Just recently, a small press based in the Highlands of Scotland published the English translation of ‘Celestial Bodies’ by Jokha Alharthi. The novel won the 2019 Man Booker International Prize.
This is part of an interesting trend where books published by small independent presses are making their way to major literary prizes such as the Man Booker, Pulitzer Prize, and even the Nobel. At that stage they are often taken up by major publishing companies and presented anew, like Eliza Dolittle in her feathered hat.
Many authors seek the collegial support, distribution network and marketing expertise of large commercial publishers. But more often than not, they are faced with rejection from these major presses. Even famous authors have felt this pain. Before publication, James Joyce’s Dubliners was rejected 22 times; Stephen King’s Carrie was rejected about 30 times. Beatrix Potter had to first publish The Tales of Peter Rabbit herself. Given the ease of self-publishing nowadays, this latter option is something many authors now pursue.
But there’s a new development – an increasing reliance of writers on small, independent publishers who believe in the author’s work and go the extra mile to support it. Though publishing conglomerates pour large amounts into preparing a book for market, from an author’s perspective, independent publishers often have an edge. As small presses, they tend to specialize in niche markets, are less risk-averse, and may accept works not neatly fitted to some commercial genres. The Indies are usually small enough, or independent enough, to have the desire to really care about their lists’ longevity.
There’s no doubt that quality Indies are here to stay.