Essential Indie Presses for Queer Book Lovers
Here’s a pro tip for all my fellow queer book lovers: indie presses are where it’s at! In the two years or so since I’ve been paying close attention to who publishes the books I read, I’ve noticed a few things. First: indie presses are out here publishing some seriously incredible queer lit — world-altering, paradigm-shifting, live-in-your-heart forever books. Second: one of the best ways to discover new queer books is through indie publishers.
I now have a running list (and trust me, it keeps on growing) of indie publishers I love who consistently publish phenomenal queer books across a range of genres. I keep my eye on Arsenal Pulp’s catalogue because I know it’s going to be chock-full of LGBTQ+ stories I can’t wait to get my hands on. I follow Coffee House Press and The Feminist Press online so that I don’t miss it when they announce new titles. When I’m in the mood for queer romance and don’t have anything particular in mind, I browse through Interlude Press’s website until I find something. These are all presses whose work has impressed me over and over again, publishers I trust to bring the queer books I want to be reading into the world.
Indie presses aren’t the only ones publishing great queer lit, but they are essential to LGBTQ+ publishing. So many important and beautiful books might not exist if these presses weren’t dedicated to championing the work of queer and trans authors.
I love a lot of indie presses, but these are ten of my favorites, and the ones I think every queer book lover should know and support. I am endlessly grateful for the work they do, and I can’t wait for all the brilliant books they have yet to publish.
Arsenal Pulp Press
Arsenal Pulp is a indie publisher based in Vancouver, BC. It’s no secret that I’m a huge fangirl and have been for a long time. If someone came to me and said, “I want to read more queer books! Where do I start?” I’d direct them to Arsenal Pulp. They publish widely across genre, from speculative fiction and poetry to memoir, graphic nonfiction, and contemporary fiction. The LGBTQ+ tag in their shop yields a whopping 174 results. I have personally read 36 APP titles and only disliked one — that’s a pretty incredible track record. Two favorites, if you’re looking for somewhere to start: Weekend by Eaton Hamilton (fiction) and Care Work by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha (nonfiction).
Metonymy is a small queer press in Montreal; everything they publish is gold. I love this press so much I wrote them a love letter. Their website states that they “like to keep gay book lovers satisfied” and that they publish “work that transgresses boundaries, undermines the status quo, and sustains those on the margins.” Yes, yes, yes. I have read their entire catalogue (10 books) and there is not a dud in the bunch. If you’re looking for somewhere to start, start with them all. Or start with my favorites: Small Beauty by jia qing wilson yang (a gorgeous novel) and A Natural History of Transition by Callum Angus (weird and perfect short stories).
The Feminist Press
I am consistently amazed by the breadth and quality of queer books published by The Feminist Press. They publish books that “ignite movements and social transformation,” with an editorial vision that highlights intersectional feminism in fiction and nonfiction. I have taken so many risks on Feminist Press books, picked up stories I might have passed by as “not for me” but decided to try because I’ve never read an FP book I didn’t like. I’ve been rewarded with stunners like the mind-boggling trans masterpiece Margaret and the Mystery of the Missing Body; the dark and beautiful Violets; the eerie graphic story collection Apsara Engine; and the delightfully strange story collection Pretend It’s My Body (coming in October).
Coffee House Press
Based in Minneapolis, Coffee House is a nonprofit publisher with a focus on poetry, essays, literary fiction and work that defies the bounds of genre. They are very, very good at this last part — if you like hybrid nonfiction (like messays!) you need some Coffee House books in your life. I don’t even bother to read blurbs or synopses anymore. Any and all queer nonfiction from Coffee House is an auto-buy for me. Three recent favorites that fall into this category (and that I will be thinking about forever): Madder by Marco Wilkinson, The Breaks by Julietta Singh, and Borealis by Aisha Sabatini Sloan.
Seven Stories Press
Seven Stories publishes works of “radical imagination,” focusing on fiction, political nonfiction, and hybrid books that blend genres. They have an extensive backlog of books that focus on social justice and protest moments, as well as fiction and nonfiction in translation. I discovered them after reading Alex DiFrancesco’s wonderful story collection Transmutation. I promptly bought a pile of their other queer titles, including Things to Do When You’re Goth in the Country by Chavisa Woods and The Others by Seba al-Herz.
I am a die hard fan of queer indie presses, so I am truly delighted whenever I learn about a new one! Cipher Press, which publishes books by queer and trans authors, was founded in 2020 “as a response to the lack of dedicated queer publishing in the UK.” It turns out they are the UK publisher of a book I’ve already read and loved, Brontez Purnell’s sexy, funny, openhearted story collection 100 Boyfriends. I am keen to dig into their backlist and their upcoming titles, but I am most excited about Front Lines, a collection of journalism by trans writer and critic Juliet Jacques.
It’s impossible not to fall in love with a press whose tagline is: “We’re weird and queer and you better be okay with that!” Their focus is speculative fiction of all stripes, and while they now publish non-queer books, they started as a queer press and remain wonderfully queer-centric. I’m a big fan of both the Lethe Press story collections I’ve read: Sea, Swallow Me and Everyone on the Moon Is Essential Personnel. They are also the publishers of my favorite underrated gay fantasy series, Astreiant, the first of which is Point of Hopes.
RedBone Press is an indie publisher dedicated to uplifting the work of Black gay men and lesbians. Founded in 1995 to address the lack of Black voices in mainstream, white-led lesbian publishers, the press has since published an array of fiction and nonfiction that celebrates Black queer culture. Their beautiful anthologies are a great place to start. Does Your Mama Know? is a collection of Black lesbian coming out stories, and Brother to Brother includes stories, essays, and poetry by Black gay men.
Interlude publishes LGBTQ+ and general fiction for teens and adults. Fans of queer romance should definitely take note — they’ve publish a lot of excellent, under-the-radar titles. Their extensive back catalogue includes a few of my favorites: C.B. Lee’s Sidekick Squad YA superhero series and Pene Henson’s quiet and beautiful gay surfer romance Into the Blue.
Bonus: Surely Books
Surely Books is an imprint of Abrams, but I’m including it anyway because it’s a very exciting imprint. Led by author and comic artist Mariko Tamaki, it focuses exclusively on LGBTQ+ comics and graphic novels! I recently read and loved Flung Out of Space, a graphic biography of Patrica Highsmith, and all of their upcoming titles look amazing as well.
If you, like me, can’t get enough of queer books and indie presses, check out this list of 10 Queer Books from Indie Presses out in 2022. You might also be interested in this deep dive into Arsenal Pulp’s backlist.