The November issue of The Writer carried an interesting article titled “Is a University Press Right For You?” in which Paola Corso ticked off the positives of publishing through a university press rather than a big-house publisher. Though the article is geared for writers, I thought it a good opportunity to tweak it toward the reader considering the wealth of authorship under its care.
We all know by now that the state of commercial publishing is far from ideal for aspiring writers (see NLR’s Price Wars, Along Came James Patterson). Corso contends that while large publishing houses can’t financially gamble on fresh new voices, “small presses have different priorities” and are much more receptive toward the representation of edgier, less accessible work.
Ultimately this is great news for wide-ranging readers. While there’s no denying the glitz and excitement surrounding upcoming big-house releases, there’s also great merit in the more subtle, organic approach of university outlets carrying lesser known titles of equal literary merit.
Corso claims that regional themes are often at the heart of university press selections, which certainly holds true in Michigan. With well-received titles in the past year alone, both the University of Michigan Press and Wayne State University Press have gone on to release award-winning titles with strong state connections. Whether it’s a short story portrayal of our hard economic times, or the eerie murder of a young nun in Isadore, it appears that our quiet local university presses are making plenty of national literary noise.
Buying books is big bucks and those of us who pinch our pennies take the selection process very seriously. With several hot university presses in our midst there’s no reason not to consider what our locals have to offer. So, if you are the type of reader who looks outside the box and dares to be a little different, it is well worth your time to explore.*
Support your local bookstores and universities. It matters!
*A note: I am NOT affiliated with any university or university press contractually or otherwise. I simply believe in what they have to offer.
-Post by Megan Shaffer