The merger of indie presses Black Ocean and Not a Cult into a new publishing group offers new path for competitive small-press publishing in the digital era.
As debates about the metaverse rage on, a new development in publishing is proving that digital transformation is core to the future of one of the most legacy media formats in existence: books.
Today, two prominent indie presses — Black Ocean and Not a Cult — officially announced a merger, forming the Chapter House Publishing Group.
The move is intended to be greater than the sum of its parts: in addition to the two aforementioned presses, Chapter House will also stand up a raft of additional imprints: Psychonaut Press for speculative fiction and non-fiction (with editor-at-large Sheree Renée Thomas); Tetra House for self-publishing services and strategy; Kin Garden for children’s books and books for parents; Sauce Press for cookbooks and other food-related books, and an as of yet unnamed imprint for esoteric arts & ideas (with discussions of bringing on writer, curator, and host of The Witch Wave podcast, Pam Grossman, as editor).
. . . .
With this merger, Chapter House becomes one of the few U.S. indie publishing groups with a presence on both coasts, and has earned a new deal with prominent indie book distributor Consortium.
Not a Cult Founder Daniel Lisi and Black Ocean Founder Janaka Stucky see this new chapter as an assertion that independent publishing is more vibrant than ever — in contradistinction to the increasing homogeneity they perceive resulting from “Big Five” major book publishing (likely soon to be Big Four).
“As systems become more homogenous, it is necessary to diversify not only backgrounds but also a diversity of thought that isn’t sponsored by corporations beholden to their shareholders or investors,” Lisi said in an interview with the author. “You don’t want to read books 100% from one place. You want to have many sources, many voices, a chorus of information to explore.”
. . . .
Contrary to what some might expect, book sales have actually increased in the 2020s — seeing a rise of 8.2% in 2020 and an 18.5% increase in the first half of 2021 (compared to the first half of 2020). But like any medium, when book publishing is determined by the choices of a select few, authors and readers suffer.
Chapter House is combining the new possibilities of digital publishing with an emphasis on quality to become a publisher that makes the best of new and established practices. Major book publishing emphasizes volume; the more books a press prints at once, the cheaper the price per book. But this means that publishers are often implicitly seeking reliable hits to justify large print runs.
. . . .
Chapter House will continue to emphasize a small-team focus for each imprint, with accessible “unagented” submission periods continuing for both Black Ocean and Not a Cult (both of which received over 500 submissions during their open calls). In collaboration with art curator Alan Weiner, Chapter House opened up a new base of operations in Aero Salon in downtown Los Angeles and hired staff to handle fulfillment, with the goal of creating a sustainable, scalable, and transferable framework for indie presses to compete with big presses — while retaining an emphasis on boundary-pushing books — using streamlined digital tools and practices.
Link to the rest at Forbes
PG doesn’t know anything about either small publisher, but unless both are consistently profitable, he’s reminded of the old story of two drowning men who see one another as potential means of mutual buoyancy.