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Publishing News of the Week

Inclusive Indies Fund to Grant £35,000 to Independent Publishers

Earlier this year, independent publishers Jacaranda Books and Knights Of partnered with the writing charity Spread the Word to launch a crowdfunder for inclusive, diversity-led UK indies.

In May 2020, the Inclusive Indies Fund was established to combat the economic pressures caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The campaign, #InclusiveIndies, raised £100,000 for the two aforementioned indie presses, with a percentage of additional funds being shared to independent publishers across the UK, administered by Spread the Word.

Jacaranda Books and Knights Of have since spread their campaign further and awarded grants totalling £35,000 to eleven independent presses from across both the UK and Ireland. 

Ten UK independent presses, selected from twenty-six submissions, were awarded grants of £3,000 each and include five independent children’s presses.

The Inclusive Indies Fund recipients are as follows: Bluemoose Books, Bryan House Publishing, Dinosaur Books, HopeRoad, Onwe Press, Out-Spoken Press, Owlet Press, OWNIT!, Tiny Owl Publishing and Way Wive Wordz. Irish independent press, Little Island, also received a grant of £5,000.

Aimée Felone, co-founder of Knights Of stated: 

“At a time when uncertainty prevailed, we received overwhelming support from our communities. The inclusive indies fund was set up to provide that same support back to those who hold us up. We are honoured to be able to help, in a very small way, the inclusive independent publishers that have and continue to champion the voices that society often overlooks."

The success of the Inclusive Indies crowdfund has helped unite indie presses during an extremely uncertain time, where many are facing closure due to the pandemic and increasingly tougher competition.

One of the recipients, Anthony Anaxagorou, the founder of Out-Spoken Press said, "It really couldn’t have come at a more crucial time for us as a publisher. We’re now able to ensure the release of our titles for upcoming months, with the care and attention they each deserve, and to look ahead to our plans for 2021."

The fund will continue to advocate for inclusive indie publishers alongside providing support and advice. Sessions on “The Business of Running an Independent Press” led by Aimée Felone (of Knights of) and Valerie Brandes (of Jacaranda Books) and “Gaining Funding For Your Indie” run by Ruth Harrison (of Spread the Word) are taking place for the inclusive indies who applied to the fund.

Rishi Sunak’s Scheme Accepted by Publishing

Thursday 24 September, Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak announced the replacement of the Furlough Scheme with a new Job Support Scheme that will last for six months, beginning in November. 

It is not as straightforward as the Furlough Scheme, with the payment of wages split into thirds. Employees in “viable” jobs working less than their normal hours have their pay subsidised with both the government and the employer each paying a third of the lost salary. For example, if you were working 30% of your normal hours, you would be paid 77% of your standard salary.

Freelancers will see the Self-Employed Grant extended on similar terms and Bounce Back Loans will see their terms extended from 6 to 10 years. 

CEO of the Independent Publishers Guild, Bridget Shrine, commended the scheme for the help it would give to indie presses, helping to preserve jobs that would otherwise have been lost. She concluded her statement of support, saying that “there’s clearly a long way to go before businesses can get back to anything like normal, but this is a sensible package of support for the months ahead”.

The Booksellers Association MD, Meryl Halls, reiterated Shrine’s remarks, welcoming any support to help small businesses transition to something close to normal trading. Again, showing her pleasure at this alleviated pressure and staff back in work, Hall said: 

“We know that for bookshop owners – often working solo during and since lockdown, having furloughed most of their staff – have been concerned about the potential difficulties of bringing back valued staff members on much reduced turnover, so this scheme should help to alleviate some of that pressure”. 

She finalised with a plea to the Chancellor: 

“There is clearly a continuing need to balance public health with economic rebuilding, and we urge the government to continue paying attention to the already beleaguered high street, including our front line bookshops, who provide such a crucial service, both culturally and economically.”

Despite the support for the Chancellor’s scheme offering a light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel, Caroline Norbury, CEO of the Creative Industries Federation, saw that the eligibility criteria of the Self Employment Income Support Scheme means that many of the industry’s two million self-employed workers “will continue to fall through the gaps in government support”. She also anticipates the allocation of the £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund to be announced in the coming weeks. 

Echoing the remarks of the industry’s most prominent figures, it is evident that the news is largely positive for the industry, how far this support will extend, however, and other finer details of its roll out are still up for debate when it comes to our freelancers.

Macmillan Publishers Raise US Wages

Last month was a great time to be a publisher, or a publishing hopeful, in the US as Macmillan US Trade Publishers raised their entry-level salary by $7,000 to $42,000 a year, making Macmillan perhaps the highest paying publisher of the Big Five in America. This applies to current staff as well as new recruits. As of the 1 October 2020 exchange rate, this is a whopping £33,000. 

This sits at almost £10,000 more than the average UK entry-level salary, based on the salary listings from a June 2020 #booktransparency Twitter campaign. The same campaign listed a position from Pan Macmillan as having the lowest recorded salary at only £18,000. 

Weisberg, the CEO of Macmillan Publishers, has announced that: 

“We expect this change will help us expand our applicant pool by attracting candidates who have, up to now, found our starting salary too low. This increase is part of Macmillan’s broader D&I objectives and our commitment to pay equity”. 

This will be put into place on 27 December in time for a much brighter 2021 for our publishing hopeful friends across the Atlantic.

On 1 October, the ripple effect began as US publisher Beacon Press also increased their entry-level salary by $9,000 to $44,600 a year. Beacon Press saw many backlist books regain popularity in the wake of the Black Lives Matter Campaign. The success of their book White Fragility put them in a position to offer these increased salaries, having sold 1.5 million copies back in June 2020.

Helene Atwan, Director of Beacon Press said: 

“In addition to wanting to compensate our talented staff for their sustained hard work, we want to do everything we can to bring more BIPOC individuals and those from historically marginalised communities to Beacon Press and publishing, and also to help make publishing attractive at all levels.” 

And in saying what we all hope for, Atwan stated, “we hope this encourages other publishers to look at their salary ranges and make publishing viable for many without generational wealth”.

We would love to see this move trigger a bigger ripple effect through the Atlantic Ocean and into the UK, but for now we are just dreaming of a job in New York.

Economic news in publishing appears promising in the autumn of a bleak 2020.

Pandemic Sees Library Footfall Decrease by 80%

In the face of local councils making budget cuts, in recent years libraries have struggled to receive adequate funding and have now been suffering the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite being permitted to reopen alongside other venues, libraries have not yet seen a return to semi-normality, as new statistics paint a concerning picture for library usage. 

Figures from library body Libraries Connected revealed that between early July and 13 September, library footfall had declined by 80% from the same period last year. However, these figures present a skewed picture, as not all libraries have reopened since lockdown was eased, with 20% of libraries around the country remaining closed. With this adjustment, Libraries Connected estimated that footfall in open libraries was 35% of last year’s figure. 

With people returning in droves to pubs and restaurants, it seems surprising that more people have not been keen to revisit their local libraries, despite measures being implemented for those libraries that have reopened. This could suggest concerns about the virus being passed around through borrowed books, and a feeling that it is safer to continue working and studying from home. Social distancing measures also mean that libraries are operating at a greatly reduced capacity. 

These days there are also a wide range of library services available online, with users able to borrow eBooks and audiobooks from the comfort of their home, reducing the need for a physical visit. The current figures don’t reflect these services, including click and collect, so it is likely the picture is a lot less gloomy than the initial figures suggest, and people have simply adjusted the way they are using libraries. 

E-lending experienced a boost between 13 March and 14 August with an extra 3.5 million eBooks being borrowed. A Wired article reported that some publishers were concerned this increase would harm book sales and since 2011, the big five publishers have been limiting library lending of their books. Overdrive, the partner of 50,000 libraries worldwide, estimated that eBook checkouts had increased by 52% compared to last year. This suggests that digital borrowing has been unlocked by the pandemic, and now that users have realised the benefits of this service, we are unlikely to see this demand decline.  

Isobel Hunter, CEO of Libraries Connected, said:

“Reopening libraries in this current environment was always going to be a challenge. However, as more sites reopen, and browsing and PC use is gradually reintroduced, we are beginning to see our communities return in higher numbers. We know the next few months will be critical as the combination of increased social restrictions and the release of the government spending review may well have a significant impact on library services at a time when their services are needed more than ever.”

Over the next couple of months, it is likely that libraries’ focus will remain on the provision of digital services, and we are unlikely to see a return to pre-COVID figures until the need for social distancing has reduced. The innovation that libraries have brought to their digital offerings means that although libraries can’t be enjoyed as community spaces at the moment, there is still a significant demand for lending books.



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