A Tiny Press Holding Its Own and Sticking to Its Guns

An article, originally appearing in New York magazine, was published on Slate magazine’s website by Boris Kachka, “How the Tiny Graywolf Press Became a Big Player in Book Publishing” just two weeks ago.

This story speaks a lot to having a defined, focused niche and mission and how remaining committed and consistent gives a publisher not only credibility but can lead to huge success, even for a tiny, “no name” publisher like Graywolf Press. Graywolf Press exemplifies the need for publishing houses to stop being so money-driven and prove a true investment in their authors and products.  They are creative, innovative, and unique.

Graywolf Press’ mission statement is as follows:

“Graywolf Press is a leading independent publisher committed to the discovery and energetic publication of contemporary American and international literature. We champion outstanding writers at all stages of their careers to ensure that diverse voices can be heard in a crowded marketplace.

We believe books that nourish the individual spirit and enrich the broader culture must be supported by attentive editing, superior design, and creative promotion.”

Graywolf Press also includes a statement of “Financial Transparency,” which reiterates their mission but also goes on to say that “88% of all donations go toward our mission, but we are also dedicated to the sustainable growth of Graywolf Press.” The statement also includes the numbers and percentages of their expenses, revenues, and where all of their money goes.

Back to the story and article that is truly an inspiration and gives small presses and aspiring publishers hope.

A young poet named Eula Biss tried to get a publishing deal with one of the big name houses, but they were pushing her to change the “voice” in her writing. Biss refused to alter the “diffident, lyrical approach” of her writing, and not long after she won a publication prize with Graywolf Press and had the book of essays, Notes from No Man’s Land, published in 2009. Biss then went on to win numerous awards and wrote one of the top-10 books of 2014 for the Times Book Review and was offered many, many deals from the top publishing houses and even a six figure payout for On Immunity, but Biss declined the offers saying, “Why change a winning team?”

Courtesy of The Nation
Courtesy of The Nation

This success is nothing new for Graywolf Press, but Biss’ story drew the Press national attention and caught the eyes of publishers everywhere. The Press has managed in the last six years to have authors win four NBCC awards, a National Book Award, two Pulitzer Prizes, and a Nobel Prize. And those are a few of Graywolf Press’ published authors’ accomplishments.

Graywolf Press is “a scrappy little press that harnessed and to some extent generated a revolution in nonfiction, turning the previously unprepossessing genre of ‘lyric essay’ into a major cultural force.” Something other publishers (larger, more lucrative publishers) were unable to do, and who were unable to see the potential.

The Press will exceed $2 million in revenue this year, which no other independence press, excepting a 41-year old nonprofit, has been able to accomplish in so short amount of time.

Graywolf Press also knows how to use social media to their advantage with a limited marketing budget being a small press, having more than double the followers at 253K as FSG (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) and almost as many as Knopf, which is six times the size of Graywolf Press, at 271K.  The Press also have over 26K likes on Facebook and implements Pinterest

Graywolf Press not only has an impactful, actionable, niche-oriented, focused, and meaningful mission, but they also follow through on it. This is revealed by their huge success and their ability to become a force in the publishing industry despite being offbeat and a smaller name press. Graywolf Press is the prime model for a publishing organization that is committed, consistent, and credible. Read more about Graywolf Press here. You can also follow them on PinterestTwitter, and Facebook for more updates and news on what this mover and shaker in the industry is doing next.


Published by

Kate Leboff

Kate Leboff works in marketing in Knoxville, TN, and works as a proofreader, book reviewer, and literacy volunteer teacher at a local organization called Friends of Literacy. She writes fiction, poetry, and nonfiction and has published numerous articles while working as a journalist and reporter. Kate holds a Bachelor of Arts in English (Creative Writing) with a minor in Digital Studies from the University of Mary Washington and is pursuing her Masters in Publishing at The George Washington University. She hopes to start her own trade book publishing company in Nashville, TN, in the near future.

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