que (and its parent Pearson) has always been recognized as a publisher for serious business books, so that allowed both Sam and I to use more technical language for Influence Marketing. This helped separate it from 101-type social media or marketing books, which (I believe) resulted in the critical praise it’s received.

These three areas – Channel, Conversation and Competition – offer traditional publishers a little bit more leeway, although they still have to make a profit and this is a risk that’s taken with each book signed up for the publishing process.

This leeway (currently) allows them to still take risks on new authors, although some publishers are moving further away from that and just looking for “names” that can sell books, regardless of quality.

It’s this reason we need to support independent publishers – and self-publishing authors – to ensure quality always overcomes quantity.

Independent Publishing and the Path to New Classics

My wife is a partner in the afore-mentioned Morning Rain Publishing, who are proudly a very independent Canadian publisher. Along with her two colleagues Jo and Jennifer, their mission is simple. From their website,

The writing world is a crazy, unstable place, but Morning Rain Publishing is here to make order out of the chaos. We’re a small press, specializing in e-publishing short stories, novellas, and novels. Our goal is to discover great Canadian writing to share with readers all over the world.

As part of that goal, the three partners carry out every single part of the process for finding and publishing their next book. This includes (but isn’t limited to):

  • Going through each and every submission;
  • Creating contracts;
  • Proofing, editing, and formatting;
  • Author and book promotion;
  • Creatives, including book covers, swag, and more;
  • Blogger outreach programs.

In addition, they have to create their own Channels and Conversations, in order to stand apart from the Competition. It’s a lot of work, but it’s the last one in particular that had me so galled at the Facebook update shared at the beginning of this post. Here’s a new publisher, trying to break new authors, and certain sites are taking (in my view) an elitist approach to their review process.

Now, I understand that for every great book there can be an equally horrendous book; for every new classic, there can be an equally monotonous tomes (although quality is often in the eye of the beholder).

However, to adopt a policy of a minimum 10 reviews, with four stars being the minimum buy-in, is shortsighted at best, and lacking in editorial sense at least. Here’s why.

You Never Know What You Do Not See

Look back at one of the most successful book series’ in recent years, the Harry Potter saga. Before her work hit the bookstands, author J.K. Rowling was turned down by eight publishers. As history shows, the books went on to sell millions of copies worldwide. You can imagine how these eight publishers must feel today – yet they’re the equivalent of the review sites that sparked this post.

Her books didn’t have a minimum 10 reviews all with four stars or more, since this was before Amazon really came into its own as a publisher and review centre. Going by that background, Harry Potter would also have been turned away by the book review sites highlighted in MRP’s Facebook post.

Then there are the two books published so far by Morning Rain Publishing.

Morning Rain Publishing books

The first, Ryan’s Legend by L.F. Young, has been praised as,

…filled with mystery and likeable characters while being delivered in a fast-paced easy to read style. L.F. Young makes his story compelling in that he gets us straight to the heart of the story.

Their second book, An Eagle’s Heart by Scott Butcher, reached #4 on the Bestsellers List for Amazon UK, and has been equally praised,

In the book An Eagle’s Heart, Scott Butcher has perhaps written the closest thing to Watership Down while still standing on its own.

Neither of these books have a minimum of 10 reviews (so far – the number is growing across the web), yet looking at the reviews that have been published for both, it’s clear they’re perfect for their target audience – a major victory for both author and Morning Rain Publishing.

But the book review sites that have their 10 reviews stipend will never know that, because neither book is deemed “good enough” for them. And that’s a shame – yet it’s also their loss.

The Privilege of Access

You see, being offered a book review is a privilege. It’s a publisher saying,

We value your expertise, your knowledge, and the trusted audience you’ve built up. We feel we have a book you’d really enjoy, and that would be right for your audience too, and we’d love to offer you early access to it, as well as the author for any exclusives for your site.

You’ll notice I used the word “trusted” in the above statement. That trust works both ways. Yes, the reviewer has built trust in their audience, and that should never be taken for granted. Yet now the publisher is putting their trust in you, the reviewer.

By letting you into their world early, they take the risk of their target audience being put off by a bad review before a new book has even had chance to breathe. If early reviews are negative, it can stall sales before the first copy has left the bookshelf, virtual or otherwise.

Essentially, they’re trusting you with the potential future of their company – and you don’t even have the courtesy to see if that company has something worthwhile to share with you.

So, here’s my advice for Morning Rain Publishing, and any other independent author or publisher/self-publisher. If a book review site is so precious it feels it’s above new publications that haven’t had a chance to meet a minimum review criteria like 10 four star-plus reviews, consider striking them off your list – they’re probably not worth your time anyway.

And to these sites where 10 reviews all with a minimum of four stars is the gatekeeper new publishers and authors have to pass, consider this – imagine how difficult it would have been to get to your sacred position had your website not been allowed any visitors until your site had 10 positive reviews on Google (or other search engines).

Access is a privilege, and independent publishers are the ones that pretty much helped get book review sites where they are today – try not to abuse it.

PS – if you want to support independent book publishers, and you love reviewing books, hit up Morning Rain Publishing – they’ll be happy to talk to you.

Why It’s Important to Support Independent Book Publishers originally appeared on Danny Brown – Award-Winning Social Media Marketing and Influence Marketing Blog under a Creative Commons license.

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