In my family, we have a rule that once you’ve done something three years in a row, it becomes tradition. This year marks three years of organizing the annual Write or Die Small Press Literary Gift Guide. So, it’s officially tradition. I started this list because I am not a huge fan of the holiday season (or winter in general). I find this time of year particularly depressing. Watching people spend an excess of money and trample through stores in fits of self-will to find the perfect gift/decoration/ham/whatever for the sake of spreading holiday cheer is a hypocrisy that usually induces fantasies of escaping society completely. BUT I am not a total Scrooge, so I can see that some of the insanity of this time of year is ultimately a desire to feel joy and connectedness. And winter isn’t all bad. I appreciate that the shorter days and colder weather can provide space for slowing down, reflecting, and connecting with people you care about. Historically, winter is also when I read the most. There’s just something about refusing to turn the heater on in my cold apartment that makes staying in bed under the covers with a book even more enticing than normal. Reading has been my favorite pastime for as long as I could read. I turn to reading when I have a question, when I want to feel something, when I want hope, when I (as corny as it might sound) want to feel less alone. Books are where I turn at nearly every emotional and intellectual unknown. That’s why I started this list. I’m truly grateful to all that books give me (even ones I don’t like!), and it does feel like the greatest gift that there are people out there working tirelessly, often for little or no money, to bring writing into the world. In the consumer driven chaos of Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Christmas, etc., I figure supporting artists, writers, and the publishers who get their work to the public is a pretty okay way to engage.
Here is a list of Small Presses that have a little something extra to offer this holiday season for the reader in your life.
“The Lives of Writers t-shirt” – We love Autofocus Books (and personally Sarah Rauch’s XO is a book I talk about to anyone who will listen. I even teach from it in my writing classes to get a whole group of writers to talk with me about it). Autofocus has been bringing autographical to readers since 2020. Their “The Lives of Writers T-shirt” is a perfect gift for the writer in your life who is into a bit of a nostalgic aesthetic.
Belle Point Press
Book Bundles & More Book Bundles – Belle Point Press is a literary small press based in Fort Smith, Arkansas. They publish widely across genres but remain committed to authors with ties in or around the Mid-South. They offer a variety of bundles. The Mother Lode Bundle, for example, features six titles (poetry and prose, chapbook and full-length) all confronting the realities of motherhood. Or get a few titles from their Prose Series microchaps, which make great stocking stuffers.
Black Lawrence Press
Huge Holiday Sale & 2024 Subscriptions – If you’re on a budget and want to stock up on quality lit to gift this season, BLP is offering a huge holiday sale. They also have a book subscription service which is the gift that keeps on giving. They offer different packages that include forthcoming titles, backlist titles, and bonus gifts like mugs, totes, tarot cards, and more.
GIVEBOOKS Holiday Discount – Blair is a nonprofit press based in Durham, NC. This holiday season use the promo code “GIVEBOOKS” when shopping their site to get 25% off your order. I suggest starting with Tomorrow in Shanghai by May-lee Chai.
Unreliable Narrator T-Shirt – The Unreliable Narrator T-Shirt is Contemporary Jo’s newest merch design. “Whether you want to show off your knowledge of literary terms or make sure the world knows that you’re not opposed to a lie once and a while, the Unreliable Narrator T-Shirt is for you!”
Book Bundles, Merch, and More – I’m a big fan of Filthy Loot and their imprint (Talented Perverts). Ira Rat runs the press out of Ames Iowa and he really knows how to make beautiful indie books featuring candy colored horrors and cult fictions. They offer a handful of book bundles ranging from single author bundles to zine bundles (a rad bonus to ordering books from the site is that they often come with a handful of awesome stickers). Don’t want a bundle, get a single title like METH-DTF by Shane Jesse Christmass — Recently featured on Dennis Cooper’s, METH-DTF is Theory Fiction with heart.
Future Tense Books
NanoWriMo Promo (free book!) – Okay, I love Future Tense Books and I couldn’t possibly make this list without including them! For the rest of November they are including a copy of Michael J Seidlinger’s Runaways: A Writer’s Dilemma on any orders made through the site (be sure to write NanoWriMo in the notes of your order). This book would make THE PERFECT GIFT for any writer trying to write through the distraction of the internet (which is basically all writers!). What a great little bonus to go along with a book purchase. Some of my personal recent favs include Small Moods by Shane Kowalski, User Not Found by Felicity Fenton, and Cheap Therapist Says You’re Insane by Parker Young.
Milk Art Journal
Book Bundles Centered Around Art & Motherhood – Milk is a limited series art journal featuring works of written and visual art by artist-mothers about motherhood. Perfect gift for the moms in your life! Get the complete collection of this limited series art journal in this 3-volume bundle. Volume 1 is themed “Chores & Transcendence,” Volume 2 is “Body & Belonging,” and Volume 3 is “Purpose & Ambivalence.” Each issue features artworks working worldwide in various media, including photography, fiber-based art, painting, sculpture, collage and more, and includes two original interviews.
Paranoid Tree Press
Print Subscriptions – Paranoid Tree is a hybrid art zine/lit mag on a mission to build a more sustainable creative ecosystem. They release a new issue each month, and proudly pay all writers and artists in the process. “We can’t cure capitalism, but we can help artists survive. We believe writers and artists should be paid for their work, not paying others to consider it. Creativity is passion, but it is also labor. We invite you to enjoy a fully illustrated micro story every month, knowing your support goes directly to the creatives involved.” – Paranoid Tree Editors
Build Your Own Bundle – Publishing Genius (b. 2006) was founded in Baltimore and now works in the Adirondack Mountains of northern New York. Publishing Genius loves to highlight a diverse swath of genres, so they’re offering a bundle: choose three books and get 30% off. They’ve got some bundle suggestions by genre, or you can combine fiction, poetry, and their favorite category “other.” They recently published Timothy Willis Sanders’ collection Modern Massacres which includes one of my favorite short stories of all time (“Memories of My Friend Alex, Who is Dead” – I’ve probably read this story at least 100 times now and I teach it in multiple classes. Every single time I read it I feel a catch in my throat at the last line…even though I know it’s coming).
Red Hen Press
Book Merch – Red Hen Press is offering an exclusive #readthen campaign for literary lovers and independent publisher enthusiasts. I’m especially into the “Read a clucking book” shirt. Buy their books here: Books – Red Hen Press
Print Issues, Stickers & More – Spellbinder is an international nonprofit quarterly literary and art magazine which celebrates and offers a platform to artists, dramatists and poets, as well as writers of fiction and nonfiction. They have recently published the Autumn 2023 Issue, which is their 12th issue. Check out their Slogo Sticker – “This Spellbinder sticker is bound to start conversations. The writer you know can stick it on their water bottle, laptop, or wherever else they would like, and this will remind them of any time they had a positive or inspiring creative conversation… which will maybe lead to them starting another one!” – Spellbinder
Book Bundles – Split/Lip remains one of my favorite small presses (I’m currently reading Holy American Burnout by Sean Enfield which publishes 12/05 and it is a book you do not want to miss!). Split/Lip Press bundles galore, just in time for the holidays! Snag all four of their 2023 releases for just $40 or stock up on past titles via the Instant Collection bundles. Chapbooks, story collections, novels/novellas, nonfiction/hybrid work—take your pick!
Thirty West Publishing House
Westies Book Club Membership – Here’s another press I just adore. Pennsylvanian purveyors of hand-made chapbooks since 2015. Literary fiction, poetry, and the home of the #antiwrimo project. I was a big fan of Shannon McLeod’s Nature Trail Stories which they published earlier this year. You can buy your favorite reader a one month book club membership for $12 or get an annual membership for $100. “Card-carrying Westies only beyond this point. The club members receive a year’s worth of books, branded swag, Afterimages bonus posts, and secret discounts. Westies are the Thirty West loyal and we’re happy to have you here.” – Thirty West Publishing
Awkward Family Gift Bundles – The Whiskey Tit Awkward Family Gift Bundles are well-curated collections of recent titles that will help you stuff a group of stockings to fit the family needs of every family’s literary black sheep. This year’s bundles include a free title from the catalogue for the gift-giver to bury their own heads in as they hide in a corner and wait for it all to be over. Bundles include: “Corrupt the Youth: books to sharpen young minds to the world they’re about to inherit,” “People-Eating Edition: ratcheting up food systems for your own amusement” and “Confuse Your Right-Wing Relatives Edition.”
Wild Roof Journal
Digital Subscription, Greeting Cards, & More – Wild Roof is an online nature-themed publication that explores the connection between visual and literary arts. Wild Roof Journal has a shop page with digital subscription and individual issues, as well as original art postcards and greeting cards. WRJ shirts are also available through TeeSpring.
Is your favorite flavor more? Want some more books? More merch? Here are some presses worth looking at for your fellow bibliophile: