Five independent publishers to watch

The publishing industry has been under huge pressure this year. When the UK went into lockdown, thousands of authors pushed the launch plans for their books back until the autumn. Not only that, but many people have used 2020 to try their hand at writing, sparking a huge surge in authors hoping to get their work published.

This means publishers are trying harder than ever to stand out, to attract both budding and established authors alike. For independent publishers, it’s important to shout out amongst the bigger players. Here are five publishers who are doing just that.

Penned in the Margins

Founded in 2005, Penned in the Margins has grown into an award-winning small arts organisation, producing new work live, in print and online. With a team made up of people from a variety of creative backgrounds (think writers, publishers, directors, and composers), they pride themselves on always looking for new ways to present the spoken and written word. Their work has won, and been shortlisted for several distinguished accolades including the Ted Hughes Award and the Rathbones Folio Award.

Fitzcarraldo Editions

Founded in 2014, Fitzcarraldo Editions is a small, independent publishing house which specialises in contemporary fiction and essays which push the boundaries in terms of form, style, or genre. You will have seen their books, which are striking in their design – paperback originals in deep blue for fiction and white for non-fiction with a bespoke typeface. The publisher has been incredibly successful in the literature in translation category – a strategy of speaking with translators about the books they love and taking those recommendations seriously, has so far paid off. So much so, that it’s rare to see an International Booker Prize without entries from Fitzcarraldo. This publisher certainly has a cosmopolitan and innovative mindset and is one to watch.

Visual Editions

Visual Editions is an exciting creative firm which brings together the best of technology, editorial and culture. The ethos of Visual Editions is that stories are what bring people together and the team works to share these stories in new and innovative ways, often making use of technology in the process. With backgrounds in editorial, design, advertising and technology, the team is strong and has attracted an impressive roster of clients, creating books, apps, and interactive reading experiences for the likes of Google AI, Mercedes Benz and WeTransfer.


An incredible model for publishing, Unbound has shifted the balance of power when it comes to publishing, giving people and communities the power to publish the works which matter to them. A crowdfunding publisher, the community of over 250,000 people had funded 559 projects and counting. Several of the books published through the site have gone on to win impressive accolades, some of which after struggling to get published traditionally, and so make for incredible success stories.

And Other Stories

The British publishing industry has for many years been criticised for its lack of diversity, which has wide and damaging repercussions. Diverse authors and storylines are not just necessary for marginalised groups to relate to: they also discourage societal stereotypes. A diverse publishing industry is imperative to properly represent the wonderful diversity of modern Britain. This is something publisher And Other Stories knows only too well – the firm thinks more of the English publishing industry should move out of London, so in 2017 moved its headquarters to Sheffield, to make it easier for people of all backgrounds to enter the profession. The publishing house has also launched the Northern Book Prize and has set up reading groups with the aim of discovering foreign works of literature with potential to be translated and published in English. And Other Stories is a fantastic example of how nimble small publishing firms can be.

Independent publishers have an incredibly important role in society. Sitting at the forefront of the discovery of new writers, they are responsible for opening reading choices often overlooked by mainstream publishers. This opens writing as a career choice for under-represented authors, it brings diverse and exciting stories into the public domain, and develops new audiences. The publishers in this blog are all impressive examples of companies which are thinking outside of the box, to develop exciting new models to bring people together through stories when this social cohesion is needed most.

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