Independent publisher Green City Books launched in Bend, Ore., this week with an open-minded, “genre agnostic” approach and a leaning toward literary fiction. Green City founders Jessica Hammerman and Isaac Peterson are making a shift from their hybrid publishing company, Emerald Books, to a traditional publishing model. Green City will be distributed by Publishers Group West, and Hammerman and Peterson plan to publish six to 12 titles per year.

Green City favors upmarket literary fiction and memoir, with Hammerman a fan of historical subjects and Peterson keen to publish literary science fiction that "transcends genre." Novels by Edward Hamlin, Regina McBride, and David Plante are scheduled through August 2024.

Hammerman and Peterson, a married couple, moved from New York to Bend in 2013, bringing years of freelance editing and book design experience. Hammerman teaches history at a local college while keeping a hand in editorial work, and Peterson, author of the picture book Gray Fox in the Moonlight, specializes in writing and book design.

Peterson’s artistic abilities caught the attention of fellow Bend resident Joe Olshan, editorial director of the indie publisher Delphinium Books, which is based in Santa Monica and distributed by HarperCollins. “Isaac is kind of a guru in graphic design—he knows InDesign really well,” Olshan said. After Peterson consulted on several Delphinium projects, Olshan began encouraging him and Hammerman to consider traditional publishing themselves.

Olshan, who now serves as Green City’s editorial advisor, argued that he hears from agents eager to sell work to indie houses “because big houses have their strictures. Great writing is falling through the cracks because of sales figures or because it doesn’t fit a certain niche.” Delphinium, for example, has published work by Brooks Hansen, Alison Lurie, Rachel Pastan, and Marian Thurm.

In addition to Olshan’s suggestions, “PubWest was really key” to their decision to found Green City, Hammerman said. She and Patterson attended a PubWest conference, and Peterson connected with PubWest’s mentorship program to set up a yearlong correspondence with Kurt Brackob, director of the Las Vegas indie publisher Histria Books. Once a week, Peterson called Brackob to ask basic questions about distribution and the startup.

Green City’s first title will be a debut novel, Sonata in Wax, by Edward Hamlin (April 2024). Hamlin won the Chicago Tribune’s Nelson Algren Short Story Award in 2020. Their second publication, Stranger from Across the Sea (June 2024), is a new book from novelist and memoirist Regina McBride. In August 2024, Green City will publish National Book Award nominee David Plante’s Eternity, a novel set in London.

“The amazing thing about publishing is that everyone is invested in each other,” Peterson said, thinking about his experiences with PubWest, Brackob, and Olshan. “They work behind the scenes on your behalf, to advance you and bring you to another project. I just kind of fell in love with the community.”