Literary fiction is often assumed to be the preserve of high-brow readers and traditional publishers. It’s not and it isn’t.
Indie publishers are making huge waves in the literary fiction world, and are producing some of the best, brightest and most critically acclaimed literary fiction around. They are making it more accessible to a wider audience and enabling everyone to enjoy some fantastic work from some wonderful writers.
In this guest post, Bex from Ninja Book Box profiles four indie publishers that are doing great things for literary fiction.
For a long time independent publishers have been champions of literary fiction. They take risks on translated and form-defying fiction of all sorts and stand out from the bigger publishers who appear to court the latest trends in genre fiction, with eyes firmly placed on bestseller lists. This risky approach means indie publishers are producing some fascinating stuff but not always getting the attention they deserve for it.
Nobody has been happier than me to see the increasing attention indies are getting in the book world. The Man Booker Prize has been won for the past two years by books published by indie publisher Oneworld, while four out of five books shortlisted for this year’s Guardian Not the Booker Prize are independently published, with the sixth wild card option still to be announced. This is particularly interesting because the Not the Booker is voted for by the public, so it’s indicative of a general trend for increasing support of independently published books.
Four indie publishers really stand out to me as being at the forefront of this movement and are responsible for some of the finest literary fiction published in the last few years.
Here are the four indie publishers I would recommend to anyone who enjoys literary fiction:
Persephone Books was set up in 1998 by Nicola Beauman and publishes lost or out of print novels by (mostly) women writers from (mostly) the interwar period.
You would think that this would limit them somewhat in terms of genre, given the social constraints and expectations of women during that period, but they publish a wide range, from memoir through to literary and domestic fiction, thrillers, and even cookery books.
All of their books have a literary slant though, and Persephone are well known for publishing the majority of their titles in beautiful dove grey covers without blurbs so all that you have to go on is a carefully selected extract of the book published on the flyleaf.
I’ve read a few of their titles and honestly would pick up any of their books with the knowledge that they’ll be great. Smaller lists mean it’s easier to develop a relationship of trust with a publisher because it’s easier to get to know their style, and that’s one of my favourite things about Persephone.
Before starting my year of reading independently published books (the experiment was a failure but the ethos a success) my experience of translated fiction was very limited. That changed when, while researching a series I used to run on independent publishers, I discovered And Other Stories.
Established in response to the number of great books not being translated into English, And Other Stories is a non-profit publisher of beautiful quality books, mostly but not all, translated.
They only publish literary fiction and are known for books with big themes and unconventional styles. They are passionate about publishing great books and in 2018 are participating in a year of publishing women, during which they will publish solely books by female authors.
I personally love their innovation and the way they include their readers in the process of publishing through subscriptions and reading groups.
Set up in 2015, Titled Axis Press aims to tilt “the axis of world literature from the centre to the margins” and publish books that are otherwise unlikely to make it into English.
Although you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, their books have gorgeous red spines and are numbered, which probably means you’ll need to just buy them all!
RedDoor Publishing bridges the gap between self-publishing and traditional publishing. Their submission process, editing and marketing are very similar to that of a traditional publisher, but publishing costs are split between the author and publisher in the style of self-publishing.
They operate on a collaborative model and I personally love the opportunity they represent for authors. They publish a wide range of genres, but literary fiction is definitely well represented and they have some very intriguing titles.
Some to try: Dust by Mark Thompson.
Bex has produced a handy list of other indie publishers to explore. Check it out here.
Bex is the founder of Ninja Book Box and London Bookshop Crawl and can’t stop buying books. She lives in a house mainly held up by books, falling over book boxes on the coast of Kent and describes herself as a literary enabler and joy spreader.