Bibliodiversity: A manifesto for independent publishing

In this manifesto, Susan Hawthorne provides a scathing critique of the global publishing industry set against a visionary proposal for organic publishing. She looks at free speech and fair speech, the environmental costs of mainstream publishing, and the promises and challenges of the move to digital.

PRINT VERSION Buy the print version (hard copy) from Modjaji Books directly      





Non fiction





Bibliodiversity: A manifesto for independent publishing

In the cultural zone, bibliodiversity is as important as biodiversity is in the ecological zone. Independent publishers bring these qualities to the world of publishing. Susan Hawthorne has been thinking about and acting on this commitment for the last three decades. Her approach to publishing is to ensure that the voices of marginalised peoples are heard consistently, not just as a passing fashion. Her mission is to publish risky, controversial, innovative and imaginative voices. Writers bring both the discipline to sit down and write their books as well as the flourishes that make it different and interesting. Small is beautiful, and in the publishing world so is independent.

In a globalised world, megacorp publishing is all about numbers, about sameness, about following a formula based on the latest mega-success. Each book is expected to pay for itself and all the externalities of publishing such as offices and CEO salaries. It means that books which take off slowly but have long lives, the books that change social norms, are less likely to be published. Independent publishers are seeking another way. A way of engagement with society and methods that reflect something important about the locale or the niche they inhabit. Independent and small publishers are like rare plants that pop up among the larger growth but add something different, perhaps they feed the soil, bring colour or scent into the world. In this manifesto, Susan Hawthorne provides a scathing critique of the global publishing industry set against a visionary proposal for organic publishing. She looks at free speech and fair speech, at the environmental costs of mainstream publishing and at the promises and challenges of the move to digital.

Susan Hawthorne

Susan Hawthorne is a feminist theorist, political commentator and writer on issues such as globalisation, ecology, publishing and literature. She is the author of two novels, a verse novel, seven collections of poetry, two chapbooks and five non-fiction books. Her poetry collection, Cow (2011) was shortlisted for the Kenneth Slessor Poetry Award in the 2012 New South Wales Premier’s Literary Awards. Earth’s Breath was shortlisted for the 2010 Judith Wright Poetry Prize. Her work has been published in Australia and internationally in anthologies and literary magazines, including in the annual Best Australian Poems (three times). Her novel, The Falling Woman (1992) was a Top Twenty Title in New Zealand’s Listener Women’s Book Festival and listed as one of the year’s best books in The Australian. In 1988 she won the prestigious Barbara Ramsden Award for editing (shared with Jackie Yowell) and in 2015 the George Robertson Prize for her service to the Publishing industry. She is Adjunct Professor in the College of Arts, Society and Education, James Cook University, Townsville. She was the English Language coordinator for the International Alliance of Independent Publishers from 2012-2016.

Susan Hawthorne's author page

“This passionate, challenging, and highly readable manifesto champions the vital role of international, independent publishers who give voice to ‘the risky, the innovative, the controversial, the marginal, and the imaginative voices.'”  — Richard Smart, consultant, Independent Publishers Committee

“Susan Hawthorne’s insightful and warm-hearted essay argues for a wide landscape of independent publishing to balance what is called ‘mainstream’, meaning the male power of big money.”  — Gerlinde Kowitzke and Hilke Schlaeger, publishers, Frauenoffensive

“Susan Hawthorne explores the present and future impacts of globalization, digital publishing, censorship (including self-censorship), the declining importance of reviews, monopoly-controlled distribution systems, and social media niche market promotion. She argues for the voices of diverse and marginalized people to be heard and for fair trade and fair speech rather than free trade and free speech.”  — Nancy Worcester, professor emerita, department of gender & women’s studies, University of Wisconsin–Madison

“A huge and interesting work; a precious testimony to explore and understand bibliodiversity from the point of view of a feminist publisher. Bravo!”  — Laurence Hugues, director, Alliance Internationale des Éditeurs Indépendants, France

“Susan Hawthorne’s ideas are brilliant. Independent publishing feeds the cultural identity of our society as well as providing a source of income and satisfaction for writers, editors, and designers. This book must be read and distributed far and wide so that everyone understands the challenges but supports the joy!” —Lisa Hanrahan, Independent Publishers Committee, Australian Publishers Association

“Susan Hawthorne has been championing and refining this manifesto for years through presentations and conversations, and it is very important that she has now further contributed to bibliodiversity by publishing this work! This publication should be mandatory reading for anyone within the publishing industry to understand the role that you play and core curriculum for all students of publishing and publishers of the future to ensure sustainability for the industry. Whether you are a publisher, bookseller, librarian, or writer, you are above all a reader, and you each have a responsibility to encourage bibliodiversity—start playing your role today by reading this manifesto.”  — Mary Masters, general manager, Small Press Network

“. . . the points that Hawthorne has to make here are enlightening and important, and whether you are the owner of an independent publishing company, a writer who works on books in your free time, or simply a reader who wants to discover the best texts out there, Bibliodiversity is a must-read.” — Craig Manning, Independent Publisher

Titles featuring this author