Why I chose an ethical publisher


01 April 2022
Steven Mitchell

On completion of my debut novel, I sent it out into the world, querying agents and small presses, seeking someone to turn my manuscript into a saleable book. Luckily, during that process, I read an article in Writing Magazine on small press, SRL Publishing, and I was immediately drawn to SRL’s sustainable and ethical approach. I knew I had to send them my novel.
It’s important for me to have a publisher who is a good fit to my values. No-one could have failed to hear about the negative impact humans are having on our planet, and like me, most industries, including publishing, now recognise a duty to minimise their impact on the environment. In the UK alone, it’s estimated over 70 million books are destroyed each year. That’s a lot of unread and unloved books; a lot of waste and lots of dead trees. It’s often cheaper to overproduce books, and those 80% of books without hefty marketing budgets that don’t make the 'Bestsellers' lists often don’t make it to bookshop shelves. For those of us who love the feel of a real book in our hands, who treasure them, and look after them responsibly, all this waste is heart-breaking.
A simple solution for an author to reduce book waste is to sell only digital books. But ebooks are not the same experience as a paper book. They aren’t as tactile. You can’t wrap up an ebook and gift it. It would be a tragedy to lose physical books. And digital devices still come with a sizable carbon footprint from their manufacture, distribution, and use – they’re not perfect. Printed books also continue to outsell digital, so as an author, I want to sell physical books. They have their place.
There are ways to minimise the number of books printed. SRL, for example, takes advantage of modern technology and distribution chains to only print what they sell. And, as with all professional publishers, the high-quality books are rapidly available via a major wholesaler to book retailers. Also, the books are printed as close as possible to the market they are sold, reducing transportation emissions. All SRLs titles are also available digitally.
The most obvious victims of printed books are trees. Using recycled content and Forest Stewardship Council (FSC®) accredited paper ensures forests are managed sustainably. On top of that, SRL calculates the number of trees used in producing their books and have partnered with Ecologi and Treeapp to replace many more trees than they use, sequestering lots of carbon dioxide. They’ve also worked with the Rainforest Trust to save an estimated 500,000-750,000 trees from deforestation.
SRL’s sustainability approach helped them to win a 2022 British Book Award for the best small press in the East and South-East of England. They are signatories to Publishing Declares, a pledge for the publishing industry to inspire positive change and reduce their impact on the planet. SRL are members of the Publisher’s Association Sustainability Taskforce and have signed the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals Publisher Compact. It’s great to see many publishers similarly committing to reduce their environmental impact, and as writers, we have a duty to hold them to account and ensure they follow up on their promises and publishing becomes a planet-friendly industry.
As well as environmental issues, the publishing industry has recently recognised an issue around diversity and inclusion of marginalised voices, and it’s addressing that with many more marginalised voices finding their way into print. My publisher seeks marginalised voices and books tackling difficult subjects mainstream publishers might shy away from. Although I’m not from a marginalised group, I fully support the movement to make their voices heard, and I’m proud for my book to sit beside theirs.
As well as aligning with my values, it also makes good business sense to work with an ethical publisher. I use the good work of SRL to help market my book. As someone without a huge marketing budget behind them, it’s great to be able to tell people that if they buy my book directly from the publisher’s website, a tree will be planted. I point potential readers to the ethics behind my publisher in the hope they have similar values and will be inspired to buy my book and those of my fellow authors.
By being with an ethical publisher I’m able to get my novel out into the world while minimising my impact on the planet and doing a little good as well. When considering publishing options, I hope other authors consider how they can do a little good too.  

Steven Mitchell’s debut novel, Under The Moss, will be published in May by SRL Publishing.



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Are you interested in writing eco-fiction for children? Read these top tips from Piers Torday, author of the Last Wild series.