In the world of publishing, the big houses have a reputation of attracting as large and general a readership as possible. Large publishers often exclude books that are primarily of local interest, books that recount some quirk of local history or the current trends in the region. Some writers have resorted to the difficult and oft-derided path of self-publishing in order to get their local-interest books out into the world; other writers have found a good match with one of the small presses in their native region. Indie publishers are usually better suited to concentrate marketing and sales efforts on smaller and more specific target markets.
Here at Ooligan Press, for example, our mission is to produce books that honor the cultural and natural diversity of the Pacific Northwest. Under this umbrella, Ooligan has published various works of fiction, nonfiction, young adult novels, and even poetry, all speaking to some facet of the complex Northwest ethos. One such book is Brew to Bikes: Portland’s Artisan Economy, by Portland State Associate Professor Charles Heying. In Brew to Bikes, Heying takes readers on a whirlwind tour of the many independent artisanal industries that have sprung up in Portland in recent decades, and muses on the factors that have made this particular city the ideal environment for such enterprises. For more books exploring the history and character of the Pacific Northwest, just visit our website.
As proudly individualistic as Portland and the rest of the Pacific Northwest are, these are by no means the only places where small presses specializing in local-interest topics can thrive. Santa Fe, New Mexico, is home to an especially interesting example: The Palace Print Shop and Bindery, alternatively known as The Press of the Palace of the Governors. The Palace Print Shop and Bindery is an old-school press, living museum, and historical archive all rolled into one. It produces hand-bound, limited-edition works that focus on prominent events and personalities in the history of New Mexico, all while using genuine historical letterpress machinery.
Local presses need not be associated exclusively with major metropolises—west of San Antonio, in the aptly named Hill Country of Texas, the independent publisher known as Mockingbird Books can be found in a small town called Boerne. Mockingbird Books produces a few trade paperbacks and a whole passel of ebooks dedicated to the history and development of the state of Texas, and of the Hill Country in particular. Mockingbird Books also publishes a legal treatise on oil and gas titles, presumably of great interest in an oil-rich state. Despite being located a good thirty miles outside of San Antonio, Mockingbird Books is still able to call upon a rich regional history in its lineup of local-interest titles.
These three publishers are by no means the only presses dedicated to local topics. There are many such indie presses scattered throughout the United States, for every region, state, and city has its own unique character and history just waiting for native writers and readers to explore. Do you know of a small publisher in your area that focuses on local-interest titles? We at Ooligan Press encourage you to explore and find out—you may be surprised at what you find!