When shopping for a publisher, university presses deserve a place on your radar. Consider their many advantages: They’re attached to universities with enormous creative and intellectual resources. They’re encouraged as nonprofits to respond to mission, embrace editorial independence, and to take risks. And they’re spread out geographically, helping to establish a more diverse publishing landscape for literary work. Writers working with these presses gain important access to publishing professionals who may be tapped into networks of booksellers and independent review outlets that, while less visible in New York, can help books achieve traction at national and global scales.
At West Virginia University Press, we had a big success recently with Deesha Philyaw’s story collection, The Secret Lives of Church Ladies, published in 2020. The book—passed over by many commercial publishers—generated much attention when it was named a finalist for the National Book Award and then won several major prizes. But it’s far from alone among university-press success stories, as titles from presses like the University of Texas Press, University of Iowa Press, and Ohio State University Press have been named with some frequency recently during awards season and on best-of lists.
Not all university presses publish literary work, but plenty do. You can find out which ones are accepting fiction, literary nonfiction, and poetry by consulting the subject grid maintained by our trade group.
—Derek Krissoff, director of West Virginia University Press