Thursday, March 13, 2008
Small Press Month
Not only is March Women's History Month, but it is also Small Press Month, celebrating the contributions of small and independent publishers to the book industry.
Small Press Month, now in its 12th year, is a nationwide promotion highlighting the books produced by independent and small publishers. The website calls it "An annual celebration of the independent spirit of small publishers, Small Press Month is an effort to showcase the diverse, unique, and often most significant voices being published today. This year's slogan is Celebrate Great Writing."
What is a small press? There are several definitions depending on what country you live in, but in the U.S. it means a book press that publishes less than 10 titles a year and earns less than $50 million. If that's the definition of a small press, Medusa's Muse must be a Minuscule Press, with just one or two books a year and earning less than a thousand bucks. Is there a mini-press category?
Wikipedia has an excellent definition of a small press . Here is part of that definition:
Since the profit margins for small presses can be narrow, many are driven by other motives, including the desire to help disseminate literature with only a small likely market. Small presses tend to fill the niches that larger publishers neglect. They can focus on regional titles, narrow specializations and niche genres. They can also make up for commercial clout by creating a reputation for academic knowledge, vigorously pursuing prestigious literature prizes and spending more effort nurturing the careers of new authors. At its most minimal, small press production consists of chapbooks. This role can now be taken on by desktop publishing and Web sites. This still leaves a continuum of small press publishing: from specialist periodicals, short runs or print-to-order of low-demand books, to fine art books and limited editions of collectors' items printed to high standards
There are thousands of Small Presses in the United States alone. One of my favorites is Soft Skull, which put out the funny, fantastical story "The Good Fairies of New York," by Martin Miller, the tale of two Irish fairies who get lost in New York City and create havoc as they compete with each other over who "has the best human." Woza Books produces the excellent children's book, "The Call to Shakabaz" by Amy Wachpress, which was a finalist in the USA Book's National Award for children's fiction. The award winning British press Dedalus Books has been in business since 1983 creating haunting, visionary, and beautiful works and is on the verge of closing shop thanks to the end of the British Arts Grant which has helped support their work since the 1990's. Be sure and grab one of their books before they disappear. If you're in the mood for fairy tale or romance,go to Drollerie Press. Their books are as beautiful as their website. And did you know that the works of Henry Miller were published by New Directions Press, one of the pioneers in the Publishing industry?
Independent publishing has a long and prestigious history, from Anais Nin painstakingly typesetting each page and self-publishing her book, "House of Incest," to the now famous "Chicken Soup" books. I am proud to be a part of this tradition. As Walter Mosley says on the Small Press Month website, "The life’s blood of contemporary and modern literature is in the custodianship of so-called small publishers. Without them, there is no future for literature."
Embrace the spirit of independent publishing and pick up a book from a small press today.