Dystopian, YA sports novels set in outer space, and literature in translation set under the sea. Seriously, as a press that publishes primarily literary fiction, along with a smattering of nonfiction, following trends or even being concerned about them is an exercise in folly. Literary fiction doesn’t follow trends, as a good novel or short story collection arises from a singular, unique vision, which is not something you can—or should—try to anticipate or emulate. You can follow trends a bit when it comes to nonfiction, as you obviously want to publish a book on a topic that is important and/or newsworthy. We just published a book on juvenile justice reform called Boy With A Knife by Jean Trounstine that is getting a lot of attention. With the success of books like Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow, books about criminal justice reform are hot right now, which is partly what drew us to Boy With A Knife. However, since we rely mainly on submissions from authors and agents, we do not control trends, or, more accurately, the trends control us, as we can only publish what is submitted to us. Ultimately, predicting trends is about what happened before; no one knows where the next big “thing” will come from.
What book/genre/topic would you like to see cross your transom?
Despite being located in New York City, we seem to favor fiction set primarily in the West and South. Over the past few years, we have published books set in LA, San Francisco, Alaska, Kentucky, Miami, Cuba, New Orleans, rural Illinois, and North Carolina. Very few things set in the East—and I think only one book set in New York. This fall, we are publishing a YA novel called Extraordinary October by Diana Wagman, about a battle for control of the fairy world that is set in LA, and a brooding literary mystery, A Bloom of Bones by Allen Morris Jones, which takes place in Montana. I don’t know why we have this Western bias. Could be that these areas represent what is left in this country of life on the “margins,” and running an independent press is like being on the margins of the publishing industry. So, I guess we would like to see more Western fiction—and better fiction set in the East. We would also like to see more cultural and political nonfiction, particularly about food, as our food system is a topic that really intrigues us.
What topic don’t you ever want to see again?
Obviously, there are many genres that we don’t publish in, like poetry, so we don’t want to see books in those areas. However, in literary fiction, we are pretty open to anything. For example, I probably would have once told you that I wouldn’t be interested in publishing a book set in Alaska. However, in 2014, we published Point of Direction by Rachel Weaver, which was set in Alaska and was an Indie Next pick. So, we’re pretty open to all kinds of stuff. And, you know, if I ever got a good poetry collection, I would seriously consider publishing it.
What’s unique about your corner of the publishing industry?
Ig is an independent press with a carefully cultivated list, so, in many ways, “trends” have nothing to do with us. Because of money, we travel in a very different world than the big publishers, so a lot of the industry, Publishers Lunch kind of stuff, has no effect on us. It’s not like we’re going to be bidding on Barack Obama’s post–White House memoir along with Random House. One thing that I do think is great about being an indie press these days is literary fiction. With the major houses focused on “big” books, midlist fiction has all but disappeared from their radar, allowing presses like us to snatch it up. While many of our authors would likely have been on a big press 20, 30 years ago, today, if it weren’t for us, they might not have been published at all. We have published award-winning books that everyone in publishing passed on. While big presses will always get more review and marketing attention than something from a press like Ig—a source of eternal frustration and much private cursing—it is nevertheless an exciting time to be publishing literary fiction, as there are so many wonderful voices out there that we have the opportunity to publish. The same goes for nonfiction. Since we are not as focused on the bottom line as big presses, we can publish books on smaller issues that deserve wider attention.
Robert Lasner is the editor-in-chief of Ig Publishing (www.igpub.com), a New York–based independent press that publishes a carefully cultivated list of original literary fiction, political and cultural nonfiction, and reprints of classic works. Among the recent awards Ig’s books have won are a National Book Foundation 5 Under 35, a WILLA Award, and a PEN/Hemingway Honorable Mention.