I’m so honored to announce that I’ve recently had the opportunity to interview an indie publisher named Inspired Quill! With the Big 5 dominating the publishing world, I though it would be ideal to know what goes on in indie publishing and why it’s definitely something we as readers (and possibly upcoming authors) need to start focusing on!
1.) Can you introduce yourself by telling us a little bit about who you are?
Sure! My name is Sara-Jayne Slack and I’m the founder of Inspired Quill, a UK publishing house striving to set new industry standards: eco-friendly, people-orientated and focused on quality-driven, inclusive publishing. I’m also a Digital Marketer (SEO & Inbound) during the day, and I’ve created the online course ‘Casual to Committed’, where I teach authors (and bloggers!) the basics of how to turn casual readers into committed fans without getting overwhelmed.
2.) What is your dream job?
In a perfect world, I’d be able to work full-time on Inspired Quill. At the moment, I’m a volunteer (and have been for 9 years!) I love almost everything about it; editing, comms, events, mentoring and training. I just wish the spreadsheets would sort themselves out sometimes!
3.) How did you get into the publishing business?
Ten years ago I knew I wanted to work in the publishing industry, but saw myself as a fiction editor, rather than running something for myself. I have always been an avid reader, but honestly the thing that tipped me over the edge into creating a press of my own was the indignant rage I felt while talking to authors (IQ was a book review blog prior to becoming a publishing house). Both self-published and traditionally published authors used to tell me horror stories about the industry, and I remember thinking “how hard can it be to run a company that doesn’t screw people over?” And thus, Inspired Quill was born.
4.) What is one of your biggest aspirations as a publisher?
We want to be a self-sustainable business with a small but perfectly formed team who can publish a dozen or so books a year. I also want to make a difference – we champion publishing non-tokenistic diversity wherever possible (although it’s been a journey for us, too!). Our ethos is, essentially, to be a force for positive publishing.
5.) What do you think is an indie-publisher’s biggest challenge?
A few years ago, I would probably have said ‘being taken seriously’, although I’m pleased to say that not only are indie presses getting close to the credit they deserve, but at events Inspired Quill are routinely confused for bigger imprints from the Big 5 publishers.
Now, however, the biggest challenge is what I call ‘yelling into the void’. We have to work multiple-times as hard to be heard as the bigger publishers who are able to invest more time and money into things like marketing. We only publish books that we truly believe in, so it’s sometimes super difficult not to feel guilty or dejected when we put so much time into making something truly fantastic, and it not fly off the shelves in the way we feel it deserves.
6.) What is your approach to marketing your books?
“No book is left behind.” In the run-up to publication, we’ll send out emails to potential endorsers and book bloggers to see if they’d like to read the title in response for a review. Unfortunately, despite every email we send being tailored to that specific blog, we get perhaps 1 return email for every 20 we send (again, rather demoralising!) We’ll also create chapter teasers, banners, try to get plenty of interviews for the authors, etc.
Once the book is out, we’ll then keep promoting it. We have books such as our Polari-Prize Shortlisted Sugar and Snails, where a percentage of the profits go to charity, so it’s important that they’re not forgotten even as we release more books.
I guess it’s all about engagement and connections – getting the books in the right places so the folks who see them being marketed are the ones that are going to love them.
7.) How is your publishing house doing during these tough times?
We’re thankfully surviving. Since I work as a volunteer (from home), we’re able to keep our overheads (costs) pretty low. The biggest impact has been from all of the events being cancelled, as we have a few authors who tend to sell a lot of books when they get to meet readers face-to-face. We do sell our books direct through our website though (in all formats!) so we’re trying to direct people there instead of places like Amazon, because it means we get a little bit more money, and readers get to help out a social enterprise rather than an exploitative big business (which isn’t always possible!)
8.) Why should authors choose you as a publisher?
We practice radical transparency, and observe the golden rule. That is, money flows to the author, not away from them. We offer industry-leading royalties, collaborative publication processes, and we take on the full financial burden of getting the finished book to print. We’re also a social enterprise, so we give back where we can – which also means I mentor our authors with things such as their online presence (it’s not just a case of me saying “go and do some marketing!” and that’s it. Plus, IQ is like its own community. All the authors and volunteers have a FB group where we’ll share opportunities and wins and basically just chat to each other. It’s great.
9.) Any unusual tips for authors trying to break into the publishing world?
Self-publishing is not a bad thing! I often get the stink-eye from other publishers for saying this, but I truly believe that self-publishing is an excellent way for authors to learn the whole process front-to-back so they understand the basics. There’s a lot more work involved in publishing a novel than running it through spellcheck and slapping a cover on it!
The other thing I’d say is that when you’re searching for publishers to submit your work to, definitely take a look around their website and not just their submissions page. You want to make sure that you’d be a good fit for one another in terms of ethos – not just what genre they publish! If you can, you could also get a copy of one of their titles to check the quality of the work in your hand.
10.) Is there a story you would like to tell us about publishing that you think people should know?
It’s super rewarding, but it can also be very frustrating when Indie publishers are often overlooked because we don’t have the shiniest stands at London Book Fair, or we haven’t published an epic bestseller. But it’s often the smaller presses that work hard to bring diverse, under-represented voices to the market (just take a look at what the innovate folks over at Inclusive Indies are doing!). Inspired Quill love working and engaging with readers and bloggers directly – no-one is ever just a number to us. That might sound cheesy, but it’s absolutely true. We started out life as a book review blog, so the level of respect we have for bloggers and other reviewers is immense.
It’s nice to know that there are definitely publishers out there who strive to make a positive difference! It was a delight to interview Sara and I hope to do more interview-posts in the future!
What’s your opinion on indie publishers? If you were an aspiring author, would you choose an indie publisher?
Till we meet again!
Hey Alexia, thanks so much for hosting this interview! You asked some great questions, and I hope it’s been useful for some of your readers who may not have heard about indie publishing before!
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It was so much fun doing it, hopefully I’ll do similiar posts in the future! Indie-publishing is definitely something that’s on the rise! 🙌💛
As one of the IQ authors, I’d echo everything Sara says. And thanks Alexia for featuring my wonderful publisher.
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