That the New York Times Book Review would devote the front cover of its June 24 issue to Per Petterson’s Out Stealing Horses (Graywolf) was a clear validation of the importance of independent presses. Despite the dominance of a handful of large houses, smaller presses play an important role in nurturing talented writers like graphic novelist Adrian Tomine, author of Shortcomings (Drawn & Quarterly) and encouraging established artists to stretch their creativity, like singer/songwriter Ani DiFranco, who will publish her first collection of poetry with Seven Stories. And with the continuing consolidation of large and mid-size houses—witness Houghton Mifflin’s recent announcement that it will buy Harcourt—small, independent presses provide a needed outlet for new voices, like film-writer-turned-mystery-author Troy Cook (Capital Crime Press). Below are six titles we think might make a splash this fall.

An Arsonist’s Guide to Writers’ Homes in New Englandby Brock ClarkeAlgonquin, $24.95; Sept. 4; simultaneous audio release with Random House Audio20-city tour; 2,000 ARCs and postcards at BEA; ARC mailing to 600 booksellers; trade show appearances at NEIBA and PNBA; national advertising, including the New York Times Book ReviewClarke’s tale of a suburban Everyman who accidentally sets fire to Emily Dicksinson’s house and is accused of setting other literary conflagrations has already sparked a lot of pre-pub buzz and is the number one Book Sense pick for September. PW’s starred review proclaimed narrator Sam Pulsifer “equal parts fall guy and tour guide in this bighearted and wily jolt to the American literary legacy.... A multilayered, flame-filled adventure about literature, lies, love and life.”The One Minute Assassin
by Troy Cook
Capital Crime (dist. by SCB), Sept.; $14.95 paperback original
40-city tour, including New York, Chicago, San Francisco and Los Angeles
In his sophomore effort (after 47 Rules of Highly Effective Bank Robbers), Cook settles into the business of crime writing after a career of writing and directing feature films. The Russian mafia and ex-PI John Black get involved when a California gubernatorial candidate decides to get rid of his competition, literally. Film rights for Cook’s debut novel, which was the bestselling title in 2006 for two-year-old Colorado-based Capital Crime, were acquired by FilmColony and Richard Gladstein, producer of The Bourne Identity.
by Adrian Tomine
Drawn & Quarterly (dist. by FSG), Oct.; $19.95; 25,000 first printing
9-city author tour includes stops in to New York, Los Angeles and Seattle; 2008 national college tour; national advertising ; rights sold to the U.K. and France
This book marks a number of firsts for the creator of the Optic Nerve graphic novel series and his publisher. It’s Tomine’s first long-form graphic novel—about a Japanese-American man in his late 20s and his cross-country search for contentment or the perfect girl. And it’s the first book that Drawn & Quarterly sold foreign rights to in advance of publication; the first time it’s planned two tours for the same book; and the first time it’s offered booksellers newsletter co-op. Jonathan Lethem calls it “as deceptively relaxed and perfect as a comic book gets.”
Refresh, Refresh: Stories
by Benjamin Percy
Graywolf Press (dist. by FSG), Oct.; $15 paperback original
Author tour to Midwest and New York; national print advertising
The title story of Percy’s second story collection (after The Language of Elk) set in rural Oregon, about young men whose fathers are off in Iraq, has already garnered a lot of attention. It was anthologized in Best American Short Stories by Ann Patchett, who called it the story of 2006. It won a Plimpton Prize for Fiction and a Pushcart Prize, and has been optioned by indie filmmaker James Ponsoldt. PW Rep of the Year Mark Gates says, “Ben’s array of recent honors and awards makes presenting his new collection of stories an easy sell. No bookseller wants to be without it.”
Ani DiFranco: Verses
by Ani DiFranco
Seven Stories (dist. by Consortium), Sept. 11; $18.95 paper over board
20-city tour for book and new CD; major chain promotions
Crystal Yakacki at Seven Stories calls DiFranco “a real voice for our generation,” and was instrumental in acquiring this first collection of the noted singer/songwriter’s poetry. Beautifully produced, the book brings together the spoken poems by the eight-time Grammy nominee with her artwork, mostly done in tempera between 1990 and 2006. DiFranco’s Righteous Babe Records label is copublishing to coincide with the release of her first retrospective album, Canon.
The Pirate’s Daughter: A Novel
by Margaret Cezair-Thompson
Unbridled Books, Oct. 15; $24.95
6-city author tour, including New York, and five-city pre-pub tour; co-op; online promotion; shelf talkers
“There are books, and then there are great books,” says Marva Allen of Hue-Man Bookstore in New York City, who rates Cezair-Thompson’s sophomore effort (after The True History of Paradise) as a literary triumph on a par with The Kite Runner and The Life of Pi. Set in Jamaica, this tale of a local girl, who has an affair with Errol Flynn, and her daughter mixes romance, intrigue, voodoo, reggae and Jamaican history into a potent blend. “I was completely caught off guard by how wonderful it is,” adds Jamie Kornegay of Turnrow Books in Greenwood, Miss. “The Pirate’s Daughter has the makings of a sleeper hit.”

Looking Back: Spring Sleepers
Last December, PW previewed a handful of independent press books with strong sales potential. This Is Not the Life I Ordered and Flower Confidential hit regional and/or extended national bestsellers lists. The Little Girl and the Cigarette developed a cult following at indie stores despite almost no reviews, a phenomenon noted by Chicago’s Time Out.

Love in Black and White: A Memoir of Race, Religion, and Romance

by William S. Cohen with Janet Langhart Cohen

(Rowman & Littlefield, Feb.)
2 printings; announced 50,000 first printing Bill Clinton hosted the book launch; authors appeared on The Today Show and were interviewed in Parade

This Is Not the Life I Ordered: 50 Ways to Keep Your Head Above Water When Life Keeps Dragging You Down

by Deborah Collins Stephens, Jackie Speier, Michealene Cristini Risley and Jan Yanehiro

(Conari, Mar.)
35,000 copies in print; a second printing is being planned Reviewed in nearly 50 print publications, from Women’s Day to the Indianapolis Star Appeared on the San Francisco Chronicle and NCIBA bestseller lists Rights sold to Korea

Flower Confidential: The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful in the Business of Flowers

by Amy Stewart

(Algonquin, Feb.)
32,000 copies in print with four printings Reviewed in People, Fast Company, the Wall Street Journal and Parade A Book Sense pick; hit the New York Times and Book Sense extended bestseller lists

The Little Girl and the Cigarette

by Benoît Duteurtre

(Melville House, Feb.)
Announced 10,000 first printing; has gone back to press Won an AIGA Design Award for Best Cover Rights to Telegram in the U.K.

The Octonauts & the Only Lonely Monster

by Meomi

(Immedium, Nov. 2006)
10,000 copies in print after two printings Strong online reviews; named March 2007 Best Buy by Vancouver magazine Rights sold to Japan