Independent & Non-Profit Publishing: The “Big Five” Doesn’t Have All of the Fun

Despite the emphasis placed on the “Big Five” in previous posts, New York City is home to countless independent publishing houses, bookstores, and self-published authors. Although the large publishing houses may dominate the publishing industry, that doesn’t stop smaller houses and university presses from contributing.

While larger publishing houses work using for-profit models, many independent publishers do not – whether it be by choice or simply lack of income. Even outside of NYC, independent publishers are often struggling financially and forced into taking the non-profit route. The largest distinction between for-profit and even smaller for-profit, or non-profit publishing groups (aside from the profit distinction) is largely  in marketing and publicity strategies. While larger for-profit houses tend to have at least one commercialized best-selling author, smaller houses generally lack the marketing and publicity teams that accompany such an author. Despite this difference, however, all publishing houses have the same goal: to find and publish novels with literary merit.

Interestingly enough, independent houses and authors have their own association, online publication,  and award competition – all of which intend to “bring increased recognition to the thousands of exemplary independent, university, and self-published titles published.” Although the award ceremony has specific guidelines to qualify for an award, many sources consider anyone who publishes outside of the “Big Five” as an independent. Although such a definition includes those who opt to self-publish as an independent, revisiting the map of NYC publishers I first posted about shows that the city isn’t lacking in independent houses, bookstores, or publisher/bookstore combinations (i.e. Verso Books, The Feminist PressSeven Stories Press, and Melville House to name just a few).


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