When I was writing my senior thesis for graduate school, I was working at Grove Atlantic as a publicity and marketing intern. When I finished the program there I went straight to Artisan Books (a division of Workman Publishing) to fill their editorial internship position. These experiences working at independent publishers made me realize how often they are overlooked in favor of the “Big Five”: HarperCollins, Penguin Random House, Simon & Schuster, Hachette, and Macmillan. I wasn’t sure exactly why, so I decided to write my thesis on the benefits of publishing with an indie publisher vs. the larger companies.
Overall, I think there are a few misconceptions that lead writers to flock to the big players (as some might see them). First, people seem to assume that larger companies will pay larger advances. While this may be true for celebrity writers, the dollar amount large publishers are willing to fork over, particularly for untested authors, has dropped over the years. This is partially due to them publishing so many titles per season in an attempt to have a few best sellers. Because of this, an indie publisher who prints fewer books and fits your criteria may have more cash to throw your way.
Another assumption is that one of the big five will have more publicity and marketing clout and potential to get a book into the right hands. While this is true, the publicity teams can be so inundated with titles that there is very little budgeted time and money for each “small” title, whereas a small publisher could have a three person team working on 12 titles a season total. This allows much more personalization and creativity.
One last thing that can be very important to authors is a personal connection with their publisher. This is something I’ve experienced first hand at Artisan Books; we have authors who come in to visit occasionally even after their book has published, and we are able to work very closely with them on their books when they are in the midst of the process. This is not to say that editors at the Big Five don’t establish connections with their authors; it can be more challenging, however. Ultimately, there are pros and cons of whatever type of publishing (and publisher) you choose, but below you’ll find a few independent publishers you may not have considered.
This publisher is located in Minnesota and has won a number of awards for their titles over the past few years. They publish fiction, nonfiction, essays, and miscellaneous creative works. They also publish poetry, which is something that many publishers shy away from; poetry and essays are typically seen as low earners, but Graywolf has managed to make these genres work for them. One of their best-selling (and award-winning) titles, Citizen by Claudia Rankine, is a collection of essays, poetry, and images that examine racism.
To learn more about Graywolf Press go to https://www.graywolfpress.org
Page Street Publishing, Co.
Page Street Publishing is a rather new company, launching in 2013. They are another company that has been particularly successful with a small list; they are a young adult fiction and nonfiction publisher with a backlist that is primarily made up of cookbooks. However, they present themselves as a general lifestyle publisher. The founder Will Kiester attributes their success thus far to quality titles that backlist well and high quality printing. They are unique in that they do accept submissions, but also study consumer trends and work with authors to produce books in those areas.
For more info on Page Street Publishing, Co. go here: http://www.pagestreetpublishing.com
Currently this publisher is not accepting submissions because they are apparently swamped, but I couldn’t resist including them. Why? Because they are about as independent as an indie press can get in regard to their purpose: “Akashic Books is a Brooklyn-based independent company dedicated to publishing urban literary fiction and political nonfiction by authors who are either ignored by the mainstream, or who have no interest in working within the ever-consolidating ranks of the major corporate publishers.” How can you not love that? Perhaps they will begin accepting submissions again, or you could ignore their instructions and still send your proposal. After all, you never know what could happen…
To learn more about them, go here: http://www.akashicbooks.com/
*In my previous post about submissions, I made two points: include a self-addressed envelope and read submission instructions carefully on the publishing company’s page. This is a prime example of why you should read those instructions: Sasquatch Books is the first place I’ve seen that requests you do not include a self-addressed envelope. This just goes to show that each publisher is unique.*
Anyway, on to more important things: Sasquatch Books is located in Seattle and is a great example of a publisher that sticks to a niche. In this case, they publish books that fit into what they describe as their “West Coast regional publishing program.” After looking through their books, it appears to me that they primarily publish nonfiction books (and children’s books under their Little Bigfoot imprint) that encompass lifestyle, cooking, and scientific titles with West Coast flair. For example, one cookbook (that is making me really hungry right now) is called Big Food Big Love: Down Home Southern Cooking Full of Heart from Seattle’s Wandering Goose. They are another publisher that has been around for a number of years (over 30 to be exact).
To learn more about them, visit their website here: http://www.sasquatchbooks.com/
I may be slightly biased including Grove Atlantic on this list, but they really are a fun company to work with and for. They also have a long history of churning out popular, and sometimes “obscene” (think Lady Chatterley’s Lover), books. Their books are fearless, sometimes a little weird, and varied. They have recently published H is for Hawk (which is a New York Times bestseller) and The Sympathizer, which won the Pulitzer Prize. They also do not officially accept manuscripts (everything I ever saw went into a large pile that was eventually thrown out), so this is one you’d have to either get an agent for or take your chances by sending directly to one of their editors.
You can find out more about them here: http://groveatlantic.com/
If I’m missing any great publisher here that you feel deserves a shout out (c’mon guys, I forced myself to stick with 5), comment below or shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. All this goes to show that these indie publishers are incredibly unique, and that the right one for you may just be out there!
And for more information on some of these and other successful independent publishers for 2016, read the Publishers Weekly article here: http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/publisher-news/article/69573-fast-growing-independent-publishers-2016.html