Sunday, June 24, 2012

In Praise of Small Presses

Last night I stayed up until midnight (late for me!) to finish Bryn Greenwood's riveting debut, LAST WILL, the riveting story of Bernie Raleigh, who inherits his grandfather's immense wealth, along with the psychic and physical wounds from having been kidnapped for ransom as a child, and Meda Amos, beauty queen turned housekeeper/single mother, who has scars of her own.

It struck me that this amazingly accomplished, fully realized, accessible work of fiction was published by a small press, Stairway Press. One of my recent favorite MG/YA books, THE FREEDOM MAZE, written by Delia Sherman and published by tiny Big Mouth Press, just won the Norton Award, the highest MG/YA honor for science fiction/fantasy given by SFWA.

In all the talk of traditional publishing and self-publishing, the amazing work of small presses  deserves more attention. There is a wide range in the category -- new and old, tiny and mid-size, traditional, e-only, and POD. Some offer advances, and some don't. Some are genre specialists, and others are literary fiction vanguards. Some are open to unagented submissions, and some are closed. Some have great bookstore distribution, and others sell chiefly online. Inevitably, some will grow into the big presses of the future (look at the growth of Entangled!), and others will disappear. And yes, there is a range of quality in acquisitions, editing, marketing, and covers, from the highest standards to strictly amateur.

But for now, they are taking up a lot of slack during a time when the midlists of large traditional publishers are shrinking.

For evidence, take a look at the Books by Us on Operation Awesome. Four of us have books coming out from small presses later in 2012 or 2013:
  • Kell Andrews, DEADWOOD, Pugalicious Press, MG contemporary fantasy (Add to Goodreads)
  • Michelle McLean, TREASURED LIES, Entangled Scandalous, historical romantic suspense
  • Kristal Shaff, THE EMISSARY, Month9Books, YA fantasy
  • Angela Townsend, AMAROK, Spencer Hill Publishing, YA paranormal (Preorder, Add to Goodreads)
If you are a writer interested in small presses, do your research and ask a lot of questions, but especially read books published by the press that interests you. And as a reader, seek some small press books out. There are gems out there in every genre. Try the books recommended above, or support other FOOs (that is, Friends of Oliver, our owl mascot) with small-press books out now:

  • Lisa Burstein, PRETTY AMY, Entangled Teen, YA contemporary
  • R.M. Clark, DIZZY MISS LIZZIE, Stanley Publishing, MG supernatural/historical mystery
  • Christine Fonseca, LACRIMOSA, Compass Press, YA paranormal,
  • Cole Gibsen, BREATHLESS, Crescent Moon Publishing, YA paranormal

What are some small-press books that have blown you away? What small presses are you most impressed by?

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