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10 Independent Presses Based in New York

Picture of JW McCormack
Updated: 19 August 2017
New York City is the capital of publishing, but that doesn’t mean that everything worth reading comes out of the big houses. Small presses aren’t exclusive to New York by any stretch—stalwarts like Coffee House Press and Two Dollar Radio are run out of Minneapolis and Columbus, respectively—but there’s something endemically NY about the cosmopolitan approach of such publishers, often specializing in translated literature, politically charged nonfiction, or marginalized voices. Below are 10 small houses without whom the city—and the literary world it supports—would be fallow.

Catapult

Catapult’s slogan is “launching remarkable writing,” and they pursue this ethos not only through their publishing wing, but through writing classes and an online magazine that has come to stand besides LitHub as one of the central forums of book discussion. Catapult is also famous for its anthologies, while recent novels have included Margaret the First by Danielle Dutton, a reissue of Padgett Powell’s Edisto, and the forthcoming Neon in Daylight by Hermione Hoby.

Courtesy of Catapult
Courtesy of Catapult

Soho Press

Justly celebrated as a crime fiction house, Soho Press’s editors (including another acclaimed small press writer, Mark Doten) have taken its literary wing in a notably iconoclastic direction, publishing superb and boundary-pushing titles like Hannah Lillith Assadi’s Sonora and Matt Bell’s In the House upon the Dirt between the Lake and the Woods.

Courtesy of Soho Press
Courtesy of Soho Press

Ugly Duckling Presse

Sought-after and innovative “micropress,” Ugly Duckling specializes in poetry chapbooks and works in translation and artist-designed books, as well as experimental or conceptual pieces whose place in the American avant-garde belies the handmade intimacy of the presse (stylized with an “e”), its nonprofit-funding, and guerilla marketing strategies.

Courtesy of Ugly Duckling Presse
Courtesy of Ugly Duckling Presse

Akashic Books

You have probably seen Brooklyn-based Akashic Books’ popular Noir series—including noir writing from around the world—or their best-selling children’s book for adults, Go the F*** to Sleep, but their real backbone is cutting-edge fiction from near and far, including Chris Abani, T Cooper, and Dennis Cooper, as well as projects from musicians like Lydia Lunch and Richard Hell (which makes sense once you consider that Akashic was founded by the bassist for pop group Girls Against Boys).

Courtesy of Akashic Books
Courtesy of Akashic Books

Melville House

Named for the esteemed author of Moby-Dick, there’s a lot of love about DUMBO Brooklyn-based Melville House. Start with its irreverent blog or one of its long-running series like Art of the Novella and The Last Interview—the latter includes contributions from James Baldwin, Jacques Derrida, and David Bowie—but the key is its reliably gonzo spirit and grassroots, community-based engagement, which has lead the press to publish such uncompromising titles as the new Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook.

Courtesy of Melville House
Courtesy of Melville House

The Feminist Press

Founded in 1970 to publish works of female authors both past and present, The Feminist Press is a standard-bearer for social justice and activism in the publishing world, with a few of its authors being Michelle Tea, Zora Neale Hurston, and Virginie Despentes (check out her modern classic: King Kong Theory).

Courtesy of The Feminist Press
Courtesy of The Feminist Press

NYRB Classics

If you’re not already a die-hard fan of the New York Review of Books’ Classics line, you’re in for a treat. Overseen by editor Edwin Frank, NYRB has been resuscitating overlooked masterpieces of all genres since 1999 and has grown into one of the country’s most impressive publishers, with titles including hundreds of titles in translation and in English, usually introduced with curatorial essays by contemporary writers and always sporting its trademark sleek design.

Courtesy of NYRB Classics
Courtesy of NYRB Classics

Tyrant Books

Publishing books too good for the mainstream, Tyrant Books splits its time between Rome and New York and is one of the very few publishing houses whose titles are so consistently excellent that they can pretty much be bought blind. The backlog has grown recently to include the acclaimed Preparation For the Next Life by Atticus Lish, as well as books by Eugene Marten, Gary Lutz, and Sam Lipsyte.

Courtesy of Tyrant Books
Courtesy of Tyrant Books

Europa Editions

Europa Editions hit the big time with Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Novels series and Muriel Barbery’s The Elegance of the Hedgehog, but the press hasn’t lost sight of its independent roots and continues to bring continental writing to America—especially Italian crime writing, which Europa consistently issues in excellent translations.

Courtesy of Europa Editions
Courtesy of Europa Editions

Archipelago Books

Nonprofit Archipelago Books specializes in literature in translation, being the first English language publisher of Karl Ove Knausgård’s immense and controversial My Struggle, but that doesn’t mean that it’s secondary to the main market for English-readers; Archipelago understands that Rainer Maria Rilke, Julio Cortázar, and Halldór Laxness are essential in any language and issues its books in lovely original editions.

Courtesy of Archipelago Books
Courtesy of Archipelago Books