Independent publishing was born out of a need to veer away from traditional publishing. Common advantages of independent publishing include lower capital, stronger relationships with authors, editors, and other personnel in the publishing process, and most importantly, the ability to control the quality and advocacy related to the material being published.
However, despite these advantages, independent publishing (and especially self-publishing) has its share of challenges. Getting a book published can take its toll on new authors. Traditional self-publishing, typically a laborious and expensive undertaking, includes processes like typesetting, layouts, obtaining an ISBN number, and most importantly, registering copyrights. The lack of legal and operational know-how is a common detriment for aspiring independent authors and publishers, but fortunately has not been a big enough obstacle to stop its proliferation.
For Day 2 of INDIEPUBCON 2021, independent authors and publishers from diverse backgrounds and regions in the country convened to talk about the legal process of publishing, the current state of indie, and the future of publishing. Kath Eustaquio-Derla of PaperKat Books discussed the rewarding process of self-publishing, focusing on its legalities.
Indie 101: From Registration to Publishing
Kath Eustaquio-Derla of PaperKat Books, with her depth of experience in their own family business, discussed the importance of legal know-how when planning to publish. She opined: “These are the things that you should know to avoid legal problems in the future. But if you want to consult a legal lawyer, feel free to do so. This process is based on my experience from my own business.” Derla heads the publishing arm of PaperKat books and StoryFactory, which covers books to film/TV adaptations.
Derla stressed the importance of taking advantage of the now more refined and streamlined registration process. “Now everything is done online. Before, everything was done manually.” She discussed how to register as a sole-proprietorship, a partnership or a corporation. She also discussed the necessary requirements before completing the registration for NBDB (website linked here), as well as what needs to be properly declared in the forms. She also clarified the common misconception that publishers need to print their own books. “Printing is different from publishing. You can be a publisher without your own printing press. For example, we started out as a publisher with no printing equipment.”
In summary, an aspiring publisher needs to acquire a DTI Business Name Registration, a BIR 2303 Certificate of Registration ( for publishing and printing activities), and a Business Permit (Mayor’s Permit).
Another critical component of publishing is applying for an ISBN. As Derla mentions, “ISBN is a serious matter. As a publisher, we need to protect the works of our authors. Whenever we launch a book, our authors have the confidence to face anyone because we followed proper documentation.” Derla again applauded the ease of applying for ISBNs now that it can be done online (via this link), and shared how their company was invited as part of the beta program for this initiative.
Derla also discussed the importance of Cataloging in Publication (CIP). A service offered for free by NLP, its purpose is to produce standardized bibliographic descriptions for forthcoming Philippine publications. She also discussed the advantages of opting for legal deposits for books, as this will help spread the footprint of books, which is especially beneficial for independent writers from smaller publications.
In closing, Derla reminded everyone that following the legalities of being a publisher is only half the battle, as success will ultimately boil down to marketing and skills. “Self-publishing is a business. Carry yourself as a brand. You are your own brand and you are your own business as a self-publishing author.”
The Current and Future State of Indie
The rise of indie in the Philippines has always been centered around the concept of community. In this special roundtable, How Indie Are You?, the panelists discuss the rise of indie publishing and its current trajectory. Attending the roundtable discussion are MJ Cagumbay Tumamac (Xi Zuq) of Aklat Alamid, Sarge Lacuesta of Good Intentions, Pia Perez of Southern Voices, Noel G. de Leon of Kasingkasing Press, Cindy Wong-Cortez of 8Letters, Christian De Jesus of UNGAZ PRESS, and Ronald Verzo of Balangay Books.
The panelists generally agree that the purpose of independent publishing is to build a bridge between the mainstream and the local communities. As Noel de Leon of Kasingkasing press noted: “Indie is rooted sa community. Nagtatrabaho tayo sa loob ng komunidad na alam nating nangangailangan. Madalas nanggagaling sa sariling bulsa ng manunulat at publisher ang paglilimbag ng libro. Ang pinakamahalaga ay dapat sila ay may kawsa..nagtutulong-tulong lahat dahil sa isang paniniwala na madalas ay galing sa marginalized sector ng lipunan.”
Sarge Lacuesta of Good Intentions added that he got into indie because wanted to publish what he wanted to read. “Gusto kong ilabas kung ano ang gusto kong basahin. Gusto kong ibalik ang authorism or yung voice ng creator sa publishing. Tama ang time now to take advantage of new ways of building a platform, distribution and monetization.”
This new “platform” pertains not only to new digital forms of media but also to independent publications that publish books that are not seen in traditional publications because of their perceived “lack of potential to sell,” as well as publishing books to a specific audience. As Noel Verzo of Balangay Books puts it, “The [m]ode of distribution is different [for independent publishers). Independent publishers publish works that are not usally seen in traditional publishers.”
The panelists also discussed the many advantages of independent publishing that simply cannot be replicated when working with traditional publication houses. Pia Perez of Southern Voices opined: “Indie publishers have special relationships with authors. Hindi nila tinitingnan na produkto ang author…ang mahalaga sa indie publisher ay kakaiba ang boses ng author na kailangan bigyan ng puwang. Hindi mahalaga kung magiging mabenta, ang mahalaga ay gustong-gusto namin [ang akda].” Furthermore, Verzo adds:
“Nagsimula kami na ang konspeto ng libro ay ikaw na magulang o guro ay tuturuan namin kung paano magsulat. Ang pagsusulat ng libro ay hindi dapat idinidikta ng mga malalaking institusyon. Hindi kailangang maghintay upang makapagsulat ng librong dapat mabasa.”
The role of independent publishing in creating a space for marginalized communities is something that the panelists also discussed extensively. Noel de Leon talked about how, through his indie efforts, they managed to bring books to far-flung places with no concept of a bookstore. “It impacts the landscapes in the publishing community. Ang workshops ay dinadala sa mga lugar na walang access sa workshop. We have book fairs, zines at chapbook initiatives sa communities. It creates avenues and opportunities for them.”
In addition, MJ Tumamac of Aklat Alamid shared that allowing marginalized communities to publish independently entails cultural preservation, as their cultural works are not usually recognized by mainstream publishers. “Kinikilala natin kung paano lumilikha ng sining ang mga marginalized communities na hindi nire-recognize ng mainstream.” Christian de Jesus of UNGAZ PRESS also shares the same opinion
“Mabibigyan ng recognition or platform ang mga manunulat at kwento ng mga community. Alternatibong plataporma upang maibahagi ang kanilang mga danas gamit ang panulat. Suportahan ang skills ng mga batang gustong magsulat sa kanilang community.”
What’s in store for Indie?
The panelists agreed that indie is here to stay, and the fact that indie publishers survived and even proliferated throughout the pandemic means that there is a market and purpose for the cause. Pia Perez compared the landscape of publishing in general to boats traversing the sea:
“Kung ang publishing ay isang dagat at ang pandemya ay isang tsunami, ang mga indie publishers ay maliliit na bangka na mabilis umiwas sa epekto nito. Ang indie publishers ang sinasabi niya ay hindi na pwede ang same old; kailangan natin mag-chart ng bagong pamamaraan at maghanap ng mga hindi tradisyonal na mambabasa, na naghahanap din ng bagong mensahe.”
The panelists also mentioned the importance of banding together as smaller, indie publishers, as it helps facilitate free exchange of best practices and ideas that help them survive as businesses. Cindy Wong of 8Letters shared the advantages of having a group like TIPC as well as holding INDIEPUBCON 2021 as an event for indie writers and publishers:
“Nagkakaroon ng fresh ideas sa weekly meetings at nalalaman ng ibang miyembro. Nagkakaroon ng connections sa National Library, NBDB at pagsali sa book fairs atbp. Ang plano sa hinaharap ay mas “makabenta” ang maliliit na publishing company ng libro para mas maging sustainable tayo sa pandemic. Naging mas madali para sa miyembro dahil may napagtatanungan, koneksyon at ideya kung paano payayabungin ang independent publishing.” Furthermore, Ronald Verzo adds:
“Ang idea kaya binuo ang INDIEPUBCON 2021 ay para makipag-tulungan sa isa’t-isa. Tayo ang pinaka-vulnerable mawala agad. Mas makakatulong ito sa atin if we exchange ideas and help each other out. Nagsasama-sama rin tayo dahil alam natin na kailangan nandito tayo; meron tayo sense of purpose, hindi lang basta makapag-limbag ng libro.”
Finally, the panelists advised aspiring indie publishers about what they need to know before getting into the business. Noel de Leon mentioned that while indie publishers can survive independently, real progress will only come with help from policy changes and the government.
“Huwag tayong matakot i-assert ang ating karapatan. Hangga’t walang malinaw na polisiya na po-protekta satin bilang maliliit na publishers, patuloy lang na maguusap-usap tayo, kaya’t kailangan natin i-assert and ating karaptan sa gobyerno.”
Cindy Wong also mentions the importance of understanding that indie publishing is also a business and cannot just focus on advocacy. “Always put community at the center when you are supporting an indie publishing business. Importante pa din na mapag-aralan at maging sustainable, may paraan para hindi maging “struggling artist,” pag-aralan at mag-explore ng ibang platforms. Posible na kumita tayo na we cut off the middle person.”
In closing, Ronald Verzo stressed that the goal of independent publishing is to ultimately make a difference in the community. “Alamin kung bakit may pangangailangan. Alamin kung paano matutugunan kasi ito ang bagay na lagi mong babalik-balikan. Pagyamanin ang mga tao na kasama mo, katulad ng paglilimbag sa printing press sa iyong komunidad. Maghanap ng tao who shares the same vision.”
“Respetuhin ang manunulat at mambabasang Pilipino.”