Best Small Publishers of the year

27 Apr 2021

Small Publishers in Australia are innovative, creative and essential said our judging panel. The range of publishers represented on the shortlist, each with a unique focus and position within the cultural landscape of this country is testament to this.

2020 presented challenges and opportunities for the whole publishing industry – and it was no different for our small but mighty independent publishers.

Read about what these six shortlisted small Australian publishers did across 2020, which has put them in the running for the ABIA Small Publisher of the Year award, as submitted in their nomination pitches. 

Congratulations to our shortlistees!

Affirm Press

In 2020 Affirm Press published two bestsellers, launching the careers of Pip Williams and Amelia Mellor with The Dictionary of Lost Words and The Grandest Bookshop in the World – all while executing their COVID-19 contingency plans.

Commitment to have a positive impact is one of Affirm’s core beliefs – and it delivered on that in 2020. During the extended winter lockdown, Affirm Press designed giant rock posters that encouraged early Christmas shopping  at independent bookstores.

Staff also dropped off cake and booze to each other’s houses for social zooms.

Australian Scholarly Publishing

Consistently publishing 60-70 titles a year, Australian Scholarly Publishing (ASP) has had a 30-year contribution to the industry as of 2020.

During the year, it hurdled long, event-cancelling lockdowns – winning awards and shortlistings with its books, cover designs and authors.

The publishing house has categories spanning scholarly, reference and more general categories like artbooks, fiction and new writing.

In 2020 it continued its strong contributions to staff training and education in the publishing industry. Including involvement in designing and presenting Monash’s MA course in Publishing & Editing – and its commitment to offering internships.


Cordite Publishing Inc. is celebrating 25 years of publishing in 2021. A pioneer in hybrid digital and print publishing it was only the second Australia literary publication online in 1997.

Also, did you know it’s also a charity? 

In 2020 its title Nganajungu Yagu by Badimaya and Wajarri author Charmaine Papertalk-Green won the 2020 Victoria Premiers’ Literary Award and the 2020 ALS Gold Medal.

It also continued its commitment to community building and slow and intentional publishing – and during the year, it grew its customer base.

Cordite has always championed new authors and helped authors take risks and is known for looking out for the ‘overlooked, undervalued and unpublished’.


Magabala won the ABIA Small Publisher of the Year in 2020 – and is again a major contender for this year too.

In the year of COVID-19 and #BlackLivesMatter, its commitment to its creators and their stories has allowed them to move forwards boldly to bring its books to the world. As interest in diverse and First Nations voices grew, Magabala’s advocacy, industry advice and case studies published in the Australia Council’s ICIP protocols were timely.

With over 34 years of publishing First Nations voices – Magabala has had a successful year despite the challenges collectively faced in 2020. Guided by its founding Elders, Magabala remains a place where ‘Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people can stand in their own truths’.

Pantera Press

Pantera Press states that its mission is to ‘spark imagination, conversation and change.’

In 2020, it was named a Heatseeker by Nielsen Bookscan for the fourth consecutive year and its founder has been named the 2020 Sydney Young Entrepreneur of the Year for Arts and Culture for its contribution to the arts.

During the year, the small publisher also reported consistent growth, all while operating a business model that integrated social purpose into a more traditional business structure.

Acknowledging that the publishing industry is part of a wider, creative ecosystem – Pantera Press donated and supported not-for-profit, arts and literary organisations in need during the crisis.

Over 85% of Pantera Press’ new releases in 2020 were written by debut authors – reaffirming its commitment to nurturing new voices.

University of Queensland Press (UQP)

UQP has been recognised with 13 award wins and 30 shortlistings in 2020. In the wake of COVID-19, it launched several initiatives: the UQP Quentin Bryce Award, the UQP 1 of 4 Writing Mentorship, and Extraordinary Voices for Extraordinary Times podcast.

It supported and actively promoted local bookshops and partnered with the Queensland Department of Education – to beam animated readings of UQP picture books into homes and classrooms.

To improve diversity and career pathways for the literary sector – UQP launched its Indigenous Placement Program which has since been recognised as an industry-leading initiative – and hosted six internships for people from diverse and minority backgrounds, including an intern from Vision Australia.

And that’s our shortlist of Small Publishers of the Year for ABIA 2021!

The winner will be announced on 28 April 2021.