Not only are independent publishers critical players in the publishing ecosystem, but they’re thriving in spite of those who challenge their necessity. Even though President Trump threatened a small press lifeline by declaring he would get rid of the NEA and the NHA, the House of Representatives approved a spending bill to continue providing funds to both agencies.
According to the New York Times, “The House bill, part of the process of thrashing out the federal budget for fiscal year 2018, includes $145 million for each endowment. The amounts represent a cut of about $5 million to each agency, but is a stark contrast to President Trump’s proposal to eliminate the endowments entirely as outlined in his first federal budget plan he announced in March.”
The bill serves as a hopeful reminder to those fearing what the future holds: we live in a democracy where no one person can say with absolute authority that things will go a certain way. America is by no means perfect—but it’s better than that. The establishment doesn’t hold all the power.
That also rings true in the consolidated publishing world. The Big Five don’t really control the whole industry. Independent publishers have their own thing going on, including awards, conventions, and more. May 2016 marked the twentieth anniversary of the IPPY awards, a recognition of exemplary independently-published books, because who says the Big Five get to define success?
The IPPYs award outstanding publications in more than 80 categories, all published by independent presses. Spanning across genres from non-fiction to poetry, children’s books to self-help books, graphic novels to cookbooks, the IPPYs do an incredible job of capturing the range of independent publishing. Examples of this year’s gold medalists include:
- The Cherokee Diaspora: An Indigenous History of Migration, Resettlement, and Identity, by Gregory D. Smithers (Yale University Press)
- Gwan Anthology, by Jerome Walford (Forward Comix)
- A Faithful Son, by Michael Scott Garvin (CreateSpace) [Link plays music.]
- Damnificados, by J.J. Amaworo Wilson (PM Press)
- Good Girls Marry Doctors: South Asian American Daughters on Obedience and Rebellion, edited by Piyali Bhattacharya, (Aunt Lute Books).
To see the full list of winners, and possibly find your next favorite read, visit the IPPY website. You won’t regret it. Though for all the awarding and celebration that took place during the IPPYs, they were still just one event, and the indie press world has so much more going on.
The Small Press Expo (SPX) took place on September 16 and 17, where attendance was unshaken and politics were on everyone’s minds. Indie presses have become the established home of marginalized voices, and in this exclusionary presidential term, that platform is increasingly important. Both members of the LGBTQIA+ community, the comics community, and self-publishing creators—who are gaining the recognition and credit they’ve so long deserved—have made indie presses their niche.
At occasions like the SPX, important discussions on issues of identity, politics, and publishing take place. Because there are few other stages for these topics with such a collection of truly representative voices, it is clear that events like these are key in maintaining a vibrant, active community. When the majority of resources are gathered in a few places, it’s essential to make sure that everyone else still gets a chance to be heard.
Whenever something or someone doesn’t fit in with the mainstream, so many doors automatically close. That can be unfortunate and unfair, but thankfully it doesn’t mean the end of the world. Indie presses are there for pretty much any material anyone could think of, ready to celebrate and reward the fringe that the Big Five miss out on.