"People are more open to reading outside the bubble than we give them credit for,” says Tin House editorial director Maisie Cochran. This fall, as in seasons past, indie publishers like Tin House are happy to oblige by putting out unconventional and adventurous works. PW spoke with Cochran and others about their biggest new releases and the state of independent publishing, where such challenges as rising labor, printing, and shipping costs are balanced by the virtues of editorial freedom, risk taking over trend following, and long-standing relationships with authors and readers.
Haymarket senior editor Katy O’Donnell says that indies have weathered market swings because they have developed strong relationships with readers. “When you pick up a Graywolf book or a New Directions book or a Haymarket book, you know you’re getting a certain quality and perspective,” O’Donnell notes. Coming this October from the Chicago-based press is Going for Broke: Living on the Edge in the World’s Richest Country. Edited by the Economic Hardship Reporting Project's executive director, Alissa Quart, and former managing director, David Wallis, the book gathers firsthand accounts—articles, poetry, and photography—from writers experiencing poverty.
At Rowman & Littlefield, another independent publisher known for nonfiction, senior executive editor Charles Harmon is excited about Brushed Aside: The Untold History of Women in Art by Noah Charney (Oct.), a lavishly illustrated survey of women in the arts. Harmon says the book, which has an afterword from artist Marina Abramovic´, is a “new story that needed to be told.”
Alana Wilcox, editorial director at Toronto’s Coach House Books, says her “goal is not a financial one but a cultural one, and that’s a really luxurious position to be in.” In October, Coach House is bringing out Tamara Faith Berger’s sixth novel, Yara, in which a young woman takes a Birthright trip to Israel and away from her possessive older girlfriend. Wilcox says she admires books like Berger’s that challenge readers to “sit in a little bit of discomfort and really think about how you’re engaging with literature.”
7.13 Books editor Kurt Baumeister adds that while many people perceive indies as akin to minor league teams, presses like his publish books “every bit as good as the largest publishers, and they’re not going to need to throw out 10,000 copies to get PR going.” This fall, 7.13, which initially published only first-time authors, will release James Reich’s sixth novel The Moth for the Star (Sept.), a world-hopping yet compact mystery. “It’s like somebody took Cloud Atlas and did it in 200 pages,” Baumeister says.
Soho Press was preparing to publish Irish author Mike McCormack’s Solar Bones in the U.S. in 2017 when the novel won the Goldsmiths Prize, after which bigger publishers came knocking. “Sorry,” was publisher Bronwen Hruska’s reply. McCormack’s latest, This Plague of Souls (Jan. 2024), merges his Irish lyricism with thriller elements, and Hruska says it’s fascinating to see McCormack “flex this different muscle.” Another hotly anticipated fall Soho title is Mick Herron’s The Secret Hours (Sept.), a standalone that intersects with his acclaimed Slough House espionage series.
Indie presses have long sought out and made splashes with neglected, out-of-print, or untranslated works. McNally Editions launched in 2022 after founder and McNally Jackson Books owner Sarah McNally started “collecting around her like-minded archive dwellers and rare book searchers,” according to executive editor Jeremy Davies, who recently took on the same role at fellow indie Coffee House Press as well. In October, McNally will reissue Lord Jim at Home by Dinah Brooke, who had disappeared from the literary scene before an intern tracked her down to a London apartment two roads down from acquiring editor Lucy Scholes’s. The novel, introduced by Ottessa Moshfegh, is an acerbic tale of buttoned-up familial dysfunction.
New York Review Books, which has brought new life to such forgotten works as John Williams’s Stoner under its reissue imprint, NYRB Classics, hopes to extend its track record of success for original works after Joshua Cohen’s The Netanyahus won the 2022 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. In September, the publisher will release British writer Susie Boyt’s U.S. debut, Loved and Missed, a taut story of motherhood and second chances, which “gets under the skin, with great dialogue that’s a bit cruel,” says publicity manager Nicholas During.
Several storied small presses have big anniversaries this year. Archipelago Books, which is preparing for its 20th anniversary gala in September, has published more than 200 books from 35 languages. “We’re all passionate about finding work from regions we don’t hear from that often,” says editor and publicity director Sarah Gale.
On tap for fall is Siamak Herawi’s Tali Girls (Nov., trans. by Sara Khalili), a choral novel following three girls growing up under the repressive Taliban regime in Afghanistan. “There are so few literary reference points for what it feels like right now to live in Afghanistan,” Gale says. “We feel lucky to read it and to publish it.” Archipelago will also publish Argentine writer Sara Gallardo’s 1958 novel January (Oct., trans. by Maureen Shaughnessy and Frances Riddle), about a teenage girl who is sexually assaulted, and subsequently considers having an abortion, in a conservative Catholic community.
In the Pacific Northwest, Copper Canyon marked its 50th anniversary earlier this year with A House Called Tomorrow, an anthology of Copper Canyon–published poems for which editor Michael Wiegers solicited suggestions from everyone from former employees to the press’s banker. In the forthcoming Personal Best: Makers on Their Poems That Matter Most (Oct.), editors Erin Belieu and Carl Phillips asked poets to select and discuss their own favorite work, which Wiegers says invited “a type of vulnerability and intimacy.” Another major Copper Canyon title is The Blue House: Collected Works of Tomas Tranströmer (Sept., trans. by Patty Crane), the first complete English edition of the Swedish Nobel winner’s work. “We feel a huge responsibility to set the standard,” Wiegers says.
Back on the East Coast, New York City’s Three Rooms Press is celebrating its 30th year with two titles reflecting the eclectic vision of founders Peter Carlaftes and Kat Georges. “A lot of publishers have become very narrowly focused, but we prefer to offer a wider variety of material,” Carlaftes says. Coming in October is The Unvarnished Gary Phillips: A Mondo Pulp Collection, fantastical stories from the L.A. novelist, whom Carlaftes calls “one of the stars of crime fiction and one of the greatest writers of color we’ve ever had.” The publisher is also looking to make waves with Lambda winner Julia Watts’s Lovesick Blossoms (Oct.), the tale of a clandestine lesbian affair in 1950s Kentucky, which “echoes what is happening today with anti-LGBTQ laws,” Georges says.
Go west, young indie
Many of the independent presses PW spoke with operate outside the traditional publishing epicenter of New York City. In San Francisco, McSweeney’s is set to release Eskor David Johnson’s debut novel Pay as You Go (Oct.), about a young man searching the sprawling city of Polis for a suitable apartment. “It’s super maximalist,” says editor Claire Boyle. “The prose is buoyant and funny and kind of outside of time.”
Silver Sprocket, which is also based in San Francisco, began as a record company in 2007 before branching out into comics publishing. As befits its punk rock roots, the publisher is drawn to projects “that might be too political or not commercial enough for a larger press,” says managing editor Ari Yarwood. On the fall slate is The Chromatic Fantasy by H.A. (Oct.), which chronicles the adventures of a trans man who makes a deal with the devil to escape a nunnery.
Peter Goodman, founder and publisher of Berkeley, Calif.–based Stone Bridge Press, which specializes in Japanese-themed books, notes the acute challenges for presses “at the bottom of the food chain.” He is nonetheless heartened by the growing influence of Japanese culture in the U.S., from manga to wabi-sabi. Stone Bridge has begun collaborating with Japanese American literary journal Monkey on book-length translations, the second of which is Dragon Palace (Sept., trans. by Ted Goossen), a surrealist collection from Hiromi Kawakami that includes “The Kitchen God,” which recently appeared in the New Yorker.
Chris Heiser, publisher and cofounder of Los Angeles’s Unnamed Press, says that when indie houses acquire books, “we simply aren’t in the position to not be committed to them.” Touting a fall list that includes novels from “badass women,” Heiser calls Elle Nash’s Deliver Me an “instant classic of body horror” and describes Chin-Sun Lee’s Upcountry as the story of three women from different social classes “pitted against each other, with a gothic element.”
In Portland, Ore., Tin House is excited about the November release of The Liberators, the first novel from poet and memoirist E.J. Koh. Editorial director Maisie Cochran says the novel, which encompasses 20th-century Korean history and the Korean American immigrant experience, feels almost like a memoir “because the characters are so imbued with what E.J. calls ‘shadows of people’ she has known and loved.”
Small (press) expectations
Graywolf editorial director Ethan Nosowsky says that in contrast to the “modernist sensibility” of certain small presses, the Minnesota independent’s list is more “ecumenical.” Its fall books include Shannon Sanders’s Company (Oct.), a linked story collection that riffs on the theme of hospitality, and I’m a Fan (Sept.) from British debut novelist Sheena Patel. Nosowsky says Patel’s story of a toxic relationship both captivated him and instilled in him “a great feeling of unease because it captures our most horrifying feelings about being online.”
Readers picking up an Angry Robot title should expect a “WTF factor,” says publisher Eleanor Teasdale: “Weird books that wouldn’t necessarily thrive in a Big Five house.” Caroline Hardaker’s Mothtown (Nov.), which features illustrations by British artist Chris Riddell and tells the story of a boy trying to find his mysteriously vanished grandfather, fits the bill. The London-based science fiction and fantasy publisher is also putting out Geoff Ryman’s Him (Dec.), in which a girl becomes a male messiah. “A novel which takes on Jesus being trans needs to be done really well and really sensitively,” Teasdale says.
Back in the States, Catapult is focusing its energy and resources on book publishing after closing its online magazine and writing class programs earlier this year. Amanda Peters’s The Berry Pickers (Oct.) tells the story of an Indigenous Canadian girl who is kidnapped and raised by a white family in New England. Also out in October, Ye Chun’s Straw Dogs of the Universe centers on a young Chinese girl sold into servitude and brought to the American West.
In a sentiment echoed by other indie publishers, Catapult editor-in-chief Kendall Storey says she feels optimistic despite the perennial battle to secure attention for the press’s books. “We can take a low-risk, high-reward approach to acquisitions and devote serious time and energy to all our titles. I feel really lucky to be at an indie.”
This article has been updated for clarity.
Read more from our Big Indie Books of Fall feature:
A Wild Playground: PW talks with Eskor David Johnson
The protagonist of Eskor David Johnson’s debut novel, 'Pay as You Go' (McSweeney’s, Oct.), is a barber seeking a suitable place to live in an off-kilter version of New York City whose unruly denizens have other plans for the young man.
20 Indie Books to Read This Fall
The season’s most anticipated releases run the gamut, from rediscovered literary gems to spine-tingling suspense to candid memoir.
Big Indie Books That Booksellers Want You to Read
Independent booksellers from across the country highlight eight independently published books they're excited to sell this fall.
Indie Books for an Independent Youth
New books from independent children’s book publishers coming this fall offer books with topical and universal themes that are certain to resonate with young readers.