Small press

A small press is a publisher with annual sales below a certain level or below a certain number of titles published. The terms "indie publisher" and "independent press" and others are sometimes used interchangeably.

Independent press is generally defined as publishers that are not part of large conglomerates or multinational corporations. Many small presses rely on specialization in genre fiction, poetry, or limited-edition books or magazines, but there are also thousands that focus on niche non-fiction markets.

Dun Emer Press ,c. 1903
The Dun Emer Press in 1903 with Elizabeth Yeats working the hand press.


In the United States, this has been mentioned as publishers with annual turnover of under $50 million, or those that publish on average 10 or fewer titles per year;[1]

Other terms for small press, sometimes distinguished from each other and sometimes used interchangeably, are small publishers, independent publishers, or indie presses.[1]

Independent publishers (as defined above) made up about half of the market share of the book publishing industry in the US in 2007.[2] The majority of small presses are independent or indie publishers, meaning that they are separate from the handful of major publishing house conglomerates, such as Random House or Hachette.


Since the profit margins for small presses can be narrow, many are driven by other motives, including the desire to help disseminate literature with only a small likely market. Many presses are also associated with crowdfunding efforts that help connect authors with readers.[3] Small presses tend to fill the niches that larger publishers neglect. They can focus on regional titles, narrow specializations and niche genres. They can also make up for commercial clout by creating a reputation for academic knowledge, vigorously pursuing prestigious literature prizes and spending more effort nurturing the careers of new authors.[4] At its most minimal, small press production consists of chapbooks. This role can now be taken on by desktop publishing and Web sites. This still leaves a continuum of small press publishing: from specialist periodicals, short runs or print-to-order of low-demand books, to fine art books and limited editions of collectors' items printed to high standards.


There is now also a distinction made between small presses and micro-presses. A micro-press can be defined as a publisher that produces chapbooks and other small books on a very small scale (e.g. 50 copies of one book per year). It can also be defined in terms of revenue. Micro-presses often are run as a hobby or part-time job because of their low profits. They may not produce enough profit to support their owners.[2]

In Canada, these are considered small press publishers but the standard small press book run is accepted at 300 copies of a chapbook and 500 or more copies of a spine-bound book. In doing this, small press publishers are eligible for grants from the Ontario Arts Council and the Canada Council.

Not to be confused

Small presses should not be confused with self-publishing presses (sometimes called "vanity presses"). Self-publishing or subsidy presses usually require payment by authors, or a minimum purchase of copies. By comparison, small presses make their profits by selling books to consumers, rather than selling services to authors or selling a small number of copies to the author's friends.

Small presses should not be confused with printers. Small presses are publishers, which means that they engage in a book selection process, along with editing, marketing and distribution. Small presses also enter into a contract with the author, often paying royalties for being allowed to sell the book. Publishers own the copies they have printed, but usually do not own the copyright to the book itself. In contrast, printers merely print a book, and sometimes offer limited distribution if they are a POD printing press. Printers have a very low selectivity. They will accept nearly anyone who can pay the cost of printing. They rarely offer editing or marketing. Printers do not own the copies that are printed, and they do not pay royalties.

Book packagers combine aspects of small presses and printers, but they are technically neither small presses nor printers.


Small presses became distinguishable from jobbing printers at some time towards the end of the nineteenth century. The roots lie with the Arts and Crafts Movement, particularly the Kelmscott Press. The use of small letterpress machines by amateur printers increased proportionately to the mechanization of commercial printing. Later, the advance of practical lithography made small press publication much easier.

A recent burgeoning of small presses has been caused by the introduction of digital printing, especially print on demand technology. Combined with Internet based marketing, digital typesetting, design tools with the rise of eBooks, the new printing technologies have lowered the economic barriers to entry, allowing many new niches to be served, and many new publishers to enter the industry.

By country


Small press has played a significant part historically in recognising new voices and publishing notable works of literary fiction in Australia,[5] but the market was seen as a tough one in 1999, despite about 80% of the Australian Publishers Association being small book publishers (defined as those with less than AU$2m), nearly all Australian-owned.[6].

In recent years though, the small publishers have especially made gains as big publishers have backed away from publishing literary works. In recent years small press publications have won some of the greatest literary prizes, including the Stella Prize, the Prime Minister’s Literary Award for Fiction and the Miles Franklin Literary Award. There was a strong upward trend in the number of titles published by small press and shortlisted for the Miles Franklin and the PM's Fiction Awards in the two years preceding 2017.[5]

The Small Press Network (SPN), located at the Wheeler Centre in Melbourne, represents small and independent publishers in Australia, which promotes independent publishing and supports diversity within the industry "as a vital component of Australian literary culture". Founded in 2006, it has grown to represent more than 140 members in Australia and New Zealand. Its members include such publishers as the Griffith Review, National Library of Australia Publishing, Scribe and Wakefield Press, as well as many smaller publishers.[7]

See also


  1. ^ a b "Complete Guide to Small Press Publishing: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly of Small Presses for Writers". TCK publishing. Retrieved 18 April 2019.
  2. ^ a b Herman, Jeff Herman's Guide To Book Publishers, Editors & Literary Agents, 2007, p. 131.
  3. ^
  4. ^ Herman, Jeff Herman's Guide To Book Publishers, Editors & Literary Agents, 2007, pp. 131–132, 367–372.
  5. ^ a b Stinson, Emmett (4 May 2018). "Friday essay: the remarkable, prize-winning rise of our small publishers". The Conversation. Retrieved 18 April 2019.
  6. ^ Poland, Louise (1 December 1999). "Independent Australian Publishers and the Acquisition of Books". Journal of Australian Studies. Archived from the original on 22 October 2012.
  7. ^ "About SPN". Small Press Network. Retrieved 18 April 2019.


  • Brewer, Robert; Joanna Masterson (2006). 2007 Writer's Market. Cincinnati, Ohio: Writer's Digest Books. ISBN 1-58297-427-6.
  • Herman, Jeff (2006). Jeff Herman's Guide To Book Publishers, Editors & Literary Agents, 2007: Who they are! What they want! How to win them over!: 17th Edition. Stockbridge, Massachusetts: Three Dog Press. ISBN 0-9772682-1-7.
Alternative comics

Alternative comics cover a range of American comics that have appeared since the 1980s, following the underground comix movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s. Alternative comics present an alternative to mainstream superhero comics which in the past have dominated the American comic book industry. Alternative comic books span a wide range of genres, artistic styles, and subjects.

Alternative comics are often published in small numbers as the author(s) deem fit. They are often published with less regard for regular distribution schedules.

Many alternative comics have variously been labelled post-underground comics, independent comics, indie comics, auteur comics, small press comics, new wave comics, creator-owned comics, art comics, or literary comics. Many self-published "minicomics" also fall under the "alternative" umbrella.

BenBella Books

BenBella Books is an independent publishing house based in Dallas, Texas. BenBella was founded by Glenn Yeffeth in 2001. It specializes in nonfiction books on popular culture, health, and nutrition, along with books on science, politics, psychology, and other topics.

British Fantasy Award

The British Fantasy Awards are awarded annually by the British Fantasy Society (BFS), first in 1976. Prior to that they were known as The August Derleth Fantasy Awards (see August Derleth Award). First awarded in 1972 (The Knight of Swords by Michael Moorcock) only for novels, the number of award categories increased and in 1976 the BFS renamed them collectively the British Fantasy Awards. The current award categories are Best Fantasy Novel (the Robert Holdstock Award), Best Horror Novel (the August Derleth Award), Best Novella, Best Short Story, Best Independent Press, Best Artist, Best Anthology, Best Collection, Best Comic/Graphic Novel, Best Non-Fiction, and Best Newcomer (the Sydney J. Bounds Award), while the Karl Edward Wagner Award for "important contribution to the genre or the Society" is given at the discretion of the BFS committee. The membership of the BFS vote to determine the shortlists of the awards, the winners being decided by juries.

British small press comics

British small press comics, once known as stripzines, are comic books self-published by amateur cartoonists and comic book creators, usually in short print runs, in the UK. They're comparable to similar movements internationally, such as American minicomics and Japanese doujinshi. A "small press comic" is essentially a zine composed predominantly of comic strips. The term emerged in the early 1980s to distinguish them from zines about comics. Notable artists who have had their start in British small press comics include Eddie Campbell, Paul Grist, Rian Hughes, Jamie Hewlett, Alan Martin, Philip Bond and Andi Watson.

Small press comics are traditionally sold by mail, using reviews and classified adverts, websites, email lists and word of mouth to reach an audience. There is usually one or more mail order service, commonly known as a "distro", operating in the UK. These will hold a wide range of titles and take a cut of the cover price. The two main active distros are Samu and SmallZone. They are also sold at conventions and festivals, with small groups of like-minded creators often sharing a table at a reduced rate. Specialist small press events include Caption in Oxford, and the UK Web and Mini Comix Thing in London. Creators will often make international links to these forms of distribution in other countries and vice versa.

Distribution into comic book stores via traditional distributors (such as Diamond) is rare. Stores will often stock titles by local creators though some, notably Gosh! in London and Page 45 in Nottingham, stock a wider range. In recent times small press titles have sold in larger bookstores Borders and Foyles in London.

The traditional format has been a photocopied and stapled booklet, usually at A5 size, similar to American minicomics, although other sizes are known. While some creators continue to produce publications in this style, emphasising the hand-made aspect and often decorating each copy by hand, in recent years the increasing availability of digital printing has made professional printing affordable for short-run publications. Some of the spirit of small press comics can now also be found in webcomics.

ECW Press

ECW Press is a Canadian book publisher located in Toronto, Ontario. It was founded by Jack David and Robert Lecker in 1974 as a Canadian literary magazine named Essays on Canadian Writing. They started publishing trade and scholarly books in 1979.

ECW Press publishes a range of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, sport, and pop culture. As the company grew and diversified what they publish, the company name could no longer stand for Essays in Canadian Writing. In 2015, Publishers Weekly listed ECW Press as one of the fastest-growing independent publishers in North America.ECW Press releases around 50 new titles a year.

Grove Atlantic

Grove Atlantic, Inc. is an American independent publisher, based in New York City. Formerly styled "Grove/Atlantic, Inc.", it was created in 1993 by the merger of Grove Press and Atlantic Monthly Press. As of 2018 Grove Atlantic calls itself "An Independent Literary Publisher Since 1917".. That refers to the official date Atlantic Monthly Press was established by the Boston magazine The Atlantic Monthly.

Lambda Literary Award

Lambda Literary Awards, also known as the "Lammys", are awarded yearly by the U.S.-based Lambda Literary Foundation to published works which celebrate or explore LGBT themes. Categories include Humor, Romance and Biography. To qualify, a book must have been published in the United States in the year current to the award. The Lambda Literary Foundation states that its mission is "to celebrate LGBT literature and provide resources for writers, readers, booksellers, publishers, and librarians – the whole literary community." The awards were instituted in 1988.

The program has grown from 14 awards in early years to 22 awards today. Early categories such as HIV/AIDS literature were dropped as the prominence of the AIDS crisis within the gay community waned, and categories for bisexual and transgender literature were added as the community became more inclusive. In both the bisexual and transgender categories, one or two awards may be presented annually; if the number of submissions in a given year warrants, then separate awards for fiction and non-fiction are presented, while a smaller number of submissions results in a single award.

In addition to the primary literary awards, the Lambda Literary Foundation also presents a number of special awards. The Pioneer Award is presented as a lifetime achievement award to a distinguished figure in the history of LGBT literature; the Bridge Builder Award is presented to a person, regardless of sexuality, who has been a prominent ally and advocate of the LGBT community; and the Trustee Award is presented to a writer who has made a considerable contribution to a wider awareness and understanding of the lives of LGBT people.

Beginning in 2011, the Lambda Literary Awards also took over the Jim Duggins Outstanding Mid-Career Novelists' Prize, formerly presented by the Saints and Sinners Literary Festival. The award, endowed by academic and writer James Duggins, is presented annually to two LGBT writers, one male and one female, to honor their bodies of work. In 2013, the foundation instituted the Dr. Betty Berzon Emerging Writer Award to honor young LGBT writers who have published at least one book; in 2016, the award was renamed to the Judith Markowitz Award, endowed by writer and philanthropist Judith Markowitz, while the Betty Berzon Award was taken over, and continues to be presented, by Publishing Triangle.


A minicomic is a creator-published comic book, often photocopied and stapled or with a handmade binding. In the United Kingdom and Europe the term small press comic is equivalent with minicomic, reserved for those publications measuring A6 (105 mm × 148 mm) or less.

Minicomics, sometimes called ashcan copies, are a common inexpensive way for those who want to make their own comics on a very small budget, with mostly informal means of distribution. A number of cartoonists — such as Jessica Abel, Julie Doucet, and Adrian Tomine — have started their careers this way and later gone on to more traditional types of publishing, while other established artists — such as Matt Feazell and John Porcellino — continue to publish minicomics as their main means of production.

PS Publishing

PS Publishing is an independent book publisher based in Hornsea, UK.

Philtrum Press

Philtrum Press is a small publishing house run by Stephen King. This small press operation, operating out of King's front business offices in Bangor, Maine, is primarily run by King's personal assistant, Marsha DeFillipo (who is also the moderator of the Stephen King Website Message Board.)

At least the following have been published:

The Plant part 1 (1982), unfinished, serialized, epistolary novel written by Stephen King

The Plant part 2 (1983)

The Eyes of the Dragon (1984), novel written by Stephen King, 1000 copies, Signed/Limited

The Plant, part 3 (1995)

The Ideal Genuine Man 1997, a novel written by Don Robertson

Six Stories (1997), a short story collection written by Stephen King, 1100 copies, Signed/Limited

"The New Lieutenant's Rap" (1999), a short story written by Stephen King, 500 copies (approx.), Signed/Limited

"Guns" (2013), an essay written by Stephen King, published as a 25-page e-book

Printer (publishing)

In publishing, printers are both companies providing printing services and individuals who directly operate printing presses.Printers include:

Newspaper printers, often owned by newspaper publishers

Magazine printers, usually independent of magazine publishers

Book printers, often not directly connected with book publishers

Stationery printers

Packaging printers

Trade printers, who offer wholesale rates within the printing industryAn artist who operates a printing press to execute their own works of printing press such as, hand in limited runs. That is usually distinguished from other printers by the term printmaker.

Small Press Expo

The Small Press Expo (SPX) is a registered 501(c)(3) that was created in 1994. Every year since its inception, SPX has put on a festival, known as The Expo, that provides a forum for artists, writers and publishers of comic art in its various forms to present their creations to the public and to expose the public to comic art not normally accessible through normal commercial channels. The annual SPX festival, typically held in the fall in Bethesda, Maryland, rivals the Alternative Press Expo as the premiere convention for alternative comics creators and fans. SPX is unique amongst the various comic conventions as it does not allow retailers to have a formal presence at the convention. Only creators and publishers are allowed to set up at the festival, although retailers can and do attend the show with the general public through paid admissions.

SPX is the home of the Ignatz Awards, which have been presented there annually since 1997. As one of the few festival awards rewarded in comics, they are voted on by attendees.

SPX is closely associated with the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund (CBLDF). A portion of the profits from the annual SPX festival including raising activities that take place during the convention weekend, go to the CBLDF. Since 1997, SPX has been held in conjunction with the International Comics and Animation Festival (ICAF) many times.

Soft Skull Press

Soft Skull Press is an independent book publisher founded by Sander Hicks in 1992, and run by Richard Eoin Nash from 2001 to 2009, and Denise Oswald from 2009 to 2010. In 2007, Nash sold Soft Skull to Counterpoint LLC, who closed Soft Skull's New York operation in 2010. Counterpoint merged into fellow publisher Catapult in 2016; subsequently, Soft Skull reopened its New York office. It is distributed to the book trade by Publishers Group West.

Subterranean Press

Subterranean Press is a small press publisher in Burton, Michigan. Subterranean is best known for publishing genre fiction, primarily horror, suspense and dark mystery, fantasy, and science fiction. In addition to publishing novels, short story collections and chapbooks, Subterranean also produced a quarterly publication called Subterranean Magazine from 2005 to 2014, specialising in short fiction and edited by William Schafer; it had also an online direct seller. In addition to trade editions, the company produces collector's and limited editions. These books are issued with author signatures, in both numbered and lettered states, and are produced using high-grade book papers and bindings with matching slipcases and traycases.

The Brooklyn Rail

The Brooklyn Rail is a journal of arts, culture, and politics, currently published ten times a year, in Brooklyn, NY. The journal features in-depth interviews with artists, critics, and curators, as well as critical essays, fiction, poetry, and reviews of art, music, dance, film, books, and theater. The Brooklyn Rail is distributed in galleries, universities, museums, bookstores, and other organizations. The Rail operates a small press called Rail Editions, which publishes literary translations, poetry, and art criticism. In addition to its small press, the Rail has also organized panel discussions, readings, film screenings, music and dance performances, and has curated exhibitions through a program called Rail Curatorial Projects.

TwoMorrows Publishing

TwoMorrows Publishing is a publisher of magazines about comic books, founded in 1994 by John and Pam Morrow out of their small advertising agency in Raleigh, North Carolina. Its products also include books and DVDs.

University Press of America

University Press of America is an academic publisher based in the United States. Part of the independent Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group, it was founded in 1975 and states that it has published "more than 10,000 academic, scholarly, and biographical titles in many disciplines". It acquired Rowman & Littlefield in 1988 and took that name for the parent company.

As of 1989 it was the second largest small press distributor in the U.S.

University of Queensland Press

Established in 1948, University of Queensland Press (UQP) is an Australian publishing house.

Founded as a traditional university press, UQP has since branched into publishing books for general readers in the areas of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, Indigenous writing and youth literature.

From 2010, UQP has been releasing selected out-of-print titles in digital formats, in addition to the digital and print publishing of new books.


Zarjaz is a comics anthology fanzine for the long-running British science fiction comic 2000 AD.

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