It’s easy to think that the best path to literary success is getting in with a big five publisher.
But there is way more room up there in Successville (which we imagine to be somewhere in the mountains of Hawaii) than you might expect. There are groups of innovative thinkers all across the globe who understand that lesser-known authors and books deserve recognition and readership too.
Indie presses have the freedom to publish works that are unique and real, and guess what? There are more than just a few of them. We decided on sharing only 10 indie presses for now, but even stopping there was hard because there are so many talented and inspiring people devoting their time to giving emerging writers and artists a shot.
After perusing this list, make sure to check out part two: “11 More Indie Presses You Should Know About.”
Created in 2005 by a husband and wife team, Two Dollar Radio is a truly unique indie publisher. Along with accepting bold work and designing incredible covers, this duo also produces films and runs a retail space that sells the books they publish and some totally awesome other stuff too! If you’re ever in Columbus, Ohio area, enter the words “Two Dollar Radio Headquarters” into your smartphone and let the awesomeness take over. This young press has already had plenty of success in the literary world, publishing books that have been named finalists for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and have been honored by the National Book Foundation too.
2. Head of Zeus
A London based publishing company, Head of Zeus opened its doors in early 2012 and, only five years later, was named British Book Award’s Independent Publisher of the Year. They publish a mix of genre fiction, general fiction, literary fiction, and nonfiction . If you’re curious about their unique name, check out its origin story here (It’s short and super interesting, so just do it, okay?).
This nonprofit started out in 1972 as a letterpress operation, and has evolved to publishing novels, short story collections, essay collections, and creative nonfiction too. Their authors have won awards like the National Book Award and The Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction. Based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Coffee House Press now identifies as both a literary publisher and an arts organization by incorporating their Books in Action program, which aims to connect readers and writers not just through the page but through events, library residency programs, and more!
Bibi Bakare-Yusuf, cofounder of Cassava Republic Press says, “We want to convert minds. We want to convert them to begin to question who they are but also [to] question society.”
She and Jeremy Weate founded this indie press in 2006 in Abuja, Nigera but have now expanded their business to the UK as well. They publish a wide variety of books, including fiction and nonfiction for adults as well as children, all with the intent of having the black and African person be reflected in literature.
Bakare-Yusuf thinks that “In any society, you have to see yourself reflected in what your consuming.” They want to inspire readers to start asking questions about African writing while publishing titles that accurately portray daily life and culture in Africa.
Diversion Books launched in 2010 in New York City as a digital-only publisher, but since then, they’ve expanded their forms into digital, audio, and print, and now they publish up to fifty works a year. Combining traditional methods with their own innovative thinking, Diversion is able to create collaborative partnerships with both new and experienced writers. They are also in charge of Ever After Romance, an imprint specifically for Romance authors. Pretty cool if you ask us.
This not-for-profit press has been publishing new and extraordinary voices from the American South since 1995. With a strong commitment to writers from the lesser-heard southern communities like LGBTQIA and people of color, we’re really excited about the type of work they’ve been up to. Also, they just shared Leesa Cross-Smith’s Whiskey and Ribbons with the world, so clearly they’re doing something right.
7. Tin House
When you hear of Tin House, your first thought (if not an actual tin house) might be their amazing literary journal. But in 2005 they launched their independent press, Tin House Books, and since then it has given us some amazing work by around 12 authors a year. One of their publications, Rabbit Cake, was even our book of the month winner for May! So if you’re a fan of their daring literary magazine, you’ll be sure to love the books they’ve been releasing too.
This Brooklyn-based, nonprofit press was developed from a 1990’s zine by a group of editorial volunteers. Since then, it has published over 200 titles of poetry, experimental nonfiction, translation, and more. They focus mainly on emerging and International writers, but they love to feature unique artwork as well.
Named after the editor’s book-loving great-aunt Dorothy, this press takes a new approach to the publishing industry. They publish two new books each Fall, encouraging readers and booksellers to purchase them as a pair by offering discounts. In doing this, they’d like to create a dialogue for readers about the different aesthetics of each piece and to also treat the books as a conversation of their own. Check out their latest two (Wild Milk and The Taiga Syndrome) here.
10. Autumn House
Initially a publisher of full-length poetry collections, Autumn House Press has now expanded to publishing fiction and non-fiction as well. They run out of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and have been in business since 1998. In addition to their publications, they also offer submissions for their Autumn House Press Contests, which celebrate writers in three different categories: Poetry, Non-fiction and Fiction. Check ’em out! We know you won’t be disappointed.
About the Author
Jaylynn Korrell is a nomadic writer currently based in Pennsylvania. She writes for Independent Book Review and Earth to Jay. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @JaylynnKorrell.
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