Independence Daze: Indie Publishing and the Importance of Awards

If you're part of the right circles on social media, you'll have noticed an increased buzz recently around the Saboteur Awards, and the Republic of Consciousness. Both seek - in very different ways - to recognise and reward independent publishers, magazines, writers and artists, the heroes who are working outside of the mainstream, and sometimes out of sight.

There are those who will try to convince you that this is largely an exercise in self-congratulation, a small circle of people smugly patting each other on the back.

They are wrong.

Independent publishing has shown (yet again) in recent years that it's vital to the continuation of the literary novel, and short stories. Will Self may be sounding the death knell of the novel for the third or fourth time, but you only have to take a glance at the catalogue of Galley Beggar, say, or And Other Stories, so see that it's alive and well - it just isn't living in Random Penguin Towers. The novel isn't ill, but the publishing industry is. Choked with celebrity biographies, celebrity cookbooks - even ghostwritten celebrity 'novels' - it's a far cry from the industry's golden era. And as is always the case in times of scarcity, the really interesting work has gone underground.

That's not to say that it isn't popular. Eley Williams's Attrib., for example, has been widely reviewed and even more widely read, and was chosen by The Guardian's book club at the end of last year. It was a huge boost in the arm for the independent sector of the industry - and publishers Influx Press - when it won the Republic of Consciousness Award last week.

And that is, largely, the point. The Republic of Consciousness prize was set up specifically to reward the outstanding books that are finding publication through our indie presses, and Attrib. exemplifies this. It's successful, widely read, an excellent piece of work - and it's achieved all of that outside of the mainstream publishing system. Hopefully even more people will pick it up now that it's won an award.

Which brings us on to the Saboteur Awards. I know first-hand that these can make a huge difference, having won one with my anthology Being Dad back in 2016. Now the nominations are open for the awards once again, at least until the end of March - and I would wholeheartedly encourage you to make your nominations. This isn't just about rewarding good work - it's about making that work even more visible, and celebrating the gems that still manage to shine, even without the big budgets and national marketing campaigns of those Random Penguins.

Of course, I have a couple of horses in the race myself. I'd be hugely grateful if you'd consider nominating The Shadow Booth: Vol. 1 for Best Anthology, or The Lonely Crowd for Best Magazine. But even if you don't, you should visit the Saboteur Awards site and make your nominations. There's plenty of great work out there to choose from - including Attrib., but also debut collections by Gary Budden and Malcolm Devlin, or live events like Unsung Live, or 'wildcards' like the Paperchain Podcast... or, in fact, anything that you think deserves the recognition.

In an industry that doesn't always reward the small projects, this is your chance to make a difference. You have until 31 March. Show your love.