In recent years, small presses have published a number of highly acclaimed, successful novels — like The Sleeping Father and Sacco and Vanzetti Must Die! — previously rejected by big presses.
Small presses often devote time and resources to the quiet or experimental books that bigger presses ignore, bringing them to reviewers’ attention and going after foreign rights and film deals.
1. Dalkey Archive Press
Though I carefully alphabetized this list to avoid ranking them, I very well might have given Dalkey Archive the number one spot anyway. Dalkey Archive is a well-established, well-respected press that publishes fiction in the tradition of Joyce, Rabelais, and Gertrude Stein. (They also published the Sacco and Vanzetti book mentioned above.) And in terms of basic materials — paper, binding, etc. — it far outstrips many of the major presses these days. It’s definitely a niche publisher, but if you fit there, you really couldn’t do better.
2. Dzanc Books
Founded in 2006, Dzanc Books is an independent, non-profit press with OV Books and Black Lawrence Press as imprints. In addition to publishing fiction, Dzanc hosts a writer-in-residence program with public schools and awards the annual Dzanc Prize, which also has a community service component.
3. Fiction Collective Two
Like Dalkey Archive, Fiction Collective Two publishes fiction that may be too innovative or challenging for major presses. It’s collective, so once you’ve been published by them, you get to help shape the Press’s list. And since it’s been around since 1974, it’s certainly earned its chops as a publisher of high-quality books.
4. Future Tense Books
Founded in 1990, Future Tense Books is an innovative press out of Portland, OR, with a focus on language. They only publish a few books a year, but they do take chance with what they publish. Publisher Kevin Sampsell says, “I sometimes publish work that is very sexual or very experimental or very humorous. If I can get a combination of the three, well, that’s even better.”
5. Gival Press
Gival Press is an award-winning, privately owned press located in Arlington, Virginia, and founded in 1998. They publish literary work with a social or philosophical message, in English, French, and Spanish, and they tend to keep their books in print longer than a commercial press might.
6. Livingston Press
Livingston Press, of the University of West Alabama, was founded in 1984. The nonprofit press publishes ten books of fiction a year. They look for offbeat fiction with a strong voice.
7. McPherson & Company
An independent press since 1974, McPherson & Company publishes literary nonfiction and fiction (contemporary American and British fiction; translated Italian, French, and Spanish fiction), books in the arts and general culture, and a rediscovery series, Recovered Classics.
8. Paul Dry Books
Paul Dry Books is a small, independent press located in Philadelphia that publishes lively fiction (mostly young adult) and nonfiction, including former St. Martin’s Press CEO Thomas McCormack’s The Fiction Editor, the Novel, and the Novelist. As of 2007, they weren’t taking unsolicited submissions, but, still, it’s a press to keep an eye on.
9. Pleasure Boat Studio
A small, independent press located in New York, NY, founded by Jack Estes in 1996, Pleasure Boat Studio offers a personal touch. You can expect to publish a book with them to be a collaborative venture from beginning to end.