Small Press Shout-Out: OR Books!

A refuge for renegades, OR Books was founded by John Oakes and Colin Robinson (the O and the R), who together have published an impressive roster of authors in their careers, including Tariq Ali, Andrei Codrescu, Noam Chomsky, Alexander Cockburn, R. Crumb, Cory Doctorow, Andrea Dworkin, Eric Hobsbawm, Abbie Hoffman, Lewis Lapham, Gordon Lish, Rigoberta Menchú, Harvey Pekar, Matt Taibbi, John Waters, Jann Wenner, and Edmund White. They describe OR as “a new type of publishing company [that] embraces progressive change in politics, culture, and the way we do business.” They go into more detail about their past (and plans for the future) on their website.

Here’s what’s interesting: these longtime industry stalwarts (if “stalwarts” is the right word for two guys who always seem to have been on the cutting-edge side of what is sometimes a stodgy old business) believe that contemporary book publishing is in “crisis” and OR Books will do things differently.

Putting out just one or two books a month, OR makes the most of their opportunities. Who’s smart and nimble enough to bring out an anthology of Russian love Stories (Gay Propaganda) in time for the Sochi Olympics? OR Books!

This is the kind of small press that can bring out a book by Julian Assange, a graphic account of the trial of Chelsea Manning, a book of “exercises” and drawings by Yoko Ono, and a “passionate and persuasive case for the relevance of Ernest Hemingway to readers today.”

Eclectic? Check. Passionate? Check. Relevant and important and fascinating? Check check check.

Worth checking out their catalog? Check. And mate.

Previous Small Press Shoutouts:

Small Press Shoutout: SALT Publishing!

Back again with another small press shoutout! This week we hop across the pond to look at Salt Publishing, which for 15 years has been independently dedicated to creating “A New British Fiction Movement.”

Why are they called Salt? Maybe it’s an acronym? Maybe it’s a tribute to the number-one spice? Meat preservation? The taste of sea air? I don’t know. I just know that their books are beautiful, their hearts are in the right place, and they put out 30 books a year, including some fantastic fiction.

But they’re more than just fiction! Salt also puts out poetry, anthologies, poetry for children/teens, literary autobiography, plays, and on and on. Smart books for smart people!

Today, Salt is a privately-owned British company, with editors in the USA, Australia and the UK; a trade publishing business, proudly independent, committed to producing important, beautiful, readable, literary works.

Here’s another exciting development: Proxima, their crime imprint. You may recognize the world-beating classic, Mrs. Darcy versus the Aliens.

These are good, smart folks with a great website, great books, and making a great contribution to the world of letters. Check out their list today!

Previous Small Press Shoutouts:

Small Press Shoutout: Other Press!

Back again with another small press shoutout! This week we look at Other Press, which focuses on authors with a “passion to discover the limits of knowledge and the imagination.” Oh boy! The editors of Other Press come with some gilded resumes indeed. Here’s an excerpt from Publisher Judith Gurewitch’s bio:

Born in Canada and raised in Belgium, she holds a law degree from Brussels University as well as a master’s of law from Columbia University and a PhD in sociology from Brandeis University. She now resides in Cambridge, MA. Judith is also a Lacanian trained psychoanalyst, practicing part time. She loves to edit, pitch, cook, walk, and swim.

Pitch? As in pitch books? Baseballs? With a Lacanian trained psychoanalyst, one never knows.

Associate publisher Paul Kozlowski is a bit more unassuming:

Bookman, birdman, living under blue skies on borrowed time.

Madame Knowledge, meet Mr. Imagination. Now let’s go find some limits.

Okay, okay, this is all heady stuff – but do they deliver? Indeed they do! Putting out about 25 titles a year, Other Press has a growing list of incredible authors, including Olga Grjasnawa, Jan-Phillip Sendker, and Minae Mizumura. This is the real deal, folks. And one need only read Helen Richard’s blogged tour of independent bookstores to get a sense of their love for books. Bravo, Other Press!

Previous Small Press Shoutouts:

Small Press Shoutout: The Permanent Press!

I’ve decided to return to one of the blog’s most popular features, the Small Press Shoutout. This week we take a look at The Permanent Press, which has been cranking out titles since 1978.  Started by husband-and-wife team Martin and Judith Shepard, their catalog includes several award-winning mysteries and the undersung Icelandic novelist Halldor Laxness (a personal favorite of mine).

The name of the press refers to their policy of keeping their entire backlog in print, which I’m guessing is easier now than it was twenty-five years ago.

These guys love fiction. I found an interesting discussion of this on Mark’s Cockeyed Pessimist blog, which recently addressed the question of why they publish novels “95% of the time”:

My belief is that in any culture, at any age, the vast majority of the great books that are handed down, decade after decade and century after century are fiction. Following  Homer’s The Iliad and his sequel, The Odyssey, came the great novelists of  yesteryear: Dostoyevsky, Chekov, Gogol, Dickens, Chaucer, Jane Austin, Fitzgerald, Boccaccio, Umberto Eco, Dante, Italo Calvino, Rabelais, Hugo, Stendahl, Balzac, Halldor Laxness, Cervantes, Márquez, Kundera, Mark Twain, Faulkner, Hemmingway, Dos Passos, Poe…the list is endless. So if one’s interest lies in discovering novelists who have the talent to write exceptional fiction, why not cultivate and publish them and hope some of them will make a contribution to our culture—which surely needs a lift, given the great decline in fiction in general and the astronomical rise in non-fiction, which includes celebrity bios and countless “How-To” books—how to lose weight, make money, find partners, find serenity, find God, evaluate collectables, write screenplays, prevent aging… this list is endless, as well, and unlikely to survive the test of time.

Bravo! Fiction is important, fiction is necessary, fiction is a testament to what civilization and the human endeavor is all about. Fiction represents – fiction is – us at our finest! Could there be a better attitude for a publisher to have?

Well… let’s look at Judith’s: Continue reading

Small Press Shout-Outs: Last Call for the Holidays!

With a week left until the Great Opening of The Presents Day, just a very quick reminder of all the holiday gift ideas we’ve had here lately:

And finally: check out Jacke’s suggestion for the greatest gift idea ever for a writer.

Carry on, people. Happy shopping!

Small Press Shout-Out: Soho Press!

Today’s small press shout-out is the fabulous Soho Press! Soho has been pumping out quality books from New York City since 1986. They specialize in literary fiction and young adult books and I’m sure they’re all great, but… ah, there’s no point in denying it, I’m most drawn to Soho Crime, their international-themed crime fiction imprint.   

Soho Press has yet another gorgeous website, with one of the coolest features I’ve seen: a world map showing the settings of their crime fiction. Who’s the hardest person on your holiday list to shop for? Do they like traveling? Mysteries and crime fiction? If so, I recommend clicking on the country they love and/or have always dreamed of visiting, and buying them a few crackling good crime stories. 

Even cooler, if that’s possible, is Soho’s Passport to Crime bundle. For seventy-five bucks (sixty-five for e-books) you get 12 first-in-series paperbacks.  Again, a perfect holiday gift idea for anyone who might enjoy exploring new authors and new worlds. Soho also has a gift-ready subscription plan.

There are small presses and then there are small presses. Soho Press, with its long history of successful publishing, probably deserves something more than a shout-out. Maybe a plaque in the Small Press Hall of Fame?

Weird Magazines (and Small Presses)

Nikkitha Bakshani takes a look at the fascinating world of niche magazines put out by very small presses. Bakshani had trouble finding them at first:

I was under the impression that I could walk into any news stand in New York and find a slew of oddly titled publications—something about ferrets or specially-authorized Bavarian buses—something effortlessly niche. But digging through piles of magazines in some of the city’s most well-equipped magazine purveyors, I mostly came across high art-ish titles that seemed too keenly aware of their presence in print.

Internet to the rescue! What I found most interesting, apart from the fact that there are human beings dedicated to putting out these things in print, is that each publication has sought (and found!) a different market, whether through a laser-like focus on a particular animal (Donkey Talk) or hobby (Miniature Railways), or by meeting the needs of individuals dealing with a distinct emotion (Grief Digest).

We’ve seen this in the literary world with our small press shout-outs, which appear to do best when they develop their own brand (like Kaya Press). Indie authors, too, can thrive by developing their own brand.

And is it too much for my dream bookstore owners to incorporate a selection of specialty magazines in their displays? I know they likely won’t sell many copies, but I can’t be alone in wanting to leaf through some of these, every now and then.

Image Credit: The Morning News

Small Press Shout-Out: Atticus Books!

Today’s small press spotlight turns on Atticus Books. Yes, it was named after Atticus Finch, but that’s not all – it was also named after the Atticus (i.e., Cicero’s friend), as well as a chance encounter with a bookstore that apparently changed founder and publisher Dan Cafaro’s life.  All three inspirations get their due on the Atticus Books website, which (in addition to looking great) has a kind of rolling, storyteller’s garrulousness that one suspects mirrors Dan Cafaro’s inspired mind and varied interests. After spending some time roaming around the website it’s easy to guess why Cafaro felt stifled by his corporate job and headed out for the territory of small press publishing.

Cafar0 originally started out with the idea for a combination of bookstore and publishing house. He even investigated the use of an Expresso print-on-demand bookmaker among other research:

As he mounted thousands of miles on his SUV and continued his hunt of a physical location for Atticus Books, Dan stayed focused on the goal of building a book business that served authors, readers, and the offbeat literary community. The more he pursued the goal of opening a retail operation, though, the more he was foiled by the exorbitant price of commercial space in highbrow places like Bethesda, Md. Not to be derailed by the harsh economic realities of starting up a brick & mortar retail business during an abysmal, nationwide economic stretch, Dan opted instead to concentrate his efforts solely on publishing books.

After he decided that a bookstore wouldn’t make sense for what he wanted to do, he focused on an “implausible” idea: the “[creation of a] viable book business whose purpose was to discover voices otherwise lost in a crowded, unforgiving marketplace.”

Atticus also puts out a weekly online journal called the Atticus Review.

What’s especially interesting to me about Atticus Books is that they unapologetically publish literary fiction – poetry, short stories, novellas and novels that (presumably) would not be at the top of an MBA’s business plan. Why? You’d have to ask Cafaro, I suppose. But if I were to guess, I’d say it was the decision of a man who loves literature and figured there’s no sense taking a risk if the reward isn’t going to be what you want it to be. Let’s hope things go well for him.

So on this day of roaming around, as everyone in America buys like crazy before the shelves empty, why not think of those readers in your family – you know, those people in your life who would appreciate something thoughtful and heartfelt and with a little homegrown spirit to it – and check out Atticus Books Online and their catalog.

Small Press Shout-Out: Kaya Press!

Hard to top the logo of the great Kaya Press:

A little puzzling? Not after they explain:

“When tigers used to smoke…” is a traditional Korean phrase used at the beginning of folk tales, similar to “Once upon a time.” Korean folk paintings often feature images of tigers smoking long, bamboo pipes, often accompanied by helpful rabbits. The Kaya logo replaces the Asian-style pipe with a stogie or cigar to show the meeting of traditional and contemporary sensibilities.

Kaya is a small press that recently moved from New York to Los Angeles.  They strive to publish “the most challenging, thoughtful, and provocative literature being produced throughout the Asian and Pacific Island diasporas.” Their books are great, and their website is absolutely fantastic.  We’ll definitely have a display table for them at our dream bookstore.

Check out Kaya’s smoking new website and their catalog of books today!

Image Credit: Kaya Press

Small Press Shout-Out: Tiny TOE Press

I’ve written before about the role for small presses in the brave new publishing world. And in my dream bookstore.

Today’s small-press shout out goes to Tiny TOE Press, an Austin-based “kitchen-table press” that publishes handpressed books.

Check out their definition of DIY publishing and their catalog. And dream bookstore entrepreneurs, remember: I’d like a nice table of these to thumb through, in some cozy, well-lighted spot.