This post is a response to several requests, and we're really happy that it ties in with the start of Indieathon! We've discovered during our book box journey that it's actually often quite hard to tell if publishers are independent or imprints of one of the big five. Read on, and we will attempt to clarify this as much as we can - full disclaimer: a lot of it is just getting familiar with indies and starting to recognise their logos on book spines!
Firstly, what do we define as an independent publisher? Basically, it's a publisher that owns itself and/or isn't owned by a big multi-national company. We also take into account whether or not the publisher counts itself as independent. A lot of indies are small, but not all of them are. For example publishers like Canongate and Oneworld are indies but are pretty big and may have several imprints. However they aren't part of a corporation or conglomerate and their emphasis is solely on publishing. Publishers like Walker and Bloomsbury are even bigger and do operate on a multi-national level but are still indies for the above reason.
Indie authors: You will often hear authors calling themselves indie authors. In this instance they usually mean self-published. We do consider self-published books for the book box but the majority are traditionally published with editorial direction and so on by independent publishers.
Honestly the easiest way to find out if a publisher is independent is to look them up and see what they have to say about themselves, but to help you along your way here are some to look out for in bookshops. You can also check out our much more extensive twitter list of independent publishers if you'd like to fully immerse yourself in the world of indie publishing (we highly recommend it).
Ones You'll Probably Have Heard Of
These are probably all logos you'll have seen in Waterstone's or your local independent bookshop. They are widely available and publish authors you will have heard about and books which have been shortlisted for and won awards.
Canongate - big indie publisher of every genre and description! Publishers of Matt Haig, Scarlett Thomas and many other authors.
Oneworld (imprints Rock the Boat & Point Blank) - publishers of 2015 & 16 Man Booker Prize winners The Sellout by Paul Beatty and A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James as well as nonfiction such as Mary Roach's Packing for Mars and Gloria Steinem's memoir On the Road.
Faber & Faber - originally publishers of poetry but now publish a wide range of fiction, often literary fiction as well including Kazuo Ishiguro and Grief is the Thing with Feathers by Max Porter.
Granta - publishers of all sort of literary fiction and non-fiction, Granta is one of the independent publishers you're most likely to find in Waterstone's!
Atlantic (imprints Allen & Unwin, Corvus, Grove Press) - another publisher of literary fiction and non-fiction, Atlantic are known for publishing a wide range with an imprint for commercial fiction (Corvus) and are also the UK publishers for Australian independent Allen & Unwin and US indie Grove Press.
Allison & Busby - publishing seemingly everything under the sun, you'll find a lot of commercial and genre fiction here.
Ones You Might Not Know but Should
These might be harder to find in bookshops but you can always get them to order things in for you!
Salt Publishing - Salt are our most supported publisher - we've had two of their titles voted in for our book club so far (The Clocks in this House All Tell Different Times by Xan Brooks and How to be a Kosovan Bride by Naomi Hamill) and Dead of Winter by Gerri Brightwell has just been included in our February box. This is entirely accidental and completely unsurprising - I've yet to read a less than amazing book from Salt and highly recommend them!
Comma Press - Comma are our favourites for amazing, unexpected short story collections. I've been reading Protest (edited by Ra Page) for months now and it's just so interesting. Each story is about a different protest or uprising in British history all the way from the Peasant's Revolt through to the present day and each is accompanied by an essay from an expert or eyewitness. All of their collections are so well thought out and their single author collections are astounding - The Ghost who Bled by Gregory Norminton was also a Ninja Book Club pick and remains the best short story collection I've read in years.
Seren Books - A small Welsh publishing house with a very eclectic list. Seren publish our first box book, Star-Shot by Mary Ann Constantine, as well as lots of other fantastic fiction, non-fiction and poetry from all genres. Their books have unique perspective.
Unsung Stories - We've worked with Unsung Stories a couple of times now and have had great feedback from subscribers who have loved The Arrival of Missives by Aliyah Whiteley and 2084. Unsung publish speculative fiction which often fits into or around science fiction. Their books are quirky and awesome.
404 Ink - If you're on twitter you've likely come across 404 Ink. We first heard about them when they were Kickstarting for their first book, Nasty Women. They also publish a magazine full of cool stuff and are currently at the end of a Kickstarter for their first graphic novel, We Shall Fight Until We Win, a collaboration with BHP Comics.
3 of Cups Press - 3 of Cups are the publisher of my heart at the moment. They also currently operate via Kickstarter pre-orders for their collections, the first of which, On Anxiety, I am reading at the moment and relating to so much. Their second collection, On Bodies, is coming later in the year.
And Other Stories - independent publisher of literary fiction, often translated, often unusual.
Persephone Books - the books you'll see which all have beautiful grey covers. Publishers of out of print and forgotten (mainly) women authors from (mainly) the interwar period. A surprisingly wide range of genres.
Head of Zeus (imprints Aria and Zephyr) - publishers of everything with an emphasis on genre fiction (science fiction, fantasy and historical).
Myriad Editions - publishers of literary and genre fiction and of particularly good graphic novels across all genres.
We somehow managed to miss one of our favourite indies off of this list, for which we are blaming the fact that everyone wants to read Sometimes a River Song and it had gone walkies from our shelf. However we've now recovered it and offer this late (but no less valued) addition to the list!
Linen Press - Linen Press publish books only by women writers from across a wide range of genres. Their books often feature women from unusual backgrounds or in less regularly portrayed situations, and they publish one of my favourite books of 2017, Sometimes a River Song by Avril Joy. You can find a range of Linen Press titles in our shop.
Hopefully this (slightly longer than planned) post has helped give an idea of what an independent publisher is and provided some visual aids which may help you pick out indie books when you're next browsing in a bookshop. If you've got other questions we've not answered in this post please leave them in the comments & we'll do our best to answer them!