Indie News Beat with Chris James

NEWS FLASH: Mainstream Publisher opens its doors to Independent Authors

In what is believed to be a first, on 1 October a mainstream publisher will open its doors, for a limited period of two weeks, to unsolicited submissions of full-length manuscripts, including self-published novels.

This represents remarkable admission by a mainstream publisher that Independent Authors have something to offer. Voyager, which is the Science Fiction imprint of HaperCollins, is looking for “10 to 12 new authors”, one of which it will publish monthly over the course of next year.

The world’s media tended to report Voyager’s announcement as a “call for unpublished manuscripts”, and carried quotes from one of its editors admitting that they expect “a deluge” of submissions, in anticipation of which Voyager has drafted in extra editors from other HaprerCollins imprints. Other submission requirements include those which are typical for mainstreams: manuscript exclusivity while under consideration; a standard novel length of between 80k and 120k words; and a three-month, no-notification consideration period (meaning that if you hear nothing from them after three months, you’re out).

But while the publishing media placed the emphasis on unpublished manuscripts, the FAQ on Voyager’s site states explicitly that they will also consider works that have been self-published, as long as the author retains all copyrights.

Of course, there are the details. Firstly, Voyager will only publish digital versions of the novels it selects, which, Voyager stresses, will be available on all platforms all over the world (yes, well done Voyager, but some of us Indies already do that). Although it claims that it will not “close the door” to paperback publication, it is fair to assume that the titles it does publish will have to shift significant units to justify green-lighting for paperback. Secondly, there is no mention of the contractual terms Voyager will offer these new, unknown authors. Thus, if Voyager does select any Independent Authors, it will be a tricky choice whether to take the drop in royalties and restriction on copyright (if any) for the marketing support that a global mainstream could offer.

Nevertheless, Voyager’s step is an encouraging sign that mainstreams may finally be starting to accept that Independent Authors might just be able to step up to the plate. The Science Fiction genre itself is renowned for being the first to introduce new ideas and to accept the novel and the different. Indeed, many story tropes first introduced by Science Fiction have then been employed in the whole range of other genres. It is therefore appropriate that the first mainstream to throw open its doors to unpublished manuscripts while not dismissing Independent Authors out of hand, should be a Science Fiction imprint. With luck more will follow, so that acceptance of the Indie movement among the general reading public will begin to increase.

To see Voyager’s announcement, click here; to view their submission guidelines, click here.

Author: Chris James

Chris James is an English author who lives in Warsaw, Poland, with his wife and three children. He has published three full-length science fiction novels and is currently writing a series of short story volumes inspired by characters in songs from the rock band Genesis. For more information, please visit his website or Amazon author page.

25 thoughts on “Indie News Beat with Chris James”

  1. “Yes, well done Voyager, but some of us Indies already do that…” Exactly! Mainstream publishing has had to redefine its role in this industry what with the onslaught of self publishing which ain’t going anywhere, so I don’t really see that they had a choice. But it is encouraging, a step in the right direction. I hope it (somehow) helps distinguish those who’ve taken the time to learn the craft from those who’ve simply vomited up a story… as I heard someone describe some inexperienced writers recently.

    1. Thanks for commenting, SP. Always agents and publishers demand that a work can’t have been self-published, or they won’t touch it. It’s also significant that Voyager put this important change in the FAQs – maybe they weren’t too keen to draw attention to the fact that they’ll consider self-published work?

    1. You’re welcome, smclaugh1, but I must credit acflory (below) who brought the story to my attention.

  2. I might submit my novel for paperback or hardcover publication, to get it into brick-and-mortar bookstores, but I do eBooks without their help

    1. Hi busby777. Yep, it seems odd that they offer ebook publication only, when that’s one thing Indies don’t really need any help with

  3. I initially thought you were kidding. This is really interesting…hmm. It really is a change in attitude, isn’t it?

    Hope this will be an ongoing feature of Indies Unlimited. It would be helpful to bring this kind of news to the community as a group.

    Thanks Chris.

    1. Hi Jo. I agree and also hope that soon we’ll see mainstreams in other genres also allowing Indies to pitch their books, if they want to.

  4. When I first heard about the Harper Voyager open submissions I was disturbed. I’d set my great indie plan in motion but now, here was this unexpected opportunity.Submit or ignore?

    After lots of soul searching I realised that submitting to Harper Voyager was no different to submitting to a competition – the real pay-off would be in the marketing afterwards. If you happened to be amongst the 12 or so lucky authors to ‘win’.

    We writers publish our CV’s every time we market our products. The more we can show that someone, somewhere has liked our product, the more new readers will sit up and take notice. And perhaps give us a chance.

    As such, the Harper Voyager submission is a godsend. For those who win. Beyond that though I’m not sure that we will gain that much. Even if we do win.

    1. Hi acflory. Firstly, thanks for telling me about this. I think you’re right with the competition analogy, with a couple of important differences. Firstly there’s no entrance fee, and secondly Voyager is a big global imprint, rather than some cobbled-together outfit no-one’s ever heard of, trying to fleece Indies of $10 or $25. I’ve thought about this opportunity too, and agree with you.

  5. Thanks for the heads-up, Chris, and all the valid points you’ve raised in relation to the breaking news; nice, timely article.

    What can I say but agree with everything you, and everyone else, have said in regards to the news. I suppose I might add that it’s mighty big of them; however, with the indie movement well and truly underway, I can only imagine how low their slush pile has become of late, I suppose they had to do something.

    Attitudes are changing towards indie authors (how can they not?) but it’s still very much up to us (the indies) to champion the cause by producing the goods and encouraging the best, high quality material from our fellow indies.

    Great post, Chris!

    1. Thanks, TD. As Lynne says below, if the slushpiles fade because Indies are doing it for themselves, then this must bring about a change in attitudes and lead to acceptance for us. That’s got to be good news 🙂

  6. Good post, Chris. The first thing I thought of when I saw this news was, “Hey, that’s kind of cool.” But now that I’ve learned more about it, I begin to wonder whether the trad publishers will ever figure out the indie mindset. I think a whole lot of us are self-publishing not because we’re hoping to parlay this into a trad contract, but because we prefer our freedom and our bigger profit margins.

    1. Thanks, Lynne. And there’s the rub. Even if an Indies “wins” this competition, it might be a hollow victory. Voyager will doubtless expect the Indie to be pathetically grateful and accept their standard contract without reservations. I’m not sure many Indies would. In any case, it’s going to be a story worth following.

  7. The problems with this are hard to fully calculate without seeing their contract. However, based on similar offers, we can assume that the following are likely:
    – No advance.
    – Print signed away alongside ebook rights, but probably left unused.
    – Minimal marketing work; marketing dollars are spent in proportion to dollars invested, generally. With no printing or distribution costs and no advance, costs are very low, so marketing work is likely to be minimal as well.
    – Watch the non-compete clauses. Harper Collins has a rep for some fairly draconian non-compete agreements in their contracts. Beware of clauses which might prevent you from doing further indie publishing. DO hire an IP attorney to go over the contract with you.

    Worst case though, you win, then reject their contract if it’s really bad. But be careful.

    1. Thanks for commenting, Kevin, and for giving pretty sound advice. I can imagine Voyager’s contract containing extremely restrictive non-comp clauses while being completely vague as to exactly what Voyager will do for the author. An Indie can set their own price and enjoy their own royalities. Voyager, as with any other mainstream, must have as its primary objective maximising its profits, which it will only achieve with an unkown author by squeezing the royalty percentage while setting the ebook price as high as it dares. I’m not at all sure how many Indies, used to being in control of that, will be happy to give it over to someone they don’t know, and see the price of their ebook go from, say, $2.99, up to $12.99, without any say and knowing that their royalties will actually shrink. They’ll be gambling, like Voyager, on selling a lot more units.

  8. This news was posted on LInked In and Kevin, as usual was all over it.
    As many here have sniffed out, it’s hardly a dream date for authors, more of a trap.
    He suggested that it might be better to just submit to SF publishers that don’t require agents anyway, like DAW, in hopes of getting a “real” book deal.

    1. Hi Lin. All in all, that’s a very fair comment, but Voyager is a global imprint, and the temptation of having some serious marketing firepower behind a title may be very difficult to resist, despite the copyright and other restrictions

Comments are closed.