Saturday, May 7, 2016

Top 9 Independent Publishing Houses



Though large, traditional publishing houses have adjusted to contemporary trends in book publishing and continue to make substantial money in the industry (80% of the market share by last count), more and more authors are choosing to keep control of their projects by seeking out independent press houses to create and distribute their works.

In 2014, a quarter of the top 100 books sold on Amazon were indie-published, and small press book releases exponentially outpaced the goliaths. Organizations such as the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA) have legitimized small press runs, helping to shift authors away from the stigmatic label of ‘settling’ for what once were considered variations on vanity presses. Independent publishers continue to produce quality titles by keeping printing costs down (and therefore making them more accessible to cash-strapped authors), and by focusing on providing personalized support throughout the manuscript’s realization process. The right indie press house can produce a high quality product that looks every bit as professional as a traditional Fifth Avenue publishing conglomerate when placing releases on bookstore shelves.

Consider these few factors when choosing an independent publisher:

  • How costs are assigned and calculated
  • Does the publisher provide distribution
  • What control does an author have over marketing
  • When will the rights revert back to the author
  • Is the publisher a reliable partner  

By investigating these starting questions, you can begin to determine if the small, independent print house is right for you.

To celebrate the indomitable determination of authors across the globe, we have begun putting together our list of top quality independent presses, starting with 9 of our favorite independent publishing houses, each recognized as leaders in their niche. If you are interested in contacting any of those showcased below for a project, be sure to click the header link for each publishing house and read through their materials before submitting queries or manuscripts. Who knows – maybe one of these houses will be your next publisher.

Founded in 2000 and located in Easthampton, Massachusetts, Small Beer Press produces a quality selection of 6-10 ‘slightly weird’ fiction projects a year, including releases under Big Mouth House and Peapod Classics. Past printings have included Joan Aiken’s People in the Castle, Eileen Gunn’s short story collection Questionable Practices, and Sean Stewart’s Perfect Circle, as well as respected translations such as Angelica Gorodischer’s Prodigies. For authors interested in working with Small Beer Press, the publishing house requests a mailed letter of inquiry with the first 10-20 pages of the manuscript, as well as a familiarity with the genres the press traditionally works with.

Located in Minneapolis, Graywolf Press covers the gamut of small press potential with Fiction, Non-Fiction, and Poetry. Recent projects include Maggie Nelson’s The Red Parts, Sjohanna McCray’s Rapture, and John D’Agata’s The Making of the American Essay. Graywolf takes on roughly 30 projects a year, all falling within solid literary perspectives. What makes Graywolf stand out is that often many of the authors they publish are discovered by the editors through magazines and writer’s conferences. The press takes publishing for art’s sake seriously, and to defend against the larger publishing house mentality of profit over quality, Graywolf is a 501(c)3 non-profit.

Also based in the great city of Minneapolis, Milkweed Editions strives, and excels, in the arena of transformative literature. Covering the independent spread from fiction to YA, books sent to press are selectively chosen on their ability to change how readers interact with print. Milkweed has published books by Marilyn Chin (The Terrance Empty), William Peden Prize winner Murray Farish (Inappropriate Behavior), and Eric Gansworth (Extra Indians). Milkweed is a non-profit press, putting out 15-20 books a year, and is happy to accept unsolicited manuscripts with the caveat that authors become familiar with the presses style by reviewing previously published works.

Founded in 1854, Beacon Press is a leader in publishing independent voices in serious non-fiction arenas, including race, religion, and diversity. With an impressive authors list including James Baldwin, Herbert Marcuse, and poet Mary Oliver, Beacon strives to bring social change through the medium of print. Authors wishing to have works considered by Beacon Press should email a 250 word query with synopsis through the submission channels. 

With a mailing address in NYC’s Grand Central Station, 2 Leaf Press lives the mission its founders envisioned – publishing down and dirty, decidedly non-commercial books in poetry, prose, and everything thrown in-between. Established as a non-profit print house, 2 Leaf leaves the politics of publishing behind to put out street worthy voices that demand to be heard. Authors that have published with the press include poet Claire Millikin, Ana Rosetti, and playwright Shirley Bradley LeFlore. 2LP is pleased to accept submissions that fit their mission through their online submission form.

One of our favorite small presses, Bauhan Publishing is located in the great state of New Hampshire, and focuses on regional New England subjects in history, art, nature studies, and poetry, with ventures into significant explorations of sustainability of the earth and human spirit. Titles published by Bauhan include Willem Lange’s Words from the Wild, Gordon Russell’s Watching Great Meadow, and the provocative Rust Belt Boy from Paul Hertneky. Bauhan Publishing focuses on the craftsmanship of books, providing well-designed tomes on high quality paper with eye-catching covers. Authors interested in working with Bauhan should review the information on their website.

Another highly respected staple of small New England presses, David Godine Publishing stresses, perhaps more than any other independent press, the fine art of book making. With offerings ranging from cutting edge fiction to world-class translations, Godine prints out of Boston, Massachusetts with a keen eye toward quality. The press also has a substantial shelf-presence thanks to a hearty reprint philosophy, with authors such as Peter Akerman, Robert Musil, and Heidi Seely calling the publishing house home. The indie press imprints between 20 and 30 titles per year, and accepts agent-initiated queries and proposals.

Red Adept Publishing does one thing, and does it very well – fiction. Whether it be fantasy, horror, literary fiction, or any variety of genres in between. Red Adept keeps their formula simple by strictly adhering to their submission policy – they do not accept query letters, but allow for submissions at any time through their online form. RAP has published an impressive list of solid writers, including They Call Me Crazy author, Kelly Stone Gamble.

Founded in 2005, Two Dollar Radio produces some of the freshest voices in print this side of Ohio. In fact, it is in Columbus where the boutique press deals mostly in fiction, but strays into memoirs and essay collections when the spirit catches them. Two Dollar Radio has published works by such notables as Colin Winnette, Jeff Jackson, and Karolina Waclawiak, and seeks amazing voices that resound to a discerning audience of literary explorers. Submissions are via online, and are requested to be full manuscripts. The editors request patience from authors due to the large amount of submissions and careful review each project receives.

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