Small Press Shout-Out: Valancourt Books!

Here’s what I love about small presses: they’re quirky, they look for (and fill) niches that the big guys have missed, and they often appear to be as governed by personal passions as market research.

Today’s shout-out, Valancourt Books, is no exception. Their catalog sports many overlooked and forgotten gothic books. Because they’ve identified a missed opportunity? Maybe. Because they think there’s a readership out there who would love to see these books dusted off and brought out in new editions? Maybe.

Because they just plain love these books? Definitely.

Publisher and general editor James D. Jenkins has the story:

Continue reading

Small Press Shout-Out: Luath Press!


Our globetrotting search for good people putting out good books continues! Last week we journeyed to Australia for a visit to the kindhearted and energetic Pantera Press. Up this week: the land of mountains high-cover’d with snow, straths and green vallies, forests and wild-hanging woods, torrents and loud-pouring floods…that’s right! We’re going to visit the Land of Rabbie Burns… Continue reading

Small Press Shout-Out: Pantera Press!

We’re headed down under for this week’s small press shout-out. And what a trip it is! Even the most seasoned, curmudgeonly book buyer will find it hard to return from the Pantera Press website without wearing a smile. This press exudes friendliness and charm, from their mission-like statement “our passion is publishing books readers rave about by discovering & nurturing talented new authors, & fostering debate,” to their trademarked slogan “good books doing good things,” to their “strong ‘profits for philanthropy’ foundation.”

This is a press that’s unashamed to say, “We’re thrilled about what we’re doing. We hope you get excited too!”

I’m getting there, Pantera!

Actually, their entire statement is worth quoting: Continue reading

Small Press Shout-Out: Bobbledy Books!

I might be wrong, but I think we’ve only had one small press so far that was specifically dedicated to children’s books. (That, of course, was B-Corp pioneer Little Pickle Press. Go check them out if you haven’t yet!)

In any case, I’m happy to add another small-press-for-kids to our list of shout-out recipients. And what a fun one this is!

Bobbledy Books is run by a husband-wife writer-illustrator combo who “live in a barn on the Eastern Shore of Maryland with our three small kids, a rickety old cat, and a goofy blue dog.”

Is there a better photo for what you’d want from your kids-book creators than this one?

Okay, maybe this?

And this?

The Bobbledy Duo explain their background:

Over the past six years, we’ve worked together to publish more than 40 picture books for adults, including one for Chronicle Books. Now that we have three kids (Alden, 4; Kato, 2; and August, six months), we’ve decided that it’s high time to start making children’s books.

And indeed they do, with books like these:

And the unforgettable:

They also run a souped-up book club for kids, in which purchasing an annual membership gets the child “seven stuffed envelopes” a year, including three Bobbledy Books, a birthday card, a CD of children’s music, a partially completed book that kids are encouraged to finish for themselves, and other goodies. Members of the club can also write, illustrate, and submit a book of their own to a special contest. Bobbledy Books picks one to publish and send to all the other members of the club.

Here’s the winner of their first contest, Gorillas in the Kitchen, which gave lucky (and talented) child author Spencer his (presumably) first professional publication:

Bobbledy Books puts out great-looking books and their enthusiasm for what they’re doing is contagious – just what you want from two people running a small press and kids’ book club. You can put a Bobbledy smile on your face by checking out their website, their club, or their catalog.

No need for an onward and upward pick-me-up today—Bobbledy Books has my juices flowing! You can read about my own adventures in publishing, including my tips on e-book formatting for 2014, or you can travel to my new author page at to see the latest results.

Who am I missing? What other small presses deserve some attention? Let me know in the comments or shoot me an email at

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Small Press Shout-Out: The New Press!

One of the most gratifying aspects of giving small presses a shout-out is that so many of them have a strong sense of purpose. Whether it’s becoming a B Corporation, or providing us with passports to international crime fiction, or building a community around works about identity, or helping to put more Asian and Pacific Island diaspora literature on the shelves, or simply reminding us of the beauty of handmade books, small presses bring us a step closer to the dream bookstore.

Okay, so maybe America today isn’t exactly the Soviet Union of the samizdat era, but it’s true that new or unusual voices aren’t always heard above the cacophony of popular or mainstream culture. Enter the small presses, to add a few grace notes to the monolithic drone.

Today’s shout-out recipient is no exception.

The New Press “publishes books that promote and enrich public discussion and understanding of the issues vital to our democracy and to a more equitable world.”

And just what are these vital issues?

I’m going to let their website’s topic list speak for itself:

  • African American
  • Arts/Culture/Film
  • Asian American
  • Criminal Justice/Law
  • Current Affairs
  • Ecology/Health
  • Economics/Globalization
  • Education
  • Fiction/Literature
  • For Parents
  • Gender Studies
  • Human Rights
  • K-12
  • Labor Studies
  • Latin America
  • Media/Journalism
  • Middle East
  • Philosophy
  • Political Science
  • Religion
  • Sociology
  • U.S. History
  • World History/WWII

Awesome. They publish Pete Seeger! They expand on their mission statement on their website:

Underlying The Press’s editorial program are three aims: to broaden the audience for serious intellectual work, especially by reaching out to audiences intellectually red-lined by commercial publishers; to bring out the work of traditionally underrepresented voices; and to address the problems of a society in transition, highlighting attempts at reform and innovation in a wide range of fields.

Intellectually red-lined! What a great phrase. I’ve never felt so excluded and immediately included at the same time.

This is the kind of press that traffics heavily in subtitles, which I’ve highlighted here:

The New Press has been around since 1990 and brings out around 50 titles per year. And while many of our small-press shout outs have been remarkable for the beauty of their website, the New Press’s site is all business. I would even characterize it as “workmanlike,” which I hope they take as a compliment. They’re not messing around at the New Press. They’re too busy delivering useful information.

You can check out their Spring 2014 Collection, including works by Alice Walker and Eric Hobsbawm, here. It also appears as if they recently lost someone close to them, founding editor André Schiffrin, who led an amazing literary life before passing away last December. A good time to send the Press some well wishes by browsing their titles and picking up a book or two.

You can check out my own adventures in small pressing, or indie publishing, or whatever it should be called, by picking up a copy of The Race: A Novella, now available in paperback, or my latest e-book, The Promotion! And do give Little Pickle Press (our B Corp shout-out) a little love as well!

Previous Small Press Shout-Outs:

Small Press Shout-Out: Les Figues Press!

Okay! We’re back from our foray into the world of B-Corporation small presses and are in the more familiar world of nonprofit small presses. This week: Les Figues Press!

Les Figues Logo

The first thing that jumped out at me on their website is that they have a link for membership. Become a member? Of a small press? Hmmm. Something’s going on here. Something about this press must personally resonate with people.

And indeed it does! Les Figues has a clear mission:

Based in Los Angeles, our mission is to create aesthetic conversations between readers, writers, and artists. Les Figues Press publishes five to seven books a year and favors projects which push the boundaries of genre, form, and general acceptability. We also curate and host literary events, including readings, conversations, performances, and art salons.

Excellent! Now I now why membership makes sense. The press is only part of a larger drive toward building a community of like-minded, forward-thinking people.

How does that translate into the works they publish?

Les Figues Press embraces a feminist criticality and editorial vision. We are interested in work that is aware of itself as a textual body within a history and culture marked (like physical bodies) by constructs of gender, race, class, and sexuality.

Cool! I read a ton of books and essays like this in college, and I’m glad I did. Although I admittedly have gotten away from works like that since then, I wish I’d known about Les Figues, out there fighting the good fight, surrounding intellectually challenging works with context and community.

This is what small presses can do! They can slide themselves into society, helping to make the world a better place. All this in addition to helping writers get heard. And of course, impacting readers. Bravo, Les Figues!

Here’s the other thing that jumps out at me from their website: the size of their books. Take a look at +|me’S-pace by Christine Wertheim:

That’s a 9.25″ x 4.25″ cover! (And yes, I’m noticing these things because of my own recent experience in trying to get a book out there.)

Here’s another one, the cover for By Kelman out of Pessoa by Doug Nufer, which stands proudly and invitingly on the page, like a tall, cool glass of something fun to drink:

“By Kelman out of Pessoa”? Not sure exactly what that means, but I know I like Pessoa! I’m intrigued!

Suffice it to say, there’s a lot going on over at Les Figues. You can keep up with their announcements here. And of course, check out their full catalog.

You can check out my own adventures in small pressing, or indie publishing, or whatever it should be called, by picking up a copy of The Race: A Novella, now available in paperback, or my latest e-book, The Promotion! And do give Little Pickle Press (our last shoutout) a little love as well!

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Small Press Shout-Out: Little Pickle Press!

Here we go, people. Ask and ye shall receive. We were looking for a small press brave and bold enough to venture into B Corporation* waters.

*A fuller explanation of a B Corporation is here. The nutshell version is that it’s a legal entity that enables a company to adopt a broader mandate than the traditional for-profit corporation. Whereas traditional corporations are required by law to maximize profits for their shareholders, a B Corporation is allowed to include goals such as giving back to a community or helping the environment.

And now we have it!

Striving to be the change it seeks, Little Pickle Press has proudly become a B Corporation.

Awesome! And what are they planning to do with the power that the B Corporation affords them?

Little Pickle Press is a 21st Century publisher dedicated to helping parents and educators cultivate conscious, responsible little people by stimulating explorations of the meaningful topics of their generation through a variety of media, technologies, and techniques.

In an effort to reduce our impact, we print and distribute our materials in an environmentally-friendly manner, using recycled paper, soy inks, and green packaging.

Got it? So when you’re reading Spaghetti is NOT a Finger Food (and other life lessons)  or What Does It Mean To Be Green?, you can be happy knowing that there’s more behind the cool artwork and sound message than some corporate behemoth looking to prey on your do-gooder tendencies. There’s actually a do-gooder corporation behind it! With real people! Doing good!

Naturally, Little Pickle is as excited as I am about the promise of the B Corp, proudly describing their B Corp community on their website (which is beautiful, by the way):

B Corps are certified by the nonprofit B Lab to meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency.

Today, there is a growing community of more than 600 Certified B Corps from 15 countries and 60 industries working together toward one unifying goal: to redefine success in business.

And how’s it working out for you, Little Pickle?

We are thrilled to announce that for the second year in a row, Little Pickle Press has been named among the “Best for the World” B Corporations. The second annual “Best for the World” list recognized 66 companies across 20 countries and 25 industries, and we are honored to share this distinction with other dynamic, socially-responsible companies.

Spectacular news. Good luck to you, Little Pickle! Thanks for helping to save America!

You can check out my own adventures in small pressing, or indie publishing, or whatever it should be called, by picking up a copy of The Race: A Novella, now available in paperback, or the latest e-book, The Promotion!

Previous Small Press Shout-Outs:

Small Press Shout-Out: Black Balloon Publishing!

Okay, today’s small press is definitely on the quirkier side. How quirky? Quirkier than that. It just might be the quirkiest of any of our small press shout-outs thus far.

First things first. Black Balloon’s website is gorgeous. Not very quirky! Just elegant and beautiful. But then there’s this motto:

We champion the weird, the unwieldy, and the unclassifiable.

The gauntlet has been thrown! Let’s see some freak flags flying!

Hang on, hang on…weird and unwieldy and unclassifiable are easy words to throw around, but what exactly do they mean? In Black Ballon’s case, they mean this:

Black Balloon books are risky but not gimmicky, whimsical but never light, intelligent but not precious. We cater to writers who kick conventions curbside, who provoke without sentiment, who make the despicable somehow appealing. We blur lines between disciplines—think an autobiographical account of an identity broken, then rebuilt, scene by scene, via the perspectives of loved ones. Think recipes sung word-for-word and packaged inside a collaborative, illustrated cookbook. Think a quixotic coming-of-age novel told through inside jokes.

We’re partial to paradoxical characters—hermit architects, pill-popping priests, lacquered dandies with night terrors. We take delight very seriously. We are not offended by the hokey, necessarily. We crave simplicity and elegance and have no idea what that means. We enjoy a nice narrative slap with our breakfast tea.

Sounds good…but this is still a little intangible. Let’s see some examples, Black Balloon!

How about Nine Rabbits by Bulgarian author Virginia Zaharieva, which continues Black Balloon’s mini-tradition of bringing out “exceptional English language translation[s] of literary fiction from an underrepresented country fraught with political and social instability”?

Very specific, sure, but is that unclassifiable? I don’t think so! Come on, Black Balloon. Give us the quirky!

Okay, how about their Clementine Classics, a series in which classic works of literature (e.g., Sister Carrie, The Age of Innocence) are annotated by a hedgehog?

Now we’re getting somewhere!

Or there’s this one:

Maverick Jetpants in the City of Quality by Bill Peters

Rochester, New York, 1999: An arsonist is loose on the streets of a city in decline. Gone are the days of Rioting in the Vomit Cruiser, searching for a possible Tokyo Rocking Horse.

Ah yes. Who among us hasn’t felt a little nostalgic for those lost days of Rioting in the Vomit Cruiser? Now it’s just fading photographs and listening to the Springsteen songs Oh No Tokyo (My Lil’ Rocking Horse) and Got My Gas Tank Full and My Vomit Cruiser Ready to Roll. 

But there’s more!

In this hilarious, wildly original debut novel, Nathan Gray and best friend Necro live by the code of Joke Royalty, a system of in-jokes known only to a select few. But as the reality of full-time employment, possible spouses, and Neo-Nazis encroaches, their friendship unravels, threatening their dreams of becoming Kodak Park Winjas.

Among the gravest Hellstacheries: Necro’s strangely vicious drawings and his sudden interest in a group of weapons enthusiasts who may or may not be responsible for the fires erupting through downtown. With no Holy Grail Points left to his name, Nate ventures into Rochester’s strangest corners to find out if his best friend is a domestic terrorist Pinning Bow Ties on the Dead or simply Maverick Jetpantsing on with his life—perhaps even beyond The City of Quality.

Weird, unwieldy, unclassifiable…Black Balloon Publishing, I think we hit the trifecta!

Everyone (freaks and curious onlookers alike) should head over to Black Balloon to see what they’ve got on their sidewalk display. It will be worth your time! You can see the results of my own small press efforts by checking out the paperback edition of The Race.

Previous Small Press Shout-Outs:

Small Press Shout-Out: Akashic Books!

Here we go! Back to Brooklyn for another small press shout-out. This week, we look at Akashic Books, which describes itself as

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.

They have at least one blockbuster you no doubt have heard of – the megahit Go the F*** to Sleep and the G-rated version Seriously, Just Go to Sleep.

Detective and crime aficionados will want to take a look at their Noir series, which is edited by luminaries like George Pelecanos and Joyce Carol Oates, and which includes titles like Brooklyn Noir and Cape Cod Noir (and D.C. and Detroit and Dallas and Dublin and Delhi and London and New Jersey and the Midwest and Mumbai and New Orleans and Moscow and… oh, just go look at the whole page, they all look great.

And oh, good lord: Ziggy Marley wrote a children’s book!? Apparently so, and apparently it’s called I Love You TooWell, of course it is. Those of us who spent much of the late-80s blasting Tomorrow People from the boombox will be smiling along with me, I’m sure.

Did I hallucinate this, or did I see Ziggy Marley twice in concert? I seem to recall going to see Ziggy Marley, Cheap Trick, and INXS – and also seeing Ziggy Marley opening for Stevie Nicks on another tour. Could that be? And were the Sugarcubes part of the latter? Ah, the 80s. Tripping on Mountain Dew… it’s all such a bright, colorful blur…

Final note: if you’re like me and you tend to see a good book listed somewhere, then you wander over to Amazon to save a few bucks, fear not! Akashic Books offers 25% off every book, every day. So you can buy from their website. Good luck, Akashic Books! I love you too!

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Small Press Shout-Out: Ugly Duckling Presse!

A presse! We’re obviously big fans of the extra e here at the Jacke blog. But there’s more than just creative spelling going on over at Ugly Duckling. There’s the logo (Toyota-like in its ability to combine the presse’s letters into a recognizable symbol).

But none of that matters as much as the catalog. And it’s here the presse’s eclectic devotion shines through. They put out more than 25 titles per year of poetry books and chapbooks, printing and binding many of them by hand at the “UDP workshop,” which sounds like a place I’d like to spend some time in. There’s also an Eastern European Poets Series, a “Lost Literature” series (dedicated to salvaging forgotten 20th-century gems), and a Dossier Series.

Could there be a more intriguing description of a small-press series than this?

UDP’s Dossier Series was founded in 2008 to expand the formal scope of the press. Dossier publications don’t share a single genre or form—poetry, essay, criticism, interview, artist book, polemical text—but rather an investigative impulse.

Before investigating further, I tried to guess what that might look like. Crime in America? The history of the don’t-ask-don’t-tell policy? Healthcare and mental illness? School lunch programs? Auto safety?

Hmm. Was I close? I’m not actually sure. I think I know what Ed Steck is going for with The Garden: Synthetic Environment for Analysis and Simulation, but what about Simone White’s Unrest? Or Vanessa Place’s Boycott? What’s the investigative impulse behind Arielle Greenberg’s Shake Her or Cecilia Vicuna’s Spit Temple?

In the end I’m not sure it matters. Something is going on here; the people running Ugly Duckling Presse are smart enough to trust that it’s worth digging into further. Let me know if you have any recommendations!

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