Celebrating Small Press Month: A Q&A with Three Indie Presses

Did you know that March is National Small Press Month? Started in 1996 by the Small Press Center and the Publishers Marketing Association, the idea was to give indie publishers a wider platform to share their books and lift up their authors, as well as to encourage them to press on (pardon the pun) in their important publishing pursuits in the face of fierce competition from the large publishing houses. We asked three small presses — Catapult/Counterpoint/Softskull, Feminist Press, and Tin House — to tell us about their presses, what makes them unique and important, and which titles they’re most excited about right now.

Catapult/Counterpoint/Soft Skull Press

Rachel Fershleiser, VP/Associate Publisher, Marketing & Events

Can you give us a short introduction to your press for those who aren’t familiar?

Catapult, Counterpoint, and Soft Skull Press are three independent imprints that publish award-winning fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and craft books. Our books are alive, insightful, illuminating, and surprising, written by vital and diverse voices—emerging and established—that honor the craft of writing.

What do you think is the greatest benefit indie presses provide to readers?

Our team is small, collaborative, creative, flexible, and hands on. It feels like we really have the space and the freedom to think about each book as its own project, imagine its dream readership, and try every way we can to bring each author to an audience that’s going to want what we’re selling. We get to be true matchmakers between writer and reader.

What is the importance of the relationship between your press and indie bookstores? 

Indie bookstores are absolutely essential for getting the kind of voices that we love to publish out into the world. We trust your booksellers to read widely and with an open mind, to take a chance on a new perspective, to try out a debut writer or an experimental form. And best of all we know that when you love something you won’t rest until you’ve pressed it into the hands of all the customers you know will love it too.

What are two of your titles folks should grab off the shelves now, and two upcoming titles they should pre-order?

The Survivalists: A Novel By Kashana Cauley Cover ImageThe Survivalists: A Novel

By Kashana Cauley

Right now, readers can pick up The Survivalists, the hilarious tv writer Kashana Cauley’s debut novel about a Black lawyer who puts her career and personal moral code at risk when she moves in with her coffee entrepreneur boyfriend and his doomsday-prepping roommates…

Brutes: A Novel By Dizz Tate Cover ImageBrutes: A Novel

By Dizz Tate

…or Brutes, Dizz Tate’s take on The Virgin Suicides meets The Florida Project, a wildly original coming-of-age story about the crucible of girlhood.

You Are Here: A Novel By Karin Lin-Greenberg Cover ImageYou Are Here: A Novel (releases May 2, 2023)

By Karin Lin-Greenberg

Coming soon is Karin Lin-Greenberg’s You Are Here, which I’m calling The Great American Mall Novel. It brings a diverse group of characters vividly to life as their lives intersect unexpectedly during the last days of the dying shopping mall where they all work…

The Apartment: A Novel By Ana Menéndez Cover ImageThe Apartment: A Novel (releases June 27, 2023)

By Ana Menéndez

…or pre-order The Apartment, which spans decades in the life of one Art Deco Miami apartment where you’ll meet a Cuban concert pianist, a complex green card marriage, a building manager with a secret identity, a troubled young refugee, and many more.

Feminist Press

Jisu Kim, Senior Marketing and Sales Manager

Can you give us a short introduction to your press for those who aren’t familiar?

The Feminist Press publishes books that ignite movements and social transformation, lifting up insurgent and marginalized voices from around the world to build a more just future. Founded in 1970, we began as a crucial publishing component of second wave feminism, and now specialize in an array of genres including cutting-edge fiction, activist nonfiction, literature in translation, hybrid memoirs, children’s books, and more.

What do you think is the greatest benefit indie presses provide to readers?

Many independent publishers are presses of discovery. For a multitude of reasons, these presses not only take chances on, but often prioritize, untried writers, genres, styles, and topics—creating a momentum that, over time, moves the cultural conversation forward.

What is the importance of the relationship between your press and indie bookstores? 

Our relationship with independent bookstores is incredibly important, both as it relates to our values and to our business. As publishers, we look to different literary curators to ensure that our books reach readers—and booksellers are an essential part of that ecosystem, acting as community hubs that connect geographically-specific or affinity-based audiences. And especially for small and independent presses, a bookseller championing and handselling a book—particularly when it’s a less commercial title, an edgier list, or more grassroots author—can have demonstrable and meaningful impact.

What are two of your titles folks should grab off the shelves now, and two upcoming titles they should pre-order?

Tastes Like War: A Memoir By Grace M. Cho Cover ImageTastes Like War: A Memoir

By Grace M. Cho

Tastes Like War by Grace. M. Cho was a finalist for the National Book Award for Nonfiction, and a TIME and NPR Best Book of the Year in 2021; this hybrid memoir is a Korean-American daughter’s exploration of food and family history, in order to understand the roots of her mother’s schizophrenia, as well as her strength.

It Came from the Closet: Queer Reflections on Horror By Joe Vallese (Editor), Carmen Maria Machado (Contribution by), Bruce Owens Grimm (Contribution by) Cover ImageIt Came from the Closet: Queer Reflections on Horror

By Joe Vallese (Editor), Carmen Maria Machado (Contribution by), Bruce Owens Grimm (Contribution by)

It Came from the Closet: Queer Reflections on Horror, edited by Joe Vallese, anthologizes the work of twenty-five queer and trans writers, using the lens of horror—from Halloween to Hereditary—to consider he films that deepened, amplified, and illuminated their own experiences.

Body Horror: Capitalism, Fear, Misogyny, Jokes By Anne Elizabeth Moore Cover ImageBody Horror: Capitalism, Fear, Misogyny, Jokes (releases April 18, 2023)

By Anne Elizabeth Moore

Body Horror: Capitalism, Fear, Misogyny, Jokes by Anne Elizabeth Moore is a collection of personal and investigative essays on a series of wide-ranging topics—the author’s journey through the US healthcare system, the Cambodian garment industry, the history of menstrual products, just to name a few—to explore the global toll of capitalism on our physical autonomy.

Happy Stories, Mostly By Norman Erikson Pasaribu, Tiffany Tsao (Translator) Cover ImageHappy Stories, Mostly (releases June 6, 2023)

By Norman Erikson PasaribuTiffany Tsao (Translator)

Happy Stories, Mostly by Norman Erikson Pasaribu was longlisted for the International Booker Prize: these twelve short stories ask what it means to be almost happy—to nearly find joy, to sort-of be accepted, but to never fully grasp one’s desire—and blend together speculative fiction and dark absurdism, drawing from Batak and Christian cultural elements.

Tin House

Nanci McCloskey, Associate Publisher, Director of Sales & Marketing

Can you give us a short introduction to your press for those who aren’t familiar?

Based in Portland, Oregon, Tin House is the publisher of award-winning books of literary fiction, nonfiction, and poetry; home to a renowned workshop and seminar series; and partner of a critically acclaimed podcast. Tin House champions writing that is artful, dynamic, and original. We are proud to publish and promote writers who speak to a wide range of experiences, and lend context and nuance to their examination of our world.

What do you think is the greatest benefit indie presses provide to readers?

Independent presses provide readers with unique and, often, boundary-pushing prose and poetry. We don’t have all the same concerns of scale that large publishers contend with so we can take chances on work that is meaningful and important even if they might not sell a hundred thousand copies.

What is the importance of the relationship between your press and indie bookstores? 

The relationship Tin House has to independent bookstores can’t be overstated. We rely on indie booksellers, with their dedication to hand-selling and personalized customer attention, to be our cheerleaders out in the world. We know when we send our Advance Reading Copies to frontline booksellers that they get the care and attentiveness they deserve. Indie booksellers are the tastemakers in book publishing, and we’ve seen over and over again, when booksellers get behind a book it makes all the difference.

What are two of your titles folks should grab off the shelves now, and two upcoming titles they should pre-order?

Thirst for Salt By Madelaine Lucas Cover ImageThirst for Salt

By Madelaine Lucas

Thirst for Salt is literary and sexy and smart. It’s about a 20-something who falls for a man twenty years her senior. She lives with him in his charming old house off the coast of Australia. They meet in the water, and the setting and the atmosphere, and their attraction pulls you in. I swear I could taste the salt water as I was reading.

Judas Goat: Poems By Gabrielle Bates Cover ImageJudas Goat: Poems

By Gabrielle Bates

This debut poetry collection left me raw and tear-streaked. I don’t know how to express its impact other than to say I felt more human after reading it.

The Language of Trees: A Rewilding of Literature and Landscape By Katie Holten, Ross Gay (Introduction by) Cover ImageThe Language of Trees: A Rewilding of Literature and Landscape (releases April 4, 2023)

By Katie HoltenRoss Gay (Introduction by)

First, it must be said, this is the most beautiful book in the world. Katie Holten illustrates with her tree language works from Plato, James Gleick, Aimee Nezhukumatathil, Elizabeth Kolbert, Ursula K. Le Guin, Carl Phillips, Robert Macfarlane, Zadie Smith, and Radiohead, among 50-so contributors. Holten—like the best naturalists do—imbues each selection with an abiding love and reverence for the magic of trees. Here are a few words from the artist: “The Language of Trees is a book about trees written in trees. Because words do matter, and because my heart is bursting for what we are losing, I created the tree alphabets as a way to reforest our imaginations.”

Meet Me Tonight in Atlantic City By Jane Wong Cover ImageMeet Me Tonight in Atlantic City (releases May 16, 2023)

By Jane Wong

Wong’s debut memoir about growing up working class as a Chinese immigrant in Atlantic City left me slack-jawed. The language is delicious, but I love how the story resists a single identity. I laughed and cried in the span of two pages. I don’t think I’ve ever read a mother-daughter story that’s impacted me the way the story of Jane and her mom affected me. A must-read.

Here’s a list of just some of the other small presses we love!

*Nashville-based presses!