Here is a list of 10 of the best indie presses you should know about. These independent publishers are putting out innovative fiction, nonfiction, and poetry that’s pushing boundaries and elevating #OwnVoices. It’s exciting to see what these favorite independent publishers put out yearly because small publishing houses often allow more artistic freedom than the Big Five publishers.
Why support independent publishers?
The publishing industry is dominated by The Big Five and their imprints. These publishers are Penguin/Random House, Hachette Book Group, Harper Collins, Simon and Schuster, and Macmillan. Here’s a handy chart of all their imprints. They publish a majority of books in the US and therefore dominate the market. In other words, they guide and influence what we read- or what we think we want to read.
We love a good summer blockbuster book as much as the next person. However, buying books published by a small press is similar to supporting a local coffee shop instead of Starbucks. Independent publishing companies come in many shapes and sizes. Many have more freedom in choosing less commercial books because publishing only for profit isn’t always the company’s main goal.
Independent publishers are great for readers
They provide the opportunity to discover so many more unique and diverse voices. Yes, the world of publishing has a long way to go in terms of exterminating systemic racism within their companies. They need to work on truly diversifying in an equitable way. However, indie presses can provide readers with books that may normally have been passed up by Big Five publishers in favor of more “profitable” (read: mainstream and white) books.
For example, Citizen by Claudia Rankine and The Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen are two huge literary books that have been published by independent publishing companies in the last few years. Furthermore, readers can find so many gems put out by indie publishers that experiment with form, push boundaries, and question the mainstream. In addition, there are some extremely beautiful book covers out there that are truly works of art!
Indie publishing benefits authors
Publishing with an indie press often provides authors with a faster publishing process with less gatekeeping. Of course, this is a generalization, so we can’t speak for all indie presses. But generally speaking, this is true. Oftentimes, indie publishers will accept submissions from un-agented authors, which makes submitting work much more accessible for rising talent and first-time authors. If you’re interested in hearing a bit more about indie presses and their mission, then here is an interesting interview from 2017 on Electric Lit.
Now, let’s get to it!
10 of the Best Indie Presses You Should Know About
Catapult is one of the heavy-hitters in the independent publisher game. They publish stellar literary fiction and non-fiction from diverse voices, such as You Exist Too Much and The Crying Book. Catapult was founded by Elizabeth Koch (yes, that Koch) and publishes upwards of 40 books annually. Since launching in 2015, Catapult has merged with Counterpoint and their Soft Skull imprint. In addition to these two reputable presses, Catapult operates the Black Balloon Publishing imprint, also founded by Koch in 2010.
Imprints: Counterpoint Press, Soft Skull, Black Balloon Publishing
Europa Editions is perhaps best known in popular culture for publishing the Neopolitan quartet series by Elena Ferrante. They publish high-quality fiction with the intention of bringing “fresh international voices” to US and UK audiences. A lot of their books are works in translation. This independent publisher puts out about 35 books a year. A majority of their authors are from/based in Europe, but they do have an international focus and publish authors from across the globe.
Imprints: Europa World Noir, Tonga Books
Haymarket Books was founded in 2001 and is named after the 1886 Haymarket affair. They are a radical socialist press mainly focused on publishing political nonfiction and academic texts. They publish 40 to 50 books a season. Great thinkers such as Angela Y. Davis and Rebecca Solnit are among their published authors. They also have really awesome Social Teach-Ins, many of which they provide for free on their YouTube channel.
Tin House began as a reputable magazine and moved into publishing in 2002 as an imprint of Bloomsbury. In 2005, Tin House broke out on their own as an indie publisher. Although Tin House Magazine had to shut down in 2018, they are still going strong in the world of publishing. They publish amazing literary fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. Some upcoming books in 2020 include A Girl Is A Body of Water, Scorpionfish, and Things We Didn’t Talk About When I Was a Girl.
The Feminist Press
The Feminist Press has a self-explanatory name, and they are very reputable. They publish excellent intersectional feminist literature and nonfiction from around the world. This independent press was founded in 1970 as a component of second-wave feminism. They have grown with the ever-evolving cultural landscapes of feminism, gender identity, and social justice. The Names of All the Flowers is a notable 2020 book, and they have an incredible backlist.
Two Dollar Radio
Two Dollar Radio is a delight. Per their slogan, they publish “books too loud to ignore” that have garnered literary and mainstream recognition. Two Dollar Radio is a perfect example of why independent publishers are so important. They publish works that would most likely have been snubbed by mainstream corps, including A History of My Brief Body and They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us. They also run Moving Pictures, a film production aspect of the company.
Imprints: Satyr Press
Quirk Books publishes a large variety of genres. From young adult fiction to adult sci-fi/fantasy, they have it all! They publish about 25 unconventional books per year, and some of their more well-known titles include Geekerella and The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires. They are also very friendly and open about collaborating with bookish bloggers and influencers!
Imprints: Normal Books
Enchanted Lion Books
Enchanted Lion Books is an independent children’s book publisher that produces wonderfully illustrated tomes from international authors. Part of their mission is to help children learn about the diverse world around them. They publish many books in translation and crank out about 20-25 books annually. Award-winning titles include Cry, Heart, But Never Break, Ballad, and Beastly Verse.
Dorothy, a publishing project, has steadily built up its reputation for an impeccable aesthetic and literary eye. This small indie press publishes two books a year, simultaneously. They mainly publish work by women. Their focus is on literary fiction (or “near fiction or about fiction”) that appeals to both fiction and poetry fans. Dorothy is volunteer-run, and all proceeds go back to the authors and into the running of the press.
Coffee House Press
Coffee House Press is an incredibly reputable independent publisher of literary fiction, essays, and poetry. Founded in 1972, they now have a $1 million operating budget (as of 2015) and publish 16 to 18 books a year. Many of their published authors have been nominated and awarded recognitions such as the Pulitzer, the National Book Award, and the LA Times Book Award.
Imprints: Emily Books
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