Wander from the Beaten Path in 2018

Wander from the Beaten Path in 2018

Have you made your New Year resolutions yet? If not, I have a suggestion for you. Alongside all the usual ones, can I suggest you wander from the beaten path in your reading habits this year?

I was lucky enough to become a published author in 2017, a dream come true. There were some unforseen side effects as a result, one of which I had never imagined. I discovered I had become part of a family. Odyssey is a small press and to be honest, I hadn’t heard of it until I started exploring publication options beyond the big five mainstream publishers. I had received rejections from all the mainstream publishers I could access (which weren’t many due to their submission policies). So I looked at who else was out there. A fortunate conversation with Tamasine Loves, author of the timeslip novel Remhurst Manor (Made Global Publishing) led me to discover Odyssey.

I loved what I saw on their website – the tagline ‘where books are an adventure’, caught my attention immediately. Their submission page begins with ‘we love stories’. Since my central character, Mina, becomes an accomplished story teller, this felt like a perfect fit. And it’s been wonderful being with a small press. Harlequin’s Riddle has beautiful production values. I’m proud that it sits alongside many amazing books on the Odyssey list.

The only frustration I have is that not enough people know about Odyssey and their authors. This is not just an issue for Odyssey though – it’s a problem for any smaller publisher or independent author. Marketing costs money, but that’s not all – many bookshops are very conservative in what they will place on their shelves (and according to some blog posts there may be financial incentives for certain books to be given more exposure). I’ve had some wonderful responses from booksellers when I ask if they can stock my book, but others have been less than receptive. Big publishers have easy distribution channels. They have large marketing budgets and interest from mainstream media. But that doesn’t mean their books are necessarily any better.

Does marketing prove a book is good?

I was in a chain bookstore recently and I realised that I was struggling to find anything that wasn’t by a ‘name’ author. We’ve moved into an age where everything’s worth is related to its potential to make money, not its literary merit or being a damn good book. It strikes me as a catch-22 situation. Certain books are hyped as ‘the next big thing’ and they sell really well. But are they selling because they are good, or because they are being given a lot of attention? You may think these books rise to the top because they are the best out there, to which I could respond with certain inevitable examples of terrible books that have sold enormously. But I don’t need to name names- just go to any op shop (thrift store) and you will find them in large quantities. You know which books I mean.

For some big publishers, the marketing department is influential in deciding which authors will be offered a contract. The decision then becomes ‘will it sell?’ instead of ‘is it a great book?’ The beaten path is safe, but it can begin to look ‘same-y’ after a while. Small presses take more risks. They value good writing and great stories. They champion unknown writers. They champion books that are a little different.

So be brave…

Since it’s the end of 2018, I’ve seen a number of people posting ‘books I read in 2017’ lists, and I’ve been dismayed at how mainstream their reading choices are. Few lists have had books on them that I haven’t seen marketed to death. This dismays me because there are wonderful books that are languishing simply because people don’t know about them. So in 2018, I encourage you to leave the beaten path. Explore the websites of small presses and splash out on a book from an unknown author. When you find books you love, tell people about them. Give great writers who aren’t with the big publishers a chance for recognition and a future where they get to keep writing books.

Some great Aussie small presses include: Odyssey Books, Christmas Press Picture Books, Eagle BooksCSFG, Clan Destine Press and IFWG Publishing Australia.

There are some fabulous books at Made Global Publishing (UK) too.

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