Independent Presses Carry Social Significance

Far Beyond That of Just Publishing

"Another Book"

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Independent Presses Give Readers Greater Intellectual Freedom

By Liz Merton

September 29, 2020

Writing Twitter recently lit up with a discussion of Big Publishing and the [unremarkable] "news" that best sellers become best sellers because big presses market them to be just that. Fueling the chat was a September 19, 2020 New York Times piece on Penguin Random House leader Madeline McIntosh and "best sellers" as a concept. But the article also carries undercurrents related to the social and intellectual risks of literary homogeneity in a best-seller-centered publishing climate. Considering business pressures, the piece observes, "As publishing becomes even more of a winner-take-all business, Penguin Random House’s dominance represents the culmination of decades-long trends that have made the industry more profit focused, consolidated, undifferentiated and averse to risk." 

This point regarding lack of differentiation and risk-aversion deserves some deep consideration . . . and relates to our Read Local® admiration for independent presses: small presses, academic presses, niche presses. The New York Times piece quotes Dennis Johnson (of independent press Melville House, whose books we have enjoyed), who explains, "The impact on literary culture is more homogenization, which is only going to accelerate now.” But the thing is: independent presses help combat this homogenization, and at no small cost. These publishers invest blood, sweat, and tears (and hours and hours of toil) into books that don't rocket onto best-seller lists. These books don't bring their authors and publishers seven-figure income streams (they may not bring in five-figure returns!). But these books do give readers (readers who cannot sit content with just another drag off the cigarette of Big Publishing's agreed-upon ethos) a choice

In jumping on this soap box, I do not mean to denigrate the big guys. I loved Andrew Sean Greer's Less, from Lee Boudreaux Books . . . of Little, Brown

. . . of Hachette Book Group (a Big Fiver). Wary of hegemony in print, though, I'll look at the publisher's imprint on a book now before I invest my money and time in that book. I like to eat at local restaurants and shop at local stores because I don't want Main Street, Houston, to look just like Main Street, Grand Rapids, Michigan, or Main Street, Dubuque, Iowa, or Main Street, Los Angeles. I Read Local® for parallel reasons: I want to know that somewhere out there a press is producing something that reads different. 

Read Local, L.L.C., is a small (we hope to grow!) community of book lovers. We review books published by independent/university/small presses and post our reviews and thoughts in an effort to raise awareness of independent-press books. The Read Local, L.L.C., entity is owned by the parent company of Stoneman House Press, L.L.C., and that publisher's work appears on this website (we make money when Stoneman House sells books), but not everyone who writes content for us or participates in our community works for Stoneman House. Aside from Stoneman House, we also have relationships (personal and/or professional) with some of the authors whose books appear here. Some (like Sage Webb) write reviews for us and help lead us (and they make money when their books sell). We note when we have a relationship with a book, publisher, or author. Otherwise, we do not have relationships with the authors and publishers listed here. They appear here only because we liked their books and we like reviewing books. (We will be as transparent as possible when we post here about things in which we have a financial stake. Not just because of regulations like those in Part 255 of Title 16 of the Code of Federal Regulations, but because we really are here just to have some literary fun.) If you are an author or publisher of a book that appears here, feel free to reach out to us! We'd love to hear from you. We are at And if you are an author or publisher and you would like us to remove your book from our site, just let us know. We are here to serve the literary community. If you have questions, reach out.

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