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Start the presses: Indie publishing on the rise

The rumors of independent book publishing’s demise have been greatly exaggerated, if you ask Stalking Horse Press publisher James Reich. Reich, who is also the chair of the creative writing and literature department at Santa Fe University of Art and Design, wrote to Pasatiempo, “We need small presses to keep literature vital, because the corporations owned by Rupert Murdoch or CBS, for example, aren’t particularly interested in literature.”

Though 80 percent of U.S. books are produced by the “big five” publishers — Penguin Random House, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, Hachette, and Macmillan — the overarching trend in publishing is to pay large advances and bet big on blockbuster debut authors, thus leaving less money to invest in a more diverse catalog of books. As a result, small presses are taking up the slack and publishing increasingly more well-rounded book lists — and readers are taking notice. Reich’s sentiments are echoed by a July 2016 article in The Atlantic (“American Literature Needs Indie Presses”), in which Nathan Scott McNamara writes, “In re-organizing the priorities of book publishing — by inventing new models rather than trying to repeat past success, by valuing ingenuity over magnitude, by thinking of sales as a way to make great books possible rather than the point — indie presses aren’t just becoming the places where the best books are published; they’re already there.”

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