Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A Place Indies Can Call Their Own

A little over a month ago, I happily stumbled across the debut of Consortium Books weekly Twitter hashtag chat - #indieview. For those of you who love independent publishing, this is the place you want to be every Wednesday morning at 10:30am EST. Trust me! Talk about a meeting of the minds....

Each Wednesday Indie publishers, authors, and book bloggers flock to #indieview in eager anticipation. Rachel Zugschwert, the woman behind the @consortiumbooks tweets and the hashtag's passionate host, chooses a new topic each week for us to discuss. Past topics ranged from what Independent publishers can do to increase their readership and reach, to defining what "Indie" means in today's publishing world, and most recently - how indie publishers and book bloggers can work together to support and nurture one another. 

The conversations are always enlightening. Feedback and suggestions are always welcome.  Rachel is open to participant requests when deciding on upcoming topics and she also posts a transcript of the entire chat each week for those who were unable to attend but wished to be able to see what took place. Though the weekly chats are scheduled for 30 minutes, on more than one occasion Rachel has encouraged the conversation to continue... because sometimes, once the collaborative juices get flowing,there is just no stopping it!!

I could go on and on about #indieview, but I thought you might like to hear more about it from its creator, so I asked Rachel if she would be interested in writing a bit about the hashtag for us. The following guest post explains where the idea for the weekly chat originated from, what she hopes it will accomplish and where she would like to see it go:

#Indieview started around a conference room table, something we thought might be the answer to the lack of an indie voice that we feel frequently troubles the publishing press. Certainly independent bookstores are lauded and supported – there’s #indiethursday and regular features in all the regular publications and e-newsletters. Bloggers link to Indiebound and Powells in addition to Amazon and B&N and that’s great. But what about the indie publisher? Who was speaking for – much less about – them?

Without an answer to those questions, we thought we could step forward to solve one of those problems. We certainly don’t claim to speak for indie publishers – they’re far too varied and unique for that. What we wanted to do was create a space where people could talk about the issues facing indie publishing, both good and bad. We knew that there were people out there who appreciate indie publishing, the same way there are people who claim indie music and indie film. We just had to find them.

So we started tweeting, Wednesday mornings at 9:30 central time. Just before the first chat I remember feeling very nervous – like I was about to go on stage for a one-woman show. Would anyone come? Would I be talking to myself or just my co-workers? Does anyone even care about indie publishing?

Of course they do.

A number of our publishers show up on a regular basis. Several dedicated bloggers (we love you!) show up week after week. We’ve had participants ranging from editors at major houses to authors and readers to indie publishers who we don’t represent – a major coup! Some really interesting debates have been sparked – are self-published authors “indie” the way that small press authors are “indie”? Who decides?

In short, #indieview has succeeded in ways that I don’t think we could have envisioned. We’re creating a space for discussion, which was our initial goal. But it’s turning out to be a force for change – something for bloggers and others to take it from Twitter into the real world with panel suggestions and BEA events – official or unofficial. The issues facing the publishing industry are scary, especially for indies: a single national chain bookstore, increasing homogeny among large publishers, Amazon’s price check app. We need to be able to talk about those issues as well as the fun ones, like social media and what we’ve read lately, in a public forum, and rally people to the cause of indie publishing. Who doesn’t want to be the one to have discovered the next big thing first? That’s where indie publishers and indie authors are – we’re what’s awesome before it gets big.

Rachel Zugschwert is the marketing manager for Consortium Book Sales & Distribution. She likes books of all kinds, and her goal in life is to discover the next big book - over and over and over again.

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