Running with Giants
Several months ago, we were invited to submit our company's first novel, Carolina Cruel, to a well-known review website for their "Books to Read This Summer" article. We were encouraged by the invitation as the publicity from such a review would have been an enormous boost for the novel and our independent press. Unfortunately, we found out that the individual review for Carolina Cruel was not included in the final article. That certainly hurt, but really, why belabor such a point? Thousands of books are passed over for such articles all the time. But to read the final article, one thing became perfectly clear: independent presses, like Rivers Turn Press, are rarely represented when it comes to Hollywood considerations, media spotlights, literary contests and the those types of articles. All of the books reviewed in the summer books' article came from one of the five big publishing houses: Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin Random House, Simon and Schuster or one of their imprints.
Much of the lack of attention for independent titles has to do with the number of books out there. With the recent creation of the various self-publishing and hybrid publishing outfits, it has never been easier for would-be writers to get their works in print (and/or in e-formats too). And this is not a bad thing, as some great works have come out of these types of publishers. The problem is that it has led to a flood of books on the market and there is not enough spotlight to go around. Therefore, media has had to find a way to limit their coverage and the self-publishers, hybrids and the independent presses usually get the short end of the stick. This is not an uncommon problem as many of you can probably relate. It is akin to the likes of the Mom and Pop store on the hometown main street competing with the Walmart's and Amazon's of the world. It happens. It's business.
But this lack of a level playing field has caused much consternation for small presses: How can we get this fantastic book of ours out to the masses if the media constantly ignores us? How do we get it on the shelves of the bookstores? How do we get it in the public consciousness? These are the questions many of us as independent publishers ask and ones that have led to our parent organization, the Independent Book Publishers Association, to take up the fight. In recent months, the IBPA has come up with publishing standards that, if followed, would help to put the independent press on par with the big boys. It would mean that the media would weigh potential works not on the regular business model (highlighting only the big publishers) but on the content of the work itself. It's certainly no guarantee, but it is a well-conceived idea whose time has come.
The good news for us is that the books of Rivers Turn Press, my three novels and Katie Sullivan Masalin's novel, all tick the publishing standards boxes. We enjoyed professional attention with our last publisher and have carried that professionalism over to Rivers Turn Press. We aim to maintain those standards with any and all future published works. The bad news: Is it enough? Will the media truly take independent works into consideration? I guess we will have to wait and see.
In the meantime, we need to continue promoting our works the best way we know how. Both Katie and I are blessed to have numerous family and friends that have served as our chorus for our novels, and we certainly need that to continue. Not only do we need our books purchased, we need them talked about on social media and beyond. We need more reviews (hopefully positive) on Amazon, Goodreads, Barnes & Noble, etc. We need to continue to hear from book clubs and other social organizations. We need independent bookstores and big bookstore chains to continue to schedule us for signings. We need to further connect with local media and make contact with national media. In short, we need those who are willing to champion our works to do so.
Despite the lack of a level playing field, I can safely say that the first year of Rivers Turn Press has been a success. Katie and I have just completed our 2017 book tour, thanks to those aforementioned bookstores, festivals, book clubs and special events. We have met with very enthusiastic readers and continue to be encouraged by the reception to our works. Carolina Cruel is now available in various e-reader formats and Katie is hard at work on Honeysuckle Secrets, a follow-up to her acclaimed novel, Rocks, Paper, Flowers. The promise of a great 2018 is in the air.
So as we head into the new year, we ask for your continued support. For we truly believe that no matter the size, if the field is level, anyone can run with giants.
Author, teacher Lawrence Thackston is also the publisher of Rivers Turn Press