Matthew Munson: A flexible publishing house

The book may be great but you still need a good publisher

Being a writer with an independent publishing house is a bit different to being signed with one of the Big Five publishers and all their subsidiaries. There used to be the Big Six but Penguin and Random House merged a few years ago – wouldn’t it have been great for them to have called themselves Random Penguin?

Still, I’ve been signed with Inspired Quill since 2011 and it’s been a lovely experience so far. The Big Cheese (managing director in old speak), Sara-Jayne, and I talk mostly over Skype these days. She’s based far, far away and the tin can and string technique doesn’t really work over a distance more than a room or so.

The ‘Big Cheese’

However, it’s very rare to find a publishing house where you can have the flexibility of Inspired Quill. I hosted the Big Cheese and the then-head editor in my house, when they came to stay in the area for my book signings. I also got to introduce them to some of the nice eateries, as well as places to gamble, which can’t be a bad combination.

I’ve also spent time talking over Skype with Sara at 10pm on a Sunday before, due to a particular issue one of us had with books or writing in general. We could not wait until normal business hours, so it seemed entirely normal for us to talk when we did. Whilst I wouldn’t necessarily agree with it every single week – Sara does need some time off – I am forced to concede, despite my writer’s ego demanding full attention all the time, that it proves to be useful and means I have the sort of relationship with my publisher that involves flexibility and respect.

You occasionally hear horror stories about the independent publishing sector, but that’s not fair.People often confuse vanity and self-publishing with independent and traditional presses but they’re a world apart.

Some self-publishing agencies aren’t bad and help people as a half-way house into getting published when they have something to put “out there” that they still want creative control over, or because mainstream publishers aren’t interested  for whatever reason.

Vanity press

But vanity presses are more difficult to like, at least for me. They take a lot of money off people and don’t necessarily offer a lot in return. They often don’t give any kind of quality control and the look and feel of a vanity-press book is often rather poor to the extent of giving an incredibly bad impression of those writers who do have a quality book to sell but are then tainted by the … ahem… less than good.

So, when I get asked if I’m self-published, I never get offended because I don’t have a problem with the quality end of the sector and I certainly wouldn’t rule it out in the future if I wrote something that Inspired Quill wasn’t interested it.

But when I get asked if I would ever use a vanity press, I slap the questioner round the face with a wet haddock and I hope you can see why that’s well deserved.