Sandi's November 19 post celebrates the fact that this year's NBA winner, Lord of Misrule by Jaimy Gordon, was published by Mcpherson & Co., an independent press located in upstate New York. That in itself is exciting -- and here's more. A second in the group of five finalists, I Hotel by Karen Tei Yamashita, was also published by a small indie. And both authors have relationships with their publishers that go back decades -- twenty-one years in the case of Yamashita and Coffee House Press, located in Minneapolis, and forty in the case of Gordon and McPherson.
Bruce McPherson and Jaimy Brown first met at Brown in 1970. When, in 1973, Brown couldn't find a publisher for her wildly inventive comic novel Shamp of the City-Solo, McPherson decided to publish it himself. Apparently he hadn't really planned to make a career of publishing novels, but that didn't stop him. Subsequently, Gordon went on to be published by both Algonquin and Sun & Moon. She didn't have an agent until Lord of Misrule's nomination, which came about solely because McPherson encouraged her to let him publish it in time for an NBA nomination. We know what happened next.
In 1989, Allan Kornblum of Coffee House Press received a query and first chapter from the previously unpublished Tei Yamashita. He published that novel, Through the Arc of the Rainforest, and three more by Yamashita. And then another: the NBA-nominated I Hotel.
Had the two authors been able to get contracts from larger houses, would they have accepted them? Maybe. And maybe after a book or two that didn't meet sales expectations, they would been been graciously or not-so-graciously dumped. Hard to know. But clearly, there's something to be said for both longtime associations and loyalty.