Small Press, Big Joys.

With graduation just around the corner, one question hangs ominously above my head: What next?

Will I be getting a PhD? A job? When I confirm to people that it is likely I will begin looking for a job in publishing, I inevitably get this follow-up question: so, will you be moving to New York?

Most publishing professionals will tell you the heart of publishing is in New York. I attended the Denver Publishing Institute last summer, and I’d estimate that about 97% of the editors there told me that if I wanted to get into trade publication, my best bet would be to go to New York. Most trade publication (that is, publication for a general rather than academic audience) is located there. 

Before I began working at Autumn House Press, I had my heart set on going to New York. Since becoming an intern here, however, I have begun to appreciate the perks of working at an independent press. The most notable perk? The simple fact that even the smallest successes are celebrated with such excitement. 

Three Autumn House Press books were released on Thursday, some of which I’d even had the privilege of skimming over before publication. Conveniently, the Spring 2019 releases happened to fall on World Book Day. When I suggested we do a joint release advertisement + #WorldBookDay social media post, the head editor was immediately for it.

This was my first time working with the press’ social media accounts. What I loved most about the experience was seeing just how excited everyone in the office was when I posted them. 

While bigger presses inevitably have to prioritize advertisement for certain releases, Autumn House puts equal effort into advertising all of their books. Since working at the press, I have seen firsthand how much care goes into every project. Every little step forward is celebrated, even if it’s just a small social media campaign. 

In addition, the office itself is extremely laidback, and this makes the work feel less like WORK. (Bolded and capitalized here for the sake of appearing ominous)

When I markup edits, I use official Chicago Style but am still allowed to be informal. “Maybe this?” I write in the margins. “How about we consider moving this paragraph over here?” Recently, I was allowed the privilege of looking at an upcoming fiction release and was able to recommend substantial developmental edits in this informal voice. 

I take my work–– both editorial and creative–– quite seriously, but the relaxed atmosphere of the office makes even the serious work enjoyable. I cannot help but come into the office with a smile.

(You would smile too if, every time you entered the office, the assistant editor’s small dog greeted you at the front door! Even better: she’s so excitable she hops. The best: she immediately sits on my lap when I get settled at my desk and nuzzles her head into my shoulder when begging for attention. It goes without saying that I always cave to her demands…)

What I’m getting at is this: Autumn House Press is small, but the joys are not. As someone who appreciates showcasing and highlighting unique narratives, the press’s goal really resonates with me. I think, had I not become an English graduate student at Duquesne, I would not have the same kind of appreciation for this goal. 

The Duquesne faculty, after all, have encouraged me to experiment with and bring unique narratives to the foreground. So much of my graduate work here has inspired the way I view literature and it has, I think, given me an appreciation for literature that is more obscure.  

Having come to appreciate this type of literature more, and after having worked on showcasing more unique and personal voices at Autumn House, I cannot help but feel more inclined to go job searching for a smaller, more intimate workspace. 

It’s the little things in life that bring me joy, and I’m beginning to think that maybe, just maybe, a smaller press might be where I find myself in the future. (Bonus points if they have an adorable dog!)  

—Chelsea Abdullah

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