Monday, August 30, 2021, marks the launch of the Republic of Consciousness Prize for Small Presses (RofC) in the USA. With a stated mission “to support small presses for their on-going commitment to work of high literary merit,” the RofC USA website explains: “it is the small publishers who take the largest creative and financial risks and yet, in a purely financial sense, they are least able to do so.”
Founded in the UK in 2017 by novelist Neil Griffiths, the USA version of the prize will be spearheaded by Lori Feathers, book critic and co-owner of Interabang Books in Dallas, Texas. In a press release announcing the award’s launch, Feathers indicated that she’s been following the prize in the UK since its inception and feels it is “the ideal mechanism to promote and reward the work of small presses.”
“Nothing would make me happier than if the prize enabled new readers to discover and follow their favorite small presses in much the way they do their favorite authors,” she added. One of the RofC USA judges for 2022, author Ben Fountain, said of the new award: “Small presses are the unsung heroes of the literary world. It’s high time we turn the speakers up to eleven and start singing their praises.”
Like its UK counterpart, the RofC USA will, beginning in 2022, award the majority of its annual prize fund to the winning small press or presses. Throughout the year, the RofC USA will further support small presses with initiatives such as readings in bookshops, panel discussions at literary festivals, a blog on the RofC USA website, and active promotion of small presses and their books on Twitter (@USRofC).
Publishers may begin making their submissions for the 2022 prize beginning on October 21, 2021. According to the RofC USA submission criteria, a “small press” is defined as one that publishes an average of 18 or fewer titles per year, with the majority of those works being new, adult literary fiction.
The 2022 judging panel has been announced, with four out of the five members being booksellers — a practice, Feathers told me, she wants to continue each year. The judges for the first RofC USA will be:
Lori Feathers, book critic and co-owner of Interabang Books, Dallas, Texas
Ben Fountain, award-winning author, Dallas, Texas
Michelle Malonzo, buyer at Changing Hands Bookstore, Phoenix and Tempe, Arizona
Javier Ramirez, co-owner of Exile in Bookville, Chicago, Illinois
Neil Griffiths, award-winning author and founder of the Republic of Consciousness Prize for Small Presses, United Kingdom