Brand-name authors like Walter Mosley, who regularly publish with small presses, have punctured the myth that big books come only from big houses. Every year, niche publishers produce national bestsellers, like last year's business book How Full Is Your Bucket? from Gallup Press and Seth Kantner's first novel, Ordinary Wolves, from Milkweed. The following six titles are likely to confirm that, with the right book and the right promotion, smaller houses can move just as many copies as the big six.

A Man Without a Country

by Kurt Vonnegut
Seven Stories Press, dist. by Consortium
Pub date: September 15
Price: $23.95 hardcover
First printing: 50,000 copies
Promotion: national media
If there's any doubt that 82-year-old Kurt Vonnegut is still one of the most popular writers in the U.S., the sales of his two best-known novels should dispel it. His 36-year-old novel Slaughterhouse 5 has sold nearly 66,000 copies this year in the mass market and trade paperback combined; while his 42-year-old novel Cat's Cradlesold 34,000 copies in trade, according to Nielsen BookScan.That makes it likely that readers will embrace Vonnegut's first major work since 1999. Calling it a "very naked book," Seven Stories publisher Dan Simon says the collection of essays and speeches written over the last five years were inspired by Mark Twain and Eugene V. Debs. Many of the pieces were motivated by indignation at the "smart, personable people who have no consciences" in the Bush administration, which he accuses of invading Iraq to feed America's oil addiction. Vonnegut will launch the book with an appearance on The Daily Show. NPR and USA Today, among others, will also feature it.


by Octavia E. Butler
Seven Stories Press, dist. by Consortium
Pub date: October 14
Price: $24.95 hardcover
First printing: 50,000 copies
Promotion: 10-city tour
It's unusual to combine a science fiction novel about a 53-year-old black vampire with profound social commentary on racism, but Octavia Butler's new novel succeeds at it. That may explain Butler's loyal and diverse following: on her 10-city tour, she will visit general, science fiction and African-American bookstores. At publication, Butler will be featured in Essencemagazine and on NASA's Jet-Propulsion Lab Web site (

Ten years after leaving Doubleday to publish her hardcovers with Seven Stories, Butler is going strong in all formats. Her 1994 novel Parable of the Sower has sold 97,000 mass market copies this year, and the 25th-anniversary edition of her novel Kindred is Beacon Press's bestselling backlist title, with sales of close to 50,000 copies a year. In October, Seven Stories will publish a new paperback edition of her short story collection, Bloodchild and Other Stories, which will include two new novellas.

The Summer of Ordinary Ways

by Nicole Lea Helget
Borealis Books, dist. by the Univ. of Chicago Press
Pub date: October 15
Price: $19.95 hardcover
First printing:10,000 copies
Promotion: Six-city tour
"I think this is really what memoir is supposed to be," says Hans Weyandt, co-owner of Micawber's Books in St. Paul, Minn., of Helget's gothic tale of her brutal childhood on a Minnesota farm. The story, which moves backward and forward in time, ends in 2003, when the author is 27 and a single mother of three who contemplates becoming a writer. Weyandt compares the rawness and immediacy of Helget's writing to Dorothy Allison's in Bastard Out of Carolina, while the PW said simply, "her words sing." Barnes & Noble has also chosen the book as a Discover Great New Writers pick.

Helget received two hardcover offers after she published an award-winning essay published in Speakeasy magazine: one from a New York editor and the other from Greg Britton, publisher of Borealis Books, the five-year-old trade imprint of nonprofit Minnesota Historical Society Press. But it was Britton who came away with a signed contract, after driving three hours on a Saturday morning to Mankato, Minn., to meet the unagented author. Now, he says, the upcoming auction for paperback rights has attracted even more interest from New York houses.

The Horses in My Life

by Monty Roberts
Trafalgar Square, dist. by Trafalgar Square
Pub date: September
Price: $19.95
First printing: 50,000 copies
Promotion: $50,000; 10-city tour
As the inspiration for the book and film The Horse Whispererand the bestselling author of The Man Who Listens to Horses (1.3 million copies sold in the U.S. and 58 weeks on the New York Timesbestsellers list), Roberts could have published with a major house. Instead, he chose Trafalgar as a way to repay owner and publisher Caroline Robbins for helping him find Jane Turnbull, the agent who launched his writing career in 1997, and for editing his 2002 self-published book on training horses, From My Hands to Yours.

The new book celebrates Roberts's favorite horses over the past 60 years. It also marks the first time the Pomfret, Vt.—based publisher and distributor has undertaken such a big first printing and participated in the Book Sense co-op reimbursement program. Yet the company, which is located on a working farm, is no stranger to equestrian titles. It has sold more than half a million copies of Sally Swift's Centered Riding and publishes eight to 10 horse books a year.

Bag the Elephant!: How to Win and Keep Big Customers

by Steve Kaplan
Bard Press, dist. by NBN
Pub date: September 15
Price: $19.95 hardcover
First printing: 100,000 copies in two pre-pub printings
Promotion: $250,000 budget; 30-city tour; 60-city satellite radio tour
Business books aren't usually "cuddly," but that's how Bard Press is positioning Steve Kaplan's book on how to woo big clients, which he dubs "elephants." With a foreword from former Procter & Gamble chairman and CEO John E. Pepper, the Austin, Tex.—based press is aiming for an audience of sales people, executives, attorneys and others who are dependent on big clients.

Bard has secured a place for the book on the front tables at Borders and Barnes & Noble, and hired Planned Television Arts to coordinate a 30-city tour. At bookstores and at business breakfasts, Kaplan will speak about how he grew his own business into a $250-million-a-year global operation before selling it a few years ago. If Bag the Elephant! captures a slot on business bestsellers lists, it will be the 12th national bestseller out of the 25 titles published by Bard in the past decade.

Michael Moore: A Biography

by Madison Brown
ECW Press, dist. by IPG
Pub date: September
Price: $24.95
First printing: 15,000 copies
Biographies of left-wing icons may become a profitable niche for Toronto-based ECW Press, which will publish an unauthorized look at the controversial filmmaker Michael Moore. Publisher Jack David came up with the idea for the book after selling $100,000 in foreign rights to Robert F. Barsky's biography of left-wing social critic Noam Chomsky, which the MIT Press published in the U.S. in 1997.

Although Brown is a pseudonym for a fiction writer from Moore's native Michigan, David doesn't think that will hurt her balanced look at Moore's journey from Eagle Scout to Bush critic. Even before galleys were available, ECW sold French and German rights. To promote the book, the company is targeting students with ads in college newspapers, and has hired a freelance publicist. David is relying on Moore to help the company dig out of debt after three of its distributors in the U.S. and Canada went bankrupt in two years. Despite those setbacks, last year was the company's best ever, says David. "Sales were up about 40% and profits grew in the low double-digits."