Following on from my post about ten of the best independent publisher subscriptions, I’ve put together a list of another ten indie presses from which you can buy books directly. This is by no means a comprehensive list – just a personal selection of smaller publishers I happen to admire greatly, some of whom are relatively new to me, others I’ve been reading for a while. If you’re looking to buy books as gifts this Christmas (or are in need of a treat yourself), these are all brilliant addresses to turn to for strong voices, bold storytelling, innovative form and the chance to dip into other worlds.
There are many more publishers I could name – not to mention an entire raft of independent bookshops (whom you can now support in the UK and US through Bookshop.org) – so please, if you can, try to shop local and independent this Christmas and beyond. The experience of buying and reading from small publishers is a reward in itself: they’ve given me many of my favourite books this year and are never anything less than inspiring.
One feature of independent publishing in the UK is the desire to move away from the traditional centre of London – and with their base in Yorkshire’s Hebden Bridge, Bluemoose Books has done just that. Founded in 2006, this is a small but mighty press, with a strong focus on literary fiction and a list of prize-winning authors whose voices are unmistakeable. Publisher of one of the most talked-about books on social media this year, Rónán Hession’s Leonard and Hungry Paul, Bluemoose Books have also recently brought us Anna Vaught’s Saving Lucia and Sharon Duggal’s Should We Fall Behind. Titles are available in paperback and sometimes hardback and can be bought directly through the Bluemoose website.
Also based in the north of England, Manchester’s Comma Press is a not-for-profit publisher specialising in translated fiction and short stories. Hugely engaged with writers established and emerging, they run regular short-story courses and host the National Creative Writing Industry Day (this year online), as well as providing numerous online resources. Titles include Hassan Blasim’s The Iraqi Christ (and forthcoming debut novel God 99), Sudanese author Rania Mamoun’s Thirteen Months of Sunrise (translated by Elisabeth Jaquette), and M. John Harrison’s fantastical short story collections. The city-specific anthology series ‘The Book of . . .’ is absolutely genius, taking in world-famous metropolises from Shanghai to Sheffield and Ramallah to Rio. Books can be read in print or eBook form and ship internationally.
It took a brave press to launch in 2020, but Fum d’Estampa did and the indie scene is all the better for it. Based between Barcelona and London, this small publisher is dedicated to translating Catalan literature into English and takes in short stories, fiction, essays and poetry. Classic and contemporary authors are treated equally here, with a talented roster of translators that’s only set to expand in 2021 as the press continues publishing six titles a year. 2020’s offering included Narcís Oller’s The Madness, a seminal work of Catalan fiction translated by Douglas Suttle, and Jordi Llavina’s short story collection London Under Snow, translated by the same. As well as buying books directly from the press, you can sign up to support it via a Patreon scheme.
Another translation specialist for you, this time dedicated to Eastern European literature. Istros Books publishes fiction and occasional non-fiction from South-Eastern Europe and the Balkans, with an author list including philosopher and essayist Slavoj Žižek, Croatian novelist Daša Drndić and EU Prize for Literature-winner Çiler Ilhan. This year I had my socks knocked off by novels Catherine the Great and the Small and The Masochist, while Predrag Matvejević’s meditative Our Daily Bread is exactly the kind of thoughtful, down-to-earth non-fiction we all need right now. Istros Books can be purchased directly and ship within the EU, and you can also keep up with the publisher through online events and the Istros Conversations podcast.
Long before the events of this year opened up a much-needed conversation, Jacaranda Books was committed to promoting diversity in publishing: the #Twentyin2020 initiative saw the London-based press dedicate an entire calendar year to publishing twenty titles by Black British authors. Under the management of Valerie Brandes, the award-winning press has consistently fulfilled its mission of ‘publishing ground-breaking writing with a dedication to creating space on the bookshelf for diverse ideas and writers’. The #Twentyin2020 collection includes fiction, non-fiction and poetry, with titles such as If I Don’t Have You by Sareeta Domingo and Hibaq Osman’s poetry collection Where the Memory Was. Books can be ordered directly and ship worldwide.
New Vessel Press
One for US-based readers (though they ship worldwide too), New Vessel Press happens to be the American publisher of Adua, which is published in the UK by the above-mentioned Jacaranda Books. The acclaimed novel by Igiaba Scego, translated by Jamie Richards, is indicative of the kind of books New Vessel Press publishes: translated literary fiction and narrative non-fiction that seeks to enrich its readers’ minds and lives. Viewing the process of translation as repackaging books in a new vessel, the press also places a strong emphasis on beautiful design and quality production. Highly recommended titles include Anna Goldenberg’s family memoir I Belong to Vienna, translated by Alta L. Price, Sheila Dickie’s translation of Milena Michiko Flašar’s whimsical novel I Called Him Necktie, and the thought-provoking Sleepless Night by celebrated Dutch author Margriet de Moor, in translation by David Doherty.
One of the bigger independents on this list, London-based Pushkin Press is a force to be reckoned with. As well as having a healthy dedication to translated literature, you’ll find original English-language fiction, narrative non-fiction, children’s literature and crime fiction in the catalogue. Pushkin has resurrected neglected authors such as Stefan Zweig, and this year published new titles from ground-breaking contemporary authors such as Dorthe Nors and Benjamin Labatut. Willem Anker’s Red Dog, translated by Michiel Heyns, was longlisted for the 2020 International Booker Prize, and Kereen Getten’s YA debut When Life Gives You Mangoes has been garnering praise left, right and centre. Whatever kind of book you’re after, Pushkin Press is bound to have a good answer.
Seven Stories Press
‘Fiercely independent’ Seven Stories Press is based in New York City, where it ‘publishes works of the human imagination’ encompassing fiction and non-fiction that leans heavily towards politics, human rights and social justice. An activist press if ever there was one, Seven Stories publishes in both English and Spanish and is tirelessly engaged in promoting free speech and underrepresented voices. With a small publishing arm in the UK and an imprint dedicated to children’s literature, there’s plenty to get stuck into in this list – whether you prefer print or digital, wherever you are in the world. Among the titles I’ve read and loved this year are A Country for Dying, All Lara’s Wars and Bezoar.
Tramp Press is based in Ireland and Scotland and publishes a list of award-winning writers such as Sara Baume, Mike McCormack and Maeve Kelly. There’s a great focus on Irish and female writers here, with a catalogue that includes novels, short-story collections, anthologies and essays, all of which can be shipped worldwide. Recommended titles include the press’s 2014 debut, Flights by Oona Frawley, short-story collection A Kind of Compass, and one of the best examples of creative non-fiction I have ever read, Doireann Ní Ghríofa’s magnificent A Ghost in the Throat. If you really can’t decide, a paperback bundle of the first six Tramp Press titles is also available in the online shop.
Two Lines Press
Two Lines Press, based at the Center for the Art of Translation in San Francisco, is another stalwart on the translated literature scene and particularly seeks to find and publish underrepresented voices. Their innovative approach includes collections such as the Calico Series, limited-edition anthologies that ‘reflect one aspect of our present moment’ and are arranged around themes such as contemporary Arabic poetry and speculative Chinese fiction. Recent recommended titles include Jazmina Barrera’s On Lighthouses, translated by Christina MacSweeney, and Ho Sok Fong’s Lake Like a Mirror, translated by Natascha Bruce. Shipping is available internationally and you can also purchase excellent themed book bundles: think ‘The Future of Asian Literature’ or ‘Pride, Worldwide’.
For more inspiration, have a look at my independent press profiles for Sandstone Press, Linen Press, Inspired Quill and new German translation imprint V&Q Books (the only one from which you can’t order direct at present, but they do provide helpful links and have a Bookshop.org page). As ever, if you know an independent publisher you’d love to champion, drop me a message or share your recommendations in the comments!