Publishing, it is fair to say, has had something of a topsy-turvy year. Back in the spring, the trade was getting excited for a bumper year, spearheaded by the latest Hilary Mantel publication. Then came Coronavirus. As shops and wholesalers closed, and with Amazon labelling books non-essential items, editors everywhere were debating whether to stick or twist with their publication schedules.

While some authors found their books released on schedule to a strange new landscape of virtual events, many others found their publications delayed. The first Thursday in September is always a busy date on the publishing calendar: this year, an estimated 600 new titles are being published, a third up on last year, with over 200 postponed titles being added into the September lists alone.

Last week, I caught up with Tariq Goddard, who as both a critically-acclaimed novelist and publisher of Repeater Books, is well versed in seeing the business from both sides. Repeater Books ( is an independent publisher that specialises in fiction and non-fiction books with a thought-provoking edge. Among its September publications are Charlie Hill’s Midlands Memoir I Don’t Want to Go To The Taj Mahal and Aaron Leonard’s The Folk Singers and the Bureau, about the FBI’s investigation of the 1950s music scene.

Tariq described how publishing this year has been a case of “dancing around the raindrops”. He recalled conversations he had with his distributor back in April, who told him they were closing the warehouse and advising him to postpone his books. Tariq, though, was worried of that leading to a logjam of publications. ‘I couldn’t believe that nobody could see this problem coming. That however much a book might suffer at the time, at least if it’s out there, there’s hope.’

Under Tariq’s leadership, Repeater stuck to their original schedule. The publisher “got lucky, zeitgeist-wise”: Joy White’s Terraformed chimed with the Black Lives Matters protests: Matt Ingram’s Retreat, about the origins of Wellness, fitted in with lockdown life. The new titles kept the company alive to fight another day. And come the autumn, Tariq remains confident against the publishing onslaught: “they’re competing with each other quite often, not us.” Even so, it is a daunting time for smaller and independent publishers everywhere. Tariq talked of how the bigger publishers can outmanoeuvre the creative middle “because they are not behest to their last month’s P&L”. Unless there is government support forthcoming, he warned, “small publishers will either be bought up and gutted by larger ones or go bust.” He described receiving fishing calls from larger publishers, asking how business was going.

I’ve said before the importance of supporting your local independent bookstore. But supporting independent publishers too, is more important than ever.