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© Alexandre Duret-Lutz / Flickr
© Alexandre Duret-Lutz / Flickr
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'Unique Voices', An Interview With LA Indie Publishers, Rare Bird Books

Picture of Ariel Kusby
Updated: 13 October 2016
Rare Bird is an independent publishing house based in downtown Los Angeles. Founded by Tyson Cornell in 2010, they release an eclectic mix of titles, many of which you’ve probably seen on the shelves of your favorite bookstore. To learn more about what they do, we interviewed their Managing Editor and Designer, Alice Marsh-Elmer, who highlighted the important role that small independent publishers play in L.A.’s constantly evolving literary scene.


Rare Bird | Courtesy of Rare Bird

Rare Bird | Courtesy of Rare Bird Books


What does Rare Bird publish? What makes Rare Bird and its titles unique?

Rare Bird is a general trade publishing house, so as I put it, ‘we publish a little bit of everything’. Genres that have particular interest for us include music, sex, literary fiction, memoir, political, and art or photography books, but we don’t discriminate. A lot of aspects make our publications unique, but I would say we focus on bringing unique voices to light, including debut fiction, underrepresented authors, and alternative memoirs. We do our best to publish stories in their truest form and don’t adhere to a censoring editorial process.


What’s the literary climate like in L.A.? How is publishing in L.A. different from New York?

L.A.’s literary climate is strong and growing. It can feel like this coast is more of the Wild West of publishing, and New York is the bigger brother. For now, L.A. remains smaller, more accessible, and a bit alternative. 

Rare Bird | Courtesy of Rare Bird

Rare Bird | Courtesy of Rare Bird Books


What is the value of the independent publisher when compared with the huge corporate houses?

The values of going with an independent house can be huge, and depend largely on the project. Generally, though, they include access, flexibility, and dedication. Our authors have greater access to the development process, and can be involved in more personal ways.

Alice Marsh-Elmer | Courtesy of Rare Bird

Alice Marsh-Elmer | Courtesy of Rare Bird Books

Our company can remain more flexible in the face of changing markets, and decision-making in the development process can be responsive. We publish fewer books per year and have a personal dedication to making each of our books successful, regardless of the author’s previous career.


What is the most difficult part of your job?

Working at a small company, you tend to feel your own mistakes more personally. I’m trusted to do my job without a lot of oversight, which also means that I rarely have someone ‘checking my work’. It’s on me to get it right and learn from my mistakes. This is both a blessing and a curse.


What do you love about your job?

It rarely leaves me bored, and there’s always something exciting on the horizon.


Do you have a favorite Rare Bird book?

I can’t pick a favorite child. I can say that some of the books I would pick out at a bookstore include Black Sheep Boy, God of Speed, Punk Elegies, and Genderqueer.

Black Sheep Boy | Courtesy of Rare Bird

Black Sheep Boy | Courtesy of Rare Bird