In 2012, three women who had been working in the book industry decided that the time was right to strike out on their own. The result, in late 2013, was the launch of two independent publishers: A Strange Object and Holladay House Publishing.
The idea for Holladay House, which focuses on Southern writers and literature, came to Holly Holladay while interning with Evening Post Books—part of the Post and Courier newspaper—in Charleston, S.C., in January 2011. “As an intern, I did a little bit of everything from copy editing to marketing and publicity to planning events. The first two books that I edited and carried through production on my own won gold Benjamin Franklin awards from IBPA in the Poetry/Literary Criticism category and the Gift Book category. They became the company’s bestselling titles.”
Holladay also edited fiction and nonfiction books, managed staff, and oversaw all operations. “I worked on 13 or 14 titles in a wide variety of genres, the last being a political exposé of a state politician,” Holladay said. When upper management decided not to pursue national distribution, and wanted to focus more on the works written by their newspaper staff, Holladay decided it was time for her to establish her own publishing house. Her first title, released last November, was Lawrence Thackton’s mystery Tidal Pools, which currently has 2,500 copies in print.
Holladay has bought a children’s book, two women’s fiction novels, and one nonfiction book for her 2014 catalog. “We plan to publish eight titles this year,” Holladay said. The spring list includes: The Handyman (mystery/detective); Rocks, Paper, Flowers (women’s lit); Grandmother, Me, and the Stocking Tree (children’s book packaged with a Christmas stocking for grandmother); and Waterline (women’s lit/mystery). Holladay also plans to introduce a cookbook line in the fall, releasing two books: A Southern Girl Goes Gourmet, and an as-yet-untitled collection of recipes from the Charleston’s Ladles restaurant chain. Small Press United is handling all of distribution to the book trade, including e-books.
A Strange Object is an independent press in Austin, Tex., dedicated to publishing “surprising and heart breaking” fiction. Cofounders Callie Collins and Jill Meyers started talking about creating an imprint when they were editors at American Short Fiction magazine. “We were curious about what it would be like to sustain focus for longer works and build something together with writers over a longer schedule,” said Meyers.
While at ASF, Collins and Meyers learned the ins and outs of working with writers to publish their short stories. The two resigned from ASF in August 2012 when the nonprofit that operated the publication lost its funding and they disagreed with the board on the best way to save the magazine. Deciding that the best thing to do was build on their history as fiction editors while doing something new, the women incorporated A Strange Object a month after leaving ASF.
While Collins and Meyers plan to publish “genre-busting, playful, and downright mesmerizing work” produced in Texas, they aren’t solely focused on Western literature. “We’re interested in lit that takes place outside the establishment, especially lit working in a Western space or that approaches themes of the West in a new way, but we’re not confining ourselves to any region,” Meyers said. Last October, A Strange Object released its first book, Three Scenarios in Which Hana Sasaki Grows a Tail, a debut collection of stories from Kelly Luce, and it won the IBPA Bill Fisher Award for Best First Book. Its second book, Our Secret Life in the Movies, is set for release this fall. A Strange Object plans to release eight titles annually; all will be distributed by Small Press Distribution.