2017: The Indie Publishing Year in Review

2017 has been a big year for indie publishers, with books like 404 Ink’s Nasty Women and Dead Ink’s Know Your Place setting the agenda for literary discussions, while novels and short story collections such as Benjamin Myers’ The Gallows Pole (Blue Moose) and Attrib by Eley Williams (Influx Press) going into multiple editions. A recent Guardian article has pointed to a 79% increase in sales amongst the UK’s independent publishers, and organisations like the Northen Fiction Alliance point to a thriving indie sector. We asked some of our favourite indie publishers to talk us through their highlights.

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&os

And Other Stories – Nichola Smalley, Publicity, Marketing and Sales Manager

What’s been your highlight of 2017?

A reviewer getting sent a handwritten letter by our author Fleur Jaeggy – the extraordinary spidery writing centre-aligned on a single sheet of fine blue paper. The reviewer was so delighted she sent me a photo, and I fell even more in love with Jaeggy than I already had been.

Also, finding out that our forthcoming author, Ann Quin, has a bus named after her in her hometown of Brighton.

What’s been the biggest challenge?

What do you mean? Every day’s a breeze! (lol – too many to name).

Favourite book released by another publisher:

Audre Lorde’s Your Silence Will Not Protect You, published by hot new feminist publishers Silver Press. The woman was a genius – so wise and to the point, and so poetic at the same time.

What are you looking forward to in 2018?

Publishing only women!

If we organised an indie press secret santa, who would you want to buy for, and what would you get them?

Ooh, good one… Perhaps I’d buy Kit Caless of Influx Press a bottle of single malt whisky, after I drank most of his favourite one. A good Dad present for the indie publishing king of dad jokes.

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open

Open Pen – Sean Preston, Editor

What’s been your highlight of 2017?

I’m really sorry but Knausgård’s autobiographical novels Man Splaining.

What’s been the biggest challenge?

Other people.

Favourite book released by another publisher:

Attrib. by Eley Williams.

What are you looking forward to in 2018?

Really want to get out to SeaWorld in Florida, but can only really afford it if a new Open Pen project comes to fruition and Foyles are like, “Yes bloody please,” and then Waterstone’s are like, “Fuck the bed! Absolutely!” and then all the indie bookshops are like, “SHIT. As in… this is THE SHIT which is now a positive thing,” and then WH Smith’s are like, “By Zeus’ scrotum, this is going on the counter with our £1 Cadbury’s Oreo bars, we are that erect by the very sight of it.” I really believe that tiny little novels (let’s call them novelettes) can do well, and it’s probably the last year that SeaWorld will be open as it is being banned by the [CENSORED].

If we organised an indie press secret santa, who would you want to buy for, and what would you get them?

I would get Fernando Sdrigotti Gibraltar. It’s much nicer to give gifts from your own personal property.

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spurl

Spurl Editions – Eva Richter, Editor in Chief

What’s been your highlight of 2017?

It has been fantastic to see the resurgence of interest in Michel Leiris’s work (he made it into Harper’s!), and meeting some of the photographers we’ve featured on our blog over the summer was very special.

What’s been the biggest challenge?

Coming up with new and interesting things to say to our post office man as he individually labels thirty packages going to customers… He remains a mystery and an enigma to me, although nothing mysterious remains about me anymore.

Favourite book released by another publisher:

An incredible photography book released in 2017 is Control, by Çağdaş Erdoğan. Check it out here, then buy it! Erdoğan is currently imprisoned in Turkey by their fascist leader, accused of photographing a government building.

What are you looking forward to in 2018?

Accomplishing all the things Spurl has put off for so long. For example, inaugurating a mascot of some kind, maybe a masked miniature otter. Creating a book with a sandpaper cover that ruins any book it comes in contact with. Instigating an obscenity trial with our publications, or a copyright trial, or really any trial in which we can yell out “point of order!” Plus, publishing books! We can’t wait to publish an engrossing, dizzying work by Luigi Pirandello. You will all love it.

If we organised an indie press secret santa, who would you want to buy for, and what would you get them?

Rixdorf Editions – a perfectly preserved curiosity cabinet belonging to a late-nineteenth-century Berlin madame, as well as every book that she accumulated over her years in business.

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comma

Comma Press – Becca Parkinson, Sales and Production Manager

What’s been your highlight of 2017?

Collectively for Comma, there are almost too many highlights to choose from; in terms of books we’ve published, events we’ve hosted and milestones we’ve passed, there are many proud moments: Protest coming out after years of hard work for our publisher, Ra, Iraq + 100 being released in America by Tor (Pan Macmillan), The Northern Fiction Alliance stand at Frankfurt, and also announcing our inaugural patrons, Courttia Newland and Maxine Peake. My personal highlight would be our sell-out event at Manchester Lit Fest this year for Protest, featuring both patrons, Kit de Waal, and Michelle Green. Their readings and debate absolutely brought the house down, and Maxine performing Michelle Green’s Suffragette story had a number of people (me included) reaching for tissues.

What’s been the biggest challenge?

The biggest challenge has definitely been balancing so many projects between the 4 of us, as well as the usual day-to-day workings of a publishing house. We certainly aren’t the only indie press with a small team and a diverse output of books, events, digital projects and writer development, but to have managed it all, not lost the plot, and still be hungry to take on more, is something that I’m proud of. I’m very excited to get cracking on next year’s awesome line-up of books.

Favourite book released by another publisher:

I know it’s sacrilege to not name a book by a fellow indie, but my standout book of this year has to be Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi, from the cover design to the century-spanning narrative, I knew I’d love this book from the moment I heard Yaa herself read the first few pages at an event at Waterstone’s Manchester Deansgate.

What are you looking forward to in 2018?

I am very much looking forward to working on my second translated collection as co-editor, The Book of Riga (the first was The Book of Tbilisi, out December 2017), and also working on events and marketing for our Banned Nations Showcase in 2018.

If we organised an indie press secret santa, who would you want to buy for, and what would you get them?

I think I’d want to buy for Nathan at Dead Ink Books, or more accurately Blue (the dog); I’d get him a Christmas bone, so that he doesn’t eat any more of Nathan’s book post (see their Twitter). 2018 goal: Comma office dog!

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dodo

Dodo Ink – Thom Cuell, Editor

What’s been your highlight of 2017?

Watching our author Monique Roffey giving her keynote speech at GrrrlCon (For Books’ Sake’s festival of women writers). She’s been a really inspiring writer to work with, and watching her talk about risk-taking, sexuality and the importance of women’s stories in front of that crowd was a reminder of why I got into publishing in the first place.

What’s been the biggest challenge?

The amount of time and money spent in post offices, sending out review copies; the shame of having to buy copies of The Sun and Daily Mail when our books were featured in them; trying to persuade our accountant that the Dodo’s absinthe bills constituted a legitimate business expense.

Favourite book released by another publisher:

Attrib by Eley Williams deserves all the praise it gets, but I think I have to pick Michelle Tea’s apocalyptic queer roman a clef Black Wave, from And Other Stories

What are you looking forward to in 2018?

Starting the year with a month dedicated to reading new submissions. I’m also looking forward to Dead Ink’s Eden Society project, break.up by Joanna Walsh, and hopefully seeing indie publishers continuing to produce politically engaged work on the lines of Nasty Women, Know Your Place and The Good Immigrant.

If we organised an indie press secret santa, who would you want to buy for, and what would you get them?

A bottle of Writer’s Tears whisky to share with the Minor Lit[s] team. A babybel advent calendar for Open Pen’s Sean Preston.

***castleInside the Castle – John Trefry, Publisher

What’s been your highlight of 2017?

Vomiting on a paramedic in Tokyo. Wait, is this about the press? It would have to be working with really really talented and wonderful and sweet people on their books, feeding on their enthusiasm, and watching others get motivated in-turn by that work. There is nothing more satisfying than a self-perpetuating culture. Top-down culture is absurd.

What’s been the biggest challenge?

It is always difficult getting press. Being flooded with great work is easy because so many people are doing wonderful and interesting things that they want to share. But far fewer people want to work on cultivating the culture in a broader sense by actively supporting other people’s work with review-writing or interviews or what have you. I think it is seen as a relatively thankless endeavour, but it isn’t at all.

Favourite book released by another publisher:

Old Rendering Plant from Two Lines Press. The second I finished it I wanted to start again. That is rare. It was like a fluid I wanted to be suspended in. Finishing the book was like being born and wanting to die instantly so you didn’t have to feel what it was like be somewhere else.

What are you looking forward to in 2018?

Working very hard. I love to work. Inside the Castle has eight books coming out next year. They are all incredibly different, from Noor Al-Samarrai’s tiny field-guide of poetry El Cerrito to Mike Kleine’s 800 page digitally generated novel Lonely Men Club, it is going to be a worky wonky year.

If we organised an indie press secret santa, who would you want to buy for, and what would you get them?

Honestly I hardly know anyone, but I like to cook, so I guess I would just have an open invitation to a vegan holiday party at my house. Maybe it would help me meet some folks!

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dw

Dostoyevsky Wannabe – Richard and Vikki, Publishers

What’s been your highlight of 2017?

The highlight of the year for us was seeing Gurr play live at Gullivers in Manchester because they’re like the best young band we’ve seen for ages. They’re from Berlin and their album is great but EVERYONE has to go and see them live because they’re just so exciting to watch live. No disrespect to the other two members of the band but Andreya Casablanca and Laura Lee are the coolest two people we’ve seen in a band for years and they do none of that ‘let’s be professional’ nonsense that so many artists feel the need to obsess over these days. instead they’re just two people pogoing around like real people in a band and not like the usual choreographed stage-school auto-tune sounding actors in bands falsity.

What’s been the biggest challenge?

We try to design our lives and our press to avoid any possible challenge.

Favourite book released by another publisher:

This is going to show a distinct lack of solidarity with all indie-presses who are producing prose and poetry but our favourite book of the year by another publisher has to be a photo book and entitled Untypical Girls put together by Sam Knee and put out on Cicada Books.

What are you looking forward to in 2018?

Can we do the proper publishing type thing here and say that Dostoyevsky Wannabe has so many insanely cool books coming out next year that we’re looking forward to them all. Here’s the ones we know about: Liberating the Canon, an anthology featuring so many fantastic writers edited by Isabel Waidner, Metempoiesis by Rose Knapp, Dark Hour by Nadia de Vries, A Hypocritical Reader by Rosie Snajdr, The Peeler by Bertie Marshall, Blooming Insanity by Chuck Harp, Honest Days by Matt Bookin, Lou Ham by Paul Hawkins and 150 Pornographers by Victoria Brown. Hope we haven’t forgotten anyone for next year. Also Richard is looking forward to attending the Queer Cinema module at the University of Manchester for his Masters degree.

If we organised an indie press secret santa, who would you want to buy for, and what would you get them?

Y’know we’ve never understood the rules of secret santa but let’s give it a go. We’d buy a packet of high-quality conchiglie pasta and a Belle and Sebastian CD for Russell Bennetts of Queen Mob’s and we’d be very upfront and transparent about it because we’d want him to know how much we’d spent so that he knew there was a spending limit and so that he could get us something of equivalent value and no one would wind up feeling sheepish or embarrassed.

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iequusEquus Press – David Vichnar, Publisher

What’s been your highlight of 2017?

At Equus, definitely the publication of Daniela Cascella’s Singed – also the pre-production work on this manuscript & my extensive correspondence with & work on Daniela’s writing – a rite of passage in many respects! From the publisher’s (mine) blurb: “Singed performs a transmission of knowledge in a condition of instability across languages, media and cultures. The text attempts a multilingual type of writing, not “in translation,” but in “trance-lation”: between languages, ceaselessly trancelating words, rhythms and silences in a state of otherness in motion. In Singed, Cascella presents memory as sonically associative (‘Will the song’s murmur muster a mourning?’), meditating on how to undertake writing vis-à-vis silence.”

What’s Been the Biggest Challenge?

Keeping ourselves afloat financially, with some heavy cuts in our budget & money increasingly hard to come by for a Prague-based Anglophone publisher (our London- & Paris-links notwithstanding). Money is lacking all across the humanities sector, and independent publishing is no exception.

Favourite book released by another publisher:

Moving Kings, by Joshua Cohen (Random House), still only half-finished but after my mixed feelings re Book of Numbers I’m happy to report Cohen is back on the right track. Laugh-out-loud funny if also tragicomic and painfully contemporary.

What are you looking forward to in 2018?

From other publishers, to The Unmapped Country, by the one and only Ann Quin. From Equus, to Thor Garcia’s Pink Alligator and to Phil Shoenfelt’s Stripped – a trilogy of novels from 1980s NYC.

If we organised an indie press secret santa, who would you want to buy for, and what would you get them?

Atlas Press, something pataphysical of course!


Interviews by Tomoe Hill, Lara Alonso, Daniela Cascella and Thom Cuell.

image by freeimageslive.co.uk – christmashat