ZED Books: The role of the independent publisher in a content-obsessed world
Indie publisher ZED Books have a radical approach to their books and their company structure. Here, ZED's Brand Director Kika Sroka-Miller talks to us about the role independent publishers can play in a world of ever expanding (and less than reliable) information sources, and tells us what makes ZED the publisher it is.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that in 2017 there can’t be much indie publishing left. In the clamour of algorithms, blockbusters and bestsellers on the one side and News Con., actually existing fake news and all that free content on the other, what space is left? In absolute terms the answer appears to be: not much. But then, as far as I can tell, indie publishers are less concerned with mastering absolutes and more concerned with the space between your ears.
Few would argue that indie publishing has for centuries been a reliable and constant source of nutritional brain food. And indie non-fiction publishing has consistently provided a reliable alternative voice. For that reason it is inherently political and, for the same reason, it is naturally critical of the mainstream.
But what authority does that critique have, really? And what does ‘indie’ mean in this day and age?
After all Facebook is independently owned, so is International Data Group, so is Horizon Media (all pretty big ones, in absolute terms). Yet these companies toe the bottom line as much as any other. Smaller non-fiction indies devoted to providing alternative ideas perhaps less so; but other lines, be they party or management, also have a hold on their publishing.
At Zed such questions of authority and independence are central to our publishing — to our books and how we publish them. By providing a platform for the writing of freedom fighters, investigative journalists, internationally respected scholars or even wanted terrorists, we believe our books carry an authentic alternative voice.
By being the world’s largest publishing collective, our business model is also an answer to those questions. At Zed we have a very different way of doing business, one unique to the publishing world, in fact. Those of us who work at Zed are on equal pay, regardless of our position or function. We all own an equal share of the company, we collectively decide our annual budget and plan, and we collectively decide what books we publish. This means there’s no MD, no management, no external shareholders and no ‘statistical issues’ like gender pay-gaps – listen up BBC, Google and Whitehall: no pay-gaps whatsoever.
Being an openly queer, anti-racist and anti-hierarchical company is central to our publishing. That, and the fact that we’ve been publishing for forty years proves that that space between your ears is bigger than any absolute.
Kika’s top picks from ZED's list
See a wider range of ZED titles on our dedicated page | Find out more about ZED Books on their website