By Emma Regan, Hayley Gray and Jordan Maxwell Ridgway
This week the Alternative Publishing team will be exploring a new independent press called Rose Books, which was founded by writer Chelsea Hodson. For those wondering, an independent press, also known as an “indie publisher” or “small press,” is a publisher with a smaller number of annual sales or number of titles published. In the US, where Rose Books is based, a small press is typically a publisher with an annual turnover of under $50 million, or an organisation that publishes fewer than ten titles per year.
This contrasts huge conglomerates such as the big five publishers – Penguin Random House, Hachette, HarperCollins, Pan Macmillan and Simon & Schuster – which dominate the book market. Even these big five may be shrinking down to four massively major publishers.
Small presses are not owned by any of these companies or conglomerates. They may specialise in a certain genre of fiction, poetry, or produce limited edition works. As their profit margins are smaller than bigger publishers, they are usually passion projects that look to reach out to intimate and niche reading groups. The mission statement for Rose Books has been described by Hodson as “now is the time to take risks for the sake of beauty.” They may also be able to nurture the careers of debut and lesser-known authors.
Small presses are still bigger than micro-presses, which may publish fewer than fifty copies of a book per year. They’re also different to self-publishing presses which sell services to authors, and small presses do require some level of consumer interaction and a selection process.
Chelsea Hodson is no stranger to the world of small press and independent publishing. She has been active on the literary scene for over a decade with essays, poetry, anthologies and other creative projects under her portfolio such as a book-length project styled in four parts, modelled after Autoportrait by the late Edouard Levé. She is best known for her essay collection, Tonight I’m Someone Else, which was published in 2018 by Holt, and explores her life, work, and relationships.
Hodson emerged onto the independent publishing scene back in 2014, when her first chapbook Pity The Animal (a small publication of around forty pages, which can now be found in her essay collection) was published by Kevin Sampsell at Future Tense Books. Despite only selling 500 copies, Hodson claimed it changed her life as Sampsell believed in her work enough to publish her – support which she never forgot.
Fast forward to 2017, Hodson teamed up with the late Giancarlo Di-Trapano, founder, editor and publisher of Tyrant Books, who founded the Mors Tua Vita Mea workshop. The aim of the workshop was to nurture a new generation of writers on a five-week-long stay at Di-Trapano’s villa in Italy, with each student having the opportunity to workshop a manuscript of 20 double-spaced pages. Hodson believes it is both Sampsell’s confidence and Di-Trapano’s teachings which have prepared her to start her own independent publisher, Rose Books.
Chelsea’s idea for Rose Books was inspired by a manuscript she had read in 2018 by musician, Geoff Rickly, after he had asked her for editorial feedback. After reading his manuscript, Chelsea fell in love with it and asked herself: what if I publish this book? Ultimately, Chelsea dismissed starting her own independent publishing company as a pipe dream until she remembered the support, trust and belief that she had received in the past by industry professionals, and it gave her the boost that she needed.
So, her first port-of-call was to ask Rickly if he would be interested in publishing his book with her and he trusted her enough to accept her offer. Thus, Rickly’s novel, Someone Who Isn’t Me, will be Rose Books’ debut publication set to release in July 2023. Likewise, Rose Books has also acquired The Holy Day, a novel by Christopher Norris, which will be released in October 2023; and an untitled book of short prose and poetry written by Ashleah Gonzales which is set to be published in spring 2024.
For now, Rose Books’ strategy is to release two titles per year which will be published in paperback and limited-edition hardback which will be released simultaneously. This is a huge step for the company as Chelsea is the press’ only official staff member and she is constantly learning how to do things that she has never done before within the industry. For example, finding the right printer, preparing files, setting up an online store, etc. However, thanks to her loved ones, she has a team that helps with Rose Books on a case-by-case basis!
Thanks to Chelsea’s passion for writing, alongside her desire to bring beauty to everyday life, Rose Books has bloomed!
ALL ROSE BOOKS TITLES WILL BE AVAILABLE FOR PURCHASE AT: ROSEBOOKS.CO