Introducing a New Indie Press: Great Place Books
Emily Adrian, Alex Higley, and Monika Woods on Publishing the Ambitious, Weird, and Alluring
Let’s be honest: most days, the literary landscape looks a little bleak. Everywhere you turn, there are announcements that another beloved publication/press/bookstore is closing its doors. But today is not one of those days. Today, you can feel good about being on the literary internet. Today, we get to celebrate the start of a new indie press!
Great Place Books launches this year with three forthcoming titles and a roster of creative writing classes. This new press promises to be a home for “rigorous, weird, beautiful books—and their readers.”
The founders—writers Alex Higley, Emily Adrian, and Monika Woods of Triangle House Literary—answered a few questions about the state of publishing, their hopes and dreams, and what readers and writers can expect from Great Place Books.
What inspired you to start your own press? Why now?
With so many small presses and literary magazines shutting down, and the state of publishing in general, we were inspired to seek out the kind of work that’s increasingly marginalized. The kind of books we love to read. In recent years, publishing has pressured so many literary authors into altering their work to be palatable for a more commercial audience. A hypothetical commercial audience.
We want to be a home for books that are allowed to remain ambitious and weird. The manuscripts we’ve acquired so far are distinctive, searching, emotionally complicated. We feel so lucky these authors trusted us with their work, and we’re excited to take on more projects. –Alex Higley, Editor and Cofounder
There is so much space within the independent press world for something new. And as Alex, Emily, and I talked about our own publishing histories, one thing we realized together was that we wanted to make even more. There are so many presses we love and respect, and while we’ve had wonderful experiences, and we want to follow in that tradition, we also want to be different. We want to open things up.
Even just being another option for publishing literary work in a deferent, eager way. I think one word we kept using was “alluring” when we talked about what we wanted to put into the world, and the work we wanted to do. And when Alex and Emily came up with that vibe, it felt really right. –Monika Woods, Cofounder
What are some of the challenges of starting an independent press?
We didn’t know what we didn’t know. We still don’t know! One question answered—about forming a company, working with printers, soliciting work from authors—meant needing to ask seven more. There are a lot of good people within the independent book world who have helped us, are helping us, and have generously tolerated our ignorance. –Alex Higley, Editor and Cofounder
There are so many, truly! But I do feel lucky because I’ve already started a magazine and an agency, so I know that there is this big mountain you look up when you’re starting something, thinking, how the hell do I do this, it’s all only obstacles, but as you climb it, you figure it out, slowly but surely, and then it all ends up plateauing and you start to think, I can do this, I *am* doing this.
I will say, figuring this stuff out with Alex and Emily has been some of the most fun I’ve had in a long time… I felt so proud and happy when they showed me their first cover for Blocks World. It’s worth all the struggle! –Monika Woods, Cofounder
Great Place Books is going to publish books as well as offer classes. Can you speak more to that decision? What do you hope will come out of this hybrid model?
We want to foster community among writers and readers, including those whose work might not be totally mainstream, and those looking to engage more seriously with what they’re reading. Our hope is that our courses remind you of your favorite writing or literature class from college; we want students to make real connections with their peers and instructors.
Another goal is to demystify the publishing process for writers at the start of their careers. Industry norms and quirks will be discussed in class, and all students will have a chance to attend a Q&A session with an agent, editor, and published author. You can see courses currently open for registration at www.greatplacebooks.com/classes. –Emily Adrian, Editor and Cofounder
What are some projects you’re particularly excited about at the moment?
This fall we’ll publish Blocks World, the debut collection from poet Emma Catherine Perry. Blocks World puts the strange, often intimate language of computers and Artificial Intelligence in conversation with the immutability of the natural world. (It can be pre-ordered on our website!) Alex and I were on the phone raving about this book to each other within an hour of receiving the submission.
Poet and essayist Elisa Gabbert describes Blocks World as “an uncanny, fiercely inquisitive collection.” The cover was designed by Aidan Fitzgerald, who is responsible for all our art direction, and his vision is a perfect match for this project.
Coming in 2024 we have novelist Julia Hannafin’s debut, Cascade, a propulsive drama set on the Farallon Islands, about addiction, sex, gender, loss, and whether any of us can escape our biological inheritance. The novel follows its protagonist’s attempt to avoid grief by going to work for her ex-boyfriend’s father tagging and monitoring great white sharks. Hannafin is a unique talent, and we can’t wait to share their work with readers.
Finally, we were so thrilled to acquire the English translation of Spanish author Pilar Fraile’s Euphoria Days. It’s a darkly funny philosophical novel with a speculative streak, about monetized intimacies, big data, and the sinister drug of happiness. To be publishing the English debut from such a renowned Spanish author is a huge honor for us. –Emily Adrian, Editor and Cofounder
How do debut authors reach/pitch you?
Authors and agents can email us at any time with pitches and submissions. Alex and I both look at everything we receive, and we don’t pass on a project without giving it serious consideration. Our contact info is available at www.greatplacebooks.com. –Emily Adrian, Editor and Cofounder
What’s another indie press you love/would recommend?
Coffee House Press. If you take a look at just some of their recent books: When Women Kill by Alia Trabucco Zerán or Till the Wheels Fall Off by Brad Zellar or Bilbao-New York-Bilbao by Kirmen Uribe you’ll find each to be completely idiosyncratic, daring, singular. We aspire to publish as fearlessly. We are so excited to be publishing the Spanish novel Euphoria Days by Pilar Fraile, translated into English by CHP senior editor, Lizzie Davis. –Alex Higley, Editor and Cofounder