The relaunch of our website provides a good moment to look back at what we’ve done, and to think too about the amazing rise and rise of small presses over the last few years.
We started the Contemporary Small Press project in 2015 with the aim of acting as a forum, champion and support for the burgeoning number of small literary presses in the UK. At the time, the small presses we met were telling us about their frustration at not getting the coverage, resources and readers that they knew they and their writers deserved, and we set out to do as much as we could to change this.
We ran a series of Arts Council-funded events around the country in city libraries, bringing together local presses, readers and writers; we hosted a number of readings and events for small presses such as Linen Press, Patrician Press and CB Editions. We hosted the Republic of Consciousness Prize in 2017 and 2018, and have supported the Republic of Consciousness Small Press podcast through 2018/19. We ran our first small press book fair in 2015, and are delighted to be running our second, co-organised with Dostoyevsky Wannabe, on 19 October 2019. Our original website began our directory of small presses, and ran many reviews, encouraging readers to buy direct from small presses where possible.
All these activities addressed the multiple way in which small presses felt excluded from and disadvantaged in relation to the workings of the publishing and wider literary industries. Through all our activities, we have been delighted to work with so many brilliant small presses, to connect them with each other, with potential writers and potential readers.
We have been delighted too to see how – across literary cultures in the UK – the work of small presses has begun to be noticed and celebrated. Small press publications have, since we started in 2015, won mainstream prizes, have started to be routinely reviewed in mainstream newspapers and magazines, to be featured in bookshops, to be talked about on the radio, to be covered in a mass of feature articles and blogs. This is fantastic. Small presses are changing the literary climate in the UK – calling everyone’s attention to formally challenging books, to books in translation, to books from those who have been traditionally excluded from British literary culture.
But there’s still work to do! Small press publishing challenges some of the fundamental assumptions and practices upon which mainstream publishing is based. It is the result of hard work, economic sacrifices and risk taking on the part of the presses, and notwithstanding the reviews, the prizes and the feature articles, it’s still tough for small presses. Our new website marks the Contemporary Small Press’s continued commitment to supporting small presses where they need it most – connecting them with new readers, new writers and with each other.
We hope you enjoy the new Contemporary Small Press site, enjoy finding out about new presses, and enjoy buying and reading what they produce!