The Guardian published an article with stats suggesting that 60% of small presses could be gone from the UK landscape in the coming months. While the sample size was small (73 respondents) it is a worrying time for these business owners and their authors.
Wordcatcher Publishing is a small press with around 250 titles currently in print. Our plans for over 100 front list titles in 2020-21 has been decimated. There simply isn’t enough time during the week to work on these books, and authors are restricted in the events they can run to promote their book. The golden period is generally the first three months after a book is launched. If you can’t hold events this limits the impact.
We have supported many first-time authors and given a voice to over 30 poets, most of whom would have found it difficult to get published by a larger publisher. We take risks every day on the titles we take on and the authors we work with. We don’t have infrastructure to cover for the boss taking time out for home schooling. There are no grants in for our business. But there are no complaints either.
We are, however, confidently stating we will be in the 40% still in business at the end of 2020, and we will grow again in 2021. It may not seem like that to the authors we’ve had to postpone or cancel, and the frustration of knowing your book isn’t coming out yet (or with us) is palpable from the messages and emails we receive. We have changed our business model and will be charging for some publishing services. We are working hard on services and products that can support authors to self-publish, or a hybrid version of publishing where we provide the publishing know-how, and the author taps into that knowledge doing some of the work themselves to get their book finished faster.
But all of this takes time, and it’s only been a few weeks since lock down began. In Wales, where we are based, it looks like schools won’t go back until June at the earliest, but we are planning as if it’s September. Even when schools do go back it will take time to get the train moving again. There are many challenges ahead, but the watchword is patience. When we emerge we will be in a stronger position, with a more financially sound basis, and that can only be good for our authors.
When the time comes we will be on the look-out for other small publishers who are going to pack it in to either join forces in some way, or to be there to take on and support their authors to keep books in circulation that otherwise will disappear. It’s not just the future for authors that’s at risk, it’s the backlist too.
Read the Guardian article in full here, it makes sobering reading: