Amplifying Diversity: Independent Presses

The ongoing and hugely important conversation featuring #ownvoices, diversity, and equity was most recently centered around an unfortunate WSJ journal article which Allie Bruce unpacks in her RWW post, “Why ‘Rock Star Librarian’ is an Oxymoron.”  I highly recommend reading the original article (tricky as it is behind a paywall — need to go to a library perhaps!), Allie’s post, and the ongoing conversation going on in her post’s comments.

One aspect of this that I think gets overlooked is that some of the best books featuring #ownvoices come from presses other than the biggies, Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Little Brown, Penguin, or Random House. I would urge all of you, but especially those with big social media platforms, those with massive followings, some of whom were featured in the article, as well as working to celebrate and feature more #ownvoices, also make greater efforts to do so with books from smaller presses. While I see a sincere effort to bring out more voices, they tend to be from the afore mentioned publishers.  There are great books coming out from other places as well and those of you with big platforms could do a lot to bring them to the attention of your followers.  (By the way, for those who are fortunate in having books sent by publicists, this may involve the seeking out and buying of books rather than just waiting for them to come to you.)

A terrific resource is the CCBC’s list of Small Presses Owned/Operated by People of Color and First/Native Nations. Also, I recommend attending to recommendations by WNDB, RWW, Debbie Reese, Edi Campbell, Brown Bookshelf, Latinx in Kid Lit, Africa Access, Betsy Bird, Travis Jonker, Jules Danielson, USBBY, and the CCBC among others who celebrate books by independent presses regularly. (I’m sure I’m leaving many out so please tell me in the comments and I’ll add them in here.) Whenever I see mention of an independent press book that might work for my 4th grade students I order it immediately. I was delighted when serving on the New York Times Best Illustrated books jury to learn of many more outstanding independent presses. And when at conferences I come across still others at the exhibits (but many can’t afford to be there so it is important to look everywhere not just there).

Here is a collection of those I have come across over the years, some of which may be already familiar and some not. Please do mention others in the comments and I’ll add them here. (I’m leaving out some of the bigger and more familiar independents like Abrams, Candlewick, Bloomsbury, Lerner, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Holiday House, Scholastic, and Chronicle as I see their books already celebrated on social media by those with big followings. I do it myself.:) I recommend checking out their websites and, if something catches your eye, buy it. And if you like it celebrate it on twitter, facebook, your blog,  your podcast, and/or whatever your platform is.

ETA I am now adding suggestions to  a dedicated page for Independent Presses (easier to find as it is right on the menu bar at the top) rather than here. So keep the suggestions coming, but know that I won’t be adding them to this post, but to the page.

ETA For easier access I’ve created an Independent Press page for the menu bar above and will be updating that list rather than the one here.

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39 Comments

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39 responses to “Amplifying Diversity: Independent Presses

  1. Please be sure to add Creston Books to your list. http://www.crestonbooks.co Wonderful post!

    Like

  2. Fabulous post. Thank you for including me. I try really hard to do this.

    I particularly love to follow international books/imports, and I find that a lot of the smaller ones are great resources for that.

    Also, Feminist Press. They also have some children’s titles. (I don’t mean to be blog-pushy, but here are two recent examples: https://www.kirkusreviews.com/features/gimme-some-truth/ — with art here: http://blaine.org/sevenimpossiblethings/?p=4252.) Pretty incredible books, I think.

    Other smaller ones I try to keep up with (many, again, are great for finding imports and seeing what people are doing overseas):

    * Lemniscaat (They distribute in the U.S. too)
    * Groundwood
    * Akashic
    * Archipelago now has a children’s book imprint
    * Clavis
    * Cuento de Luz
    * Little Bee (I’d say they knocked it out of the park with Freedom in Congo Square!)
    * Flying Eye
    * Museyon
    * Minedition
    * New York Review (especially for reprints)
    * NorthSouth
    * NubeOcho
    * Phaidon
    * Ripple Grove Press
    * Pushkin
    * Sleeping Bear

    I’m sure I’m missing a LOT more.

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    • Jules, this great! Can’t believe I forgot Little Bee as we’ve got Freedom in Congo Square on our BoB Contender list and I’m constantly typing the publisher’s name. You mention several others I forgot too. If you think of more let me know and I’ll add them in.

      Like

  3. Please add Pomelo Books, too! (pomelobooks.com) We are a member of the Children’s Book Council (cbcbooks.org — another great source for finding indie publishers) and our poetry books for children as well as for teachers and librarians have been named to many lists: NCTE Poetry Notables, Notable Books for a Global Society, NSTA Recommends, Children’s Poet Laureate “Pick of the Month” books, and more. Approx. 150 poets are represented in our books, including Alma Flor Ada, Joseph Bruchac, Nikki Grimes, J. Patrick Lewis, Pat Mora, Linda Sue Park, Jack Prelutsky, Joyce Sidman, Marilyn Singer, Carole Boston Weatherford, and Jane Yolen.

    Like

  4. ericcarpenter1

    Thank you for this post. I think it’s important to remember that every librarian that makes purchasing decisions for their school or public library has tremendous power. Not only in what we purchase but also in our interactions with sales reps, jobbers, and publishers. If all of us demand #ownvoices books these reps will report back what we are asking for.
    For example when my regional Capstone sales calls or stops by the school for the sales pitch, I tell him how disappointed I am that Capstone’s “diverse” books are written by white authors. I tell him that my students need mirrors the books that provide mirrors ought to be from POC creators. Next time he comes by I am going to show him the recent graph from CBCC showing the uptick in books with POC main characters and the stagnant growth in POC authors & illustrators.
    Another thing we can all do is sit through those publisher preview webinars and when there’s an opportunity to ask questions, we can ask for more books written and illustrated by POC & First Nation Authors.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Great suggestions, Eric. Thanks.

      Like

    • Anonymous

      I teach at a multicultural lower-middle class elementary school, with 90 percent non-white enrollment. My students don’t remember the names of authors two days after they finish books, and could care less if a writer is male, female, white, transgender, African-American, Latinx, Asian, disabled, or any other socially constructed identity marker, for that matter. They don’t care about window or mirror texts. All they care about is a book so well written that holds their interest in an age where information competition for the momentarily bored is a touch of a screen away. I’m starting to feel the same way.

      Demanding #ownvoices from publishers is favoring adult social justice interests instead of my kids’ real reading needs. Instead, demand more great stories. My unsolicited advice to small presses is to focus on the 60 percent of students who are in the bottom three quintiles. There’s not enough excellent material for kids reading below grade level, no matter the identity markers of the writers. These books may not win a Newbery, but they could win a reader for life. The country already has enough book awards. We need more readers.

      Like

  5. Matthew C. Winner

    Thank you for shining a light on small presses and #ownvoices. Your article brought forward a lot of important points and think it’s important that those of us who talk about books online and have accrued an audience need make certain that we use those platforms to amplify the attention given to books published by small presses as well as those stories written and illustrated by people of color, of diverse backgrounds and experiences, with disability, and with the opportunity to share a story in their own voice.

    I celebrate books from small presses whenever I have the opportunity and whenever I make a personal connection with the story or storyteller. Some of the small presses I am particularly fond of that were not mentioned above include Flying Eye/ Nobrow, Chin Music Press Inc, Little Bee, Peter Pauper Press, Inhabit Media, Tilbury House, Floris Books, Toon Books, Gecko Press, Pajama Press, Child’s Play, and Tiger Tales. Since meeting the folks who run Publisher Spotlight (http://www.publisherspotlight.com/) a few years ago at ALA I have not only become well-acquainted with smaller presses, but have also learned about speciality presses that have helped me bring a greater representation of diversity to the books that I read and those that I share via my podcast and as part of our collective on All The Wonders. Publisher Spotlight is so important for offering the opportunity for those small presses to be represented at big conferences.

    You urge those with a established and significant platforms to take more responsibility in who and what they promote across posts and social media, but I believe the work actually needs to come from all of us, not a select few. The following I have has grown over a very long time of promoting what I love and being vocal about issues that I think are important for others to know about. We all have it in our collective capacity to amplify the voices we support and the messages we feel impassioned over. As RWW pointed out, perhaps that’s what WSJ got right. We give too much platform to a select few, and we do it to ourselves. It feels as if we are on the verge of a sea change, but in order it to happen we will need to ask ourselves what voice we want children’s publishing to have on the world.

    Thank you again for this, Monica. I hope to connect with you in the future and continue this important conversation.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Matthew, for these thoughts and suggestions. I agree that it is everyone’s work (actually edited the post to reflect that better), but I do feel that those with large followings have a particular opportunity to spotlight more works from these smaller presses. I will add those presses you recommend not yet in my post (as some that you mention are already there:).

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Penelope

    Super important post. The herculean efforts of #WNDB to try to get Big Five publishers to bend to what they see as social and publishing justice always seemed bizarre, almost like NWA or Sugarhill Gang hypothetically blowing gaskets over Atlantic or Capitol Records not producing their earliest records. The earliest hip hop groups didn’t beg and chide, they just did their own thing with their own labels or smaller labels like Sugar Hill, Profile, and Tommy Boy, and proved there was a huge market for their music. Once the economics were clearly in front of them, the big labels swooped in.

    Begging big publishers to publish more diverse books is putting the cart before the horse. If hip hop could reach a market of pent-up demand and fans through small record labels, diverse books can do it too through small presses. It is amazing how powerful word of mouth is among the kids when they read something that simply must be shared, hear something that must be heard, or see something that must be seen.

    It’s amazing too how fast a small company with a hot product can become a big company with a lot of power. Simon & Schuster started out as a crossword puzzle press.

    Like

  7. Thank you for this post! I want to open the doors of my press to #ownvoices and am trying to figure out how best to spread the word about it. I put out a call for submissions to our Pacific NW history site (future imprint of Homeostasis Press) for middle grade teachers and their students recently, but not sure how to get the word to those who might be able to help us represent a diverse authorship. Gather Here: History for Young People is my passion. I am small, have a small but growing following, but have the ability and commitment to work with authors to fill some needs out there. homeostasispress.com gather-here-history.squarespace.com

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Reblogged this on The Best of It and commented:
    This post is the beginning of a really good conversation and a wonderful list of small presses. I am working on making my own press a place that #ownvoices can be heard.

    Like

  9. Dear Monica, This is a great article, and I keep coming back to it and thinking about it. I also was wondering if you might take a look at a fairly new publisher https://www.clearforkpublishing.com/ and their children’s imprint and possibly adding it to your list. Thanks so much!

    Like

  10. A wonderful list! Thank you! I’d add some from the UK, including Lantana Publishing, nominated for the Bologna Prize for Best Children’s Publisher of 2017, Nosy Crow Books, and Tiny Owl Publishing. Few of these books are available in the US, however, you can order copies from the Book Depository, which offers free worldwide shipping (payment can be made via credit card in US dollars).

    Like

  11. I think Little Bigfoot from Sasquatch Books has been making some pretty sweet books. My students really like Journey. http://www.sasquatchbooks.com/book/?isbn=9781632170651&journey-by-emma-bland-smith

    Like

  12. svardell

    Thanks, Monica, for this excellent piece, for continuing to update your list of small presses, and for reminding us all of their importance and vitality. One hiccup that I often encounter from librarians and teachers is that these books are not available through the big vendors. If I had one wish it would be that Follett and Mackin (etc.) would make it easier for small presses to be purchased through them, so that everyone could benefit!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Thanks so much for all the suggestions and keep them coming! And just to let you all know that I am keeping this list to presses that distribute in the US as it would become unwieldy otherwise. (FYI Nosy Crow is available in the US through Candlewick.)

    Sylvia, that these are not always available through big vendors is really unfortunate, especially since librarians are often dependent on them. I also wonder about brick and mortar versions of Barnes & Noble, Walmart, and now Amazon. How well stocked are they with independent titles?

    Like

  14. Reblogged this on Notes from An Alien and commented:
    Nice list of links to independent presses in today’s re-blog :-)

    Like

  15. Pingback: Indie Press Spotlight #1 | educating alice

  16. readitrealgood

    Awesome resource! Thank you. Many of these indie publishers I don’t know yet.
    I also love Bharat Babies, Yali Books, Lil Libros, Canticos, The Innovation Press, Home Grown Books, (Is Phaidon considered indie?), Native Explore/Native Northwest.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for these. I’ll add them in. I keep discovering more all the time! Thinking of moving this over to a page for easier access. I think Phaidon is considered indie. Any reason why not?

      Liked by 2 people

      • readitrealgood

        It’s always fun to discover more indies. It’s also great to see indies flourish! I think Phaidon probably is considered indie. I don’t they’re very small though; closer to the size of Candlewick maybe? Thanks for this resource!

        Like

  17. Pingback: Independent Press Update | educating alice

  18. Please add Seven Stories Press’s kids imprint called Triangle Square Books for Young Readers. We publish the bestselling A is for Activist, and also books by Howard Zinn, Julia Alvarez, the wonderful Cory Silverberg, ALA prize winner Aharon Appelfeld, and many more!! sevenstories.com @7StoriesPress. Thanks!

    Like

  19. losak@optonline.net

    Another one for your impressive list: Penny Candy Books (pennycandybooks.com) started by two poets and dedicated to diverse voices in children’s literature. PCB’s titles are impressive, including “A Gift From Greensboro” by acclaimed poet and scholar, Quraysh Ali Lansana (illustrated by Skip Hill). It’s a free verse story about two young friends during the time of the historic sit-ins that helped to usher in the Civil Rights movement. In spring of 2018, PCB will release several new titles, including my late mother’s themed haiku collection: H Is For Haiku: A Treasury of Haiku from A to Z. Sydell Rosenberg was a charter member of the Haiku Society of America in NYC in 1968. These two articles in Publishers Weekly and Writers Digest about PCB will be of interest: http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/childrens/childrens-industry-news/article/72163-penny-candy-books-a-mission-becomes-a-moral-directive.html

    http://www.writersdigest.com/whats-new/penny-candy-books-poetry-publisher-interview#comments

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  20. Thank you, Amy and Monica! We appreciate it!

    Like

  21. Monica this is a great post! Thank you for compiling the list of independent presses. I really believe they are the ones that will likely move the needle in terms of publishing diverse books. One thing that’s especially important is providing diverse authors and illustrator the proper information and education to be ready for publication.
    I’m sure you’ve seen the numbers from CCBC that showed that less than 6% of books published in 2016 were by POC. It’s sad to me that Asian, Blacks, Latinos and Native Americans are all in this pathetic figure. A comment earlier stated that students don’t care what color the author is. Let’s assume that’s true, should we then dismiss POC who also want the opportunity to write stories and positively impact a child’s life? Those same diverse children are going to be adults someday and may even aspire to be an author or illustrator. They will need diverse role models, mentors and resources.

    Monica for this reason myself and 2 friends started an organization called KidLit Nation, whose goal is to provide educational resources and information to diverse voices in children’s literature. The organization will directly benefit POC looking to pursue careers as authors, illustrators and all other professional paths available in the book publishing industry. This does not mean we are closed to non-POC. We just want to create the go to platform where people can learn, find opportunities and network.
    We’re kicking things off with a critique raffle in July To date we have 25 agents and editors donating professional critiques for picture books, middle grade and YA. 2 illustrators for far will do portfolio critiques. I have to say the support from the publishing community has been mind blowing, I’m sure we will add more in coming weeks. Funds raised will in turn allow us to provide at least 10 SCBWI-IL conference scholarships. Beyond the critique raffle we plan to have events and workshops in Chicago as well as monthly webinars, and a podcast to reach audiences outside Chicago. In the long term we hope to have partnerships that can allow us to have in person events in other cities across the country.
    Please bookmark http://www.kidlitnation.com. Our email is kidlitnation@gmail.com.
    Sorry for taking over your comments section, clearly I’m a chatterbox :). Thanks again for this post!

    Liked by 1 person

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