First, please notice I said challenging, not critiquing, the indie imagination — that is, the current growth of Christian-speculative publishers with independent owners and editorial oversight. For this discussion, I have Grace Bridges, founder of Splashdown Books, to thank for the — if you will excuse the word — inspiration.
Here’s what Grace said, on Twitter July 5:
So you want to be an Indie Publisher – Overview of the job, by Grace Bridges http://pinterest.com/pin/9485713587 …
This summarizes how Splashdown Books’ publishing platform works and encourages others about how to replicate this method. Yet I began wondering …
… Already I keep finding new indie publishers for Christian SF; do we need more, and oughtn’t some combine their resources? @GraceBridges
GraceBridges: @EStephenBurnett Someone looking at the workload might prefer to leave it to us! But the more the merrier. Just gotta know what’s involved.
EStephenBurnett: Well, as a reader, I prefer fewer publishers with more editors at each one. Less to keep track of in a distraction-prone age! @GraceBridges
GraceBridges: @EStephenBurnett Ah, but we all do things so differently. We each have our own vision and pick entirely different stories even in one genre.
EStephenBurnett: @gracebridges Again simply speculating (surprise!): I wonder if that might fit with different imprints under one roof. Better for marketing.
But then one must decide which editor/publisher will Be Boss; that gets tricky. Still, wait 30 years — someone will be anyway.
GraceBridges: @EStephenBurnett Other pubs don’t want my stuff and I don’t want theirs, mostly. A conglomerate smells too traditional to me. Diehard indie!
Come to think of it, I suppose I am not a diehard indie. I must be so independent, I’m even independent of indies. If you say “indie,” I think first of Marion Ravenwood yelling it. Then (fairly or unfairly) I see dark-rimmed glasses, iThings, scarves, and Brian McLaren.
Whoever writes or publishes them, I only desire epic stories — not just for the sake of being “weird,” or to stick it to the shallow moralistic-inspirational complex, but for God’s glory.
Is that contradictory to the indie imagination? Surely not.
Later, editor and writer Cathilyn Dyck offered some necessary facts:
CLDyck: @EStephenBurnett @gracebridges From a writer’s perspective: MLP [Marcher Lord Press] and Splashdown have very busy submission queues.
In the sci-fi Golden Age (1940s-1960s) tons of indies printed from basements. This is a renaissance time.
And here’s how the discussion spun off on my Facebook page. Some of this is inevitable “shop talk” for aspiring authors. But I’m more interested in readers’ reactions to this.
Adam Ross: I agree, resources ought to be combined. But then, MLP [Marcher Lord Press] has been closed to submissions for a while, given the overwhelming amount [founder and editor Jeff Gerke] has had to work through.
E. Stephen Burnett: Again proving there’s a glut of manuscripts.
But doesn’t this make the case that two or three editors, working for MLP (or another group) rather than two or three separate publishers, could sort through the pile more quickly?
Adam Ross: Yeah, having more than just Jeff over at MLP would be great. Could it pay for several editors? Unknown. But we really are scattering our efforts – a sort of divide and fail-to-be-noticed policy, if you will.
E. Stephen Burnett: ”But we really are scattering our efforts – a sort of divide and fail-to-be-noticed policy, if you will.”
That’s what this sort-of outsider notices. And I find it very difficult to keep up with all the different little publishers that have sprung up. Just found a new one the other day: great site, guidelines, and repertoire.
Part of this is that I also don’t understand the “indie” mindset. I’m not a megachurch horde-collector. Still, if “the more the merrier” is true, coordinating little efforts into one great effort can only help the *genre* and thus can give maximum glory to the God of the true Epic Story — that should be the chief end, right?
E. Stephen Burnett: Again I wonder what Rebecca Miller might think about this topic, if she’s willing and able to share. She’s been at this business for much longer than I began seriously thinking about it.
E. Stephen Burnett: … And not only because, if this conversation continues — and with the permission of its FB participants — I’ll cheat for Wednesday’s column and quote its entirety.
Adam Ross: On the one hand I support the diversification of the marketplace (with this many publishers, some of them will start challenging the immensely irritating “no swears” policy – like at MLP – but with the speculative genre so small already in the Christian market we really are going to start fighting over the same scraps and, I fear, dilute the market with such lackluster material that instead of increasing its viability, will push it further to the fringe, niche market.
E. Stephen Burnett: This very conversation is an example of slightly diverse interests coming together to promote a common cause. I believe that already the diverse authors, bloggers, editors, and publishers are doing that well, very well — to each other. The key is marketing. Web designer’s tip: don’t have three or four different blogs or websites. That confuses people. Consolidate. Put it all at one domain name. All under one slogan and logo. That’s why we need fewer publishers and websites: not just to be a bigger, meaner, more-cutthroat Mega-Corporate Operation, but for the sake of serving readers — to cut through readers’ distractions.
Watch this next. Here’s a cyber-friend of mine (we were on the same side during a massive doctrinal discussion), who’s been my friend for months, and still hasn’t yet seen my many Spec-Faith updates and posts about books, authors, and publishers.
[Name]: Who if anyone publishes true sf with a christian bent?
[…] E. Stephen Burnett: Marcher Lord Press, Splashdown Books, Port Yonder Press, and Risen Books, just to name a few!
[Name]: Thanks bro, really!
Moral: I doubt we truly realize how much internet/media clutter is out there, and about how many “indie” publishing efforts simply go ignored.
Finally, some thoughts from speculative-novel editor and longtime blogger Rebecca Miller.
Rebecca LuElla Miller: Stephen, I’ve suggested to a couple of the brains behind small presses that they throw their hats into the same ring. One of those is no more. That may be the way of things. Some will fade away and die and there will be only a handful of viable houses, struggling though they might be.
I’d at least think some of these would want to talk, but who makes the first move? Whose business model do you use? There might be some issues independents think too important to compromise. I don’t know. I think it would have to help the genre, but I don’t know about the individual houses.
Even as I was assembling this piece, more from Grace, and Kristine Pratt of Written World Communications — a completely new name to me, despite my familiarity(?) with the “biz.”
Grace Bridges: Well, combining is a great idea in theory, but I still think we are all way too different for it to ever work. I love Chila, Kristine, Jeff, and I think they are doing wonderful things, but their vision is not mine.
Kristine Pratt: Hey don’t forget the OtherSheep imprint at Written World Communications does Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror. Grace is right – our visions all do differ. For example, Jeff over at MLP won’t touch horror while the first two books that came out with OtherSheep were just that. (We have Sci Fi and Fantasy under contract as well). I don’t think it’s wrong to have diversity with numerous publishers looking for Christian spec fic of all varieties. I think we’re actually raising awareness for each other and building a larger market with our efforts. *grins* I’ll be quiet now, I just happened to come late to the party!
(I will need to leave out any further discussion on there; this piece can only go so long.)
So, what might we have missed? What are the pros and cons of indie presses? How do these reach or fail to reach readers? Have you personally heard of the presses named here? What about their novels, authors, or websites? Finally, I re-ask: what is the purpose of Story?