I enjoyed Anthony Horowitz’s witty article about the writer’s need for a publisher (The battle for books, 28 February). And I agreed with almost every word. Like him, working as an author and a publisher, I talk about books, not “content”; and like him I believe that a publisher’s job is to deliver “story, character, style, originality, design, typography, literacy, good grammar, education, enlightenment”.
I agree that most publishers aren’t, by and large, venal Luddites. They are trying to publish the best books they can in a market that is undergoing its biggest change in 500 years. But change demands new ideas. And, as usual, these are coming from the periphery not the core. From start-ups such as Byliner, Box Fiction – and Unbound, the crowd-funding publishing company I founded with two other writers last June.
But then the creator of Alex Rider had to go and spoil it. “I could, of course, go it alone,” he said. “I could self-publish, as former Python Terry Jones did last year, through unbound.co.uk.” Go it alone? Self-publish? Has Horowitz visited our site? Has he asked Jones or Kate Mosse, or the famously fastidious Jonathan Meades, what being published by Unbound actually involves? If he had, he would have learned that his litany of things publishers do – ie making exactingly edited, beautifully designed and imaginatively promoted books in printed and digital editions – is being performed here by people who have worked in “proper” publishing for decades.
Then he made things even worse by quotingquoted a reviewer who had asked: “What do they do if the writer delivers a damp squib? On the evidence, they’ll publish it anyway.” We wouldn’t, of course. The irony is that a lot of people would like us to do just that.