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The rise of the small press

Thanks to the award-winning ‘Tinkers’ and ‘Lord of Misrule,’ smaller publishing houses are finally getting some attention.

Last year’s Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award for fiction went, respectively, to “Tinkers” by Paul Harding and “Lord of Misrule” by Jaimy Gordon.

These two little books came from seemingly nowhere; they weren’t on The New York Times bestseller list, nor were they sitting in big stacks on the front table of your local Barnes & Noble. But before they won their big awards, these books had been nurtured and treasured nonetheless, in both cases by the unsung heroes of the publishing world: the small presses.

“Literary fiction simply makes less and less sense for big publishers these days,” says Dave Daley, publisher of FiveChapters.com, a new independent press spun from the literary website of the same name, which is releasing its first two books this winter. “Most of it doesn’t sell enough to be worth their while.”

But Daley believes publishing is about to have its “indie rock moment,” and has thrown his weight behind two authors he believes in, Jess Row (“Nobody Ever Gets Lost”), and Brooklynite Emma Straub (“Other People We Married”).

But print runs are limited on books like these, as is distribution, and therein is the biggest struggle. Readers must hunt down these small press gems at independent bookstores, or order them directly from the publisher online.

“Literary culture — reading — has to be fought for,” says Daley.

 
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