Name of press: Haymarket Books
In what year was your press founded? 2001
How many people are on your staff? As a press within a non-profit, we have a unique staff model. A few of us work on our publishing projects full time, but by and large we collectively work on all of the projects that flow out of our non-profit, the Center for Economic Research and Social Change (CERSC), which has hosted a number of speaking tours and also publishes a magazine. We work freelance designers and copy editors to pull it all off; and most importantly, our focus on social justice has brought us a truly amazing array of savvy, passionate volunteers that frequently help us promote our books and staff events across the country.
Tell us how your press came to be: In 2001, a number of activists with previous experience in publishing began discussing the need for books which could play a role in educating and inspiring struggles for social justice. We wanted to bring often-marginalized voices and ideas into broader political discourse; and also help relate the lessons of past movements to new generations. At the time, we were in the midst of the global justice movement and starting from scratch. Now, we're thrilled to have just published the latest work, "Field Notes on Democracy," of one of the preeminent voices of that movement, Booker Prize-winner Arundhati Roy, alongside Noam Chomsky and acclaimed independent journalist Amy Goodman, with their respective Haymarket titles "Hopes and Prospects" and "Breaking the Sound Barrier."
What is the biggest challenge for a small press, in your opinion? We have to work very hard to be heard, as all of the institutions of book trade are oriented on big publishers. When you look at the New York Times and even many of the independent best-seller and favorites lists, the vast majority of the books listed are from big houses that have tons of money to spend on galleys, marketing, publicists, and author advances. As an independent non-profit publisher, it is difficult for us to compete for major interviews, reviews, and big name authors. That being said, when you maintain your independence, you can have forceful, unique, relevant content; and in that context, we find hard work pays off. Within our current list, Amy Goodman's "Breaking the Sound Barrier" hit the New York Times bestseller list, and actor/playwright Wallace Shawn's "Essays" was a major critical success.
What do you most enjoy about the state of the publishing industry right now? As challenging as it may be at times, there is room for independent publishers. During an economic crisis and increasing conglomeration in the book industry, we've seen a rise in sales, for two years running. It is possible for us to exist and flourish, thanks to Consortium Book Sales and Distribution, who gets our books - and the books of many other great political presses - out into the world. Independent bookstores also do so much to promote the important work of indie presses by highlighting titles that are often not even in stock at major chain stores. (Readers, please be sure to support them!) What's most exciting is that when there is room for us, there is room for us to weigh in on American culture in exciting and radically different ways.
What do you wish more people knew about your press? We'd like people to know that we truly believe in activism and the power of ordinary people coming together for change. For us, our work does not begin and end with books. We believe, as the great historian Howard Zinn said, that "reading and resistance go hand in hand." You can find us in the bookstores, and you can also meet us in the streets at local demonstrations. We're here in Chicago and we love to collaborate with others who do good work. We recently co-hosted leading equal marriage activist Cleve Jones, founder of the AIDS Memorial Quilt, with two dynamic local organizations, Join the Impact and Young Chicago Authors. We also set up shop at WBEZ's Hip-Hop Winter Block Party. We aim to be where there are people who want to change the world and we love to collaborate.
Where can people find you on the Web? haymarketbooks.org
- Haymarket Books staff
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