In response to what she perceives as a lack of interest by major trade publishers in serious black writing, novelist Tina McElroy Ansa has now become a publisher, launching DownSouth Press, an independent house committed to serious contemporary African-American literature by established and new authors.

Based on St. Simons Island, Ga., the press plans to issue four lists a year, with no more than three books each. Each seasonal list will feature a new title by an established author and at least one by a debut writer. DownSouth Press's first list will be released in the fall and the lead title will be Ansa's new novel, Taking After Mudear, a sequel to the author's Ugly Ways (Harcourt).

The press plans to publish in hardcover and trade paperback simultaneously. The press will accept only agented manuscripts after July 1. DownSouth is currently in talks with several distributors, but has yet to make a selection. Veteran editor and book retailer Blanche Richardson will be DownSouth's senior editor and the press will use a number of editorial freelancers.

Ansa is the author of four novels, all published by major houses, and is the founder of the Sea Island Writers Retreat. She also believes serious literature is being neglected to publish popular writing, like street or urban fiction. "I want DownSouth Press to be a haven that values authors, great storytelling and beautiful writing," Ansa said.