Melville House Publishing

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Melville House Publishing
Melville House Publishing
Founded 2001
Founder Dennis Loy Johnson and Valerie Merians
Country of origin United States
Headquarters location Brooklyn, New York
Distribution Random House Publisher Services
Publication types Books
Imprints Stop Smiling
Official website

Melville House Publishing is an independent publisher of literary fiction, non-fiction, and poetry. The company was founded in 2001 by the husband and wife team of Dennis Loy Johnson and Valerie Merians in Hoboken, New Jersey, a location Johnson jokingly called "the Left Bank" of New York City.[1] In 2007, they were named by the Association of American Publishers as the winner of the 2007 Miriam Bass Award for Creativity in Independent Publishing, popularly known as the "indie publisher of the year" award.[2][3][4]


The rapid rise of the company has been notable as neither Johnson or Merians had any background in publishing. Johnson was a short story writer who had won numerous awards including a Pushcart Prize,[5] but had never published a book; he was probably best known for founding one of the earliest book blogs,[6] Merians was a sculptor who showed her work at several New York galleries, including the Margaret Thatcher Gallery in Chelsea, and the Pierogi Gallery in Brooklyn,[7] and although she studied poetry at the Iowa Writers Workshop, her work, too, had never been collected in a book. In an early interview, Merians told The New York Times that the company was formed as an impromptu reaction to the political climate of the moment that she thought would amount to no more than "an out-of-the-back-of-the-car kind of thing."

In 2008 Melville House moved to DUMBO, Brooklyn, to a location that combines a glass-wall bookstore with their offices, which are behind revolving bookshelves. The opening was on January 19, 2008.[8]


Melville House has been adept at attracting well-known authors away from larger establishment presses. In late 2007, Johnson announced the company had lured Nobel Prize-winner Imre Kertesz away from his long-time publisher, Knopf, with a three book deal. Soon after, he announced Paul Berman had left Norton to publish with Melville House.

The company is particularly noted for its books of leftist political reportage, French titles in translation, and avant-garde fiction. Among its most notable books are its 2003 bestseller Who Killed Daniel Pearl?, by Bernard-Henri Lévy, the first book to disclose the illegal trading of nuclear technology by U.S. ally Pakistan, and Torture Taxi, by Trevor Paglen and A.C. Thompson, the first book on the CIA's rendition program. More recently, Melville House published Collusion, by Carlo Bonini, the Italian journalist who uncovered the "Niger-gate" hoax behind the U.S. justification for going to war in Iraq; and Learning to Live Finally, the final book by Jacques Derrida.

Melville House has also gained a reputation for its attention to book design, and has won several AIGA (American Institute of Graphic Artist) awards for its cover and interior designs.[9] Unlike most small publishers, Melville House has an in-house designer. Until 2007, Dave Konopka designed all of the company's books. He left Melville House when his band, Battles, grew in popularity. Currently, the position is held by the design team of Kelly Blair and Carol Hayes.

Popular Culture[edit]

The character Hannah Horvath, portrayed by Lena Dunham in the American TV show Girls, is an intern at the company.[10]

Notable Authors[edit]


  1. ^ Beale, Lewis. "NEW JERSEY & CO.; When Publish or Perish Is More Than Just Words", The New York Times, July 28, 2002. Accessed October 24, 2007. "What makes us particularly lunatic is that we're starting off with a book of poetry and a book of literary criticism," said Dennis Loy Johnson, who, with his partner, Valerie Merians, is the driving force behind Melville House Publishing, which will release its first offerings in September. "Two big sellers. Absolute sure fire hits."
  2. ^ "MELVILLE HOUSE CO-PUBLISHERS DENNIS LOY JOHNSON AND VALERIE MERIANS ARE NAMED 2007 MIRIAM BASS AWARD WINNERS", Association of American Publishers press release dated February 6, 2007. Accessed October 24, 2007.
  3. ^ "RATTLING THE CAGE AT THE AAP ANNUAL CONFERENCE FOR THE LARGE AND LESS THAN LARGE", ForeWord (magazine), March 14, 2007. Accessed October 24, 2007. "One of the most moving moments of the week came when Dennis Loy Johnson and Valerie Merians, co-publishers of Hoboken, NJ based Melville House received the Miriam Bass Award for Creativity in Independent Publishing at the opening of the conference."
  4. ^ "OVER THE RIVER AND THROUGH THE WOODS", MIRIAM BASS AWARD ACCEPTANCE SPEECH by Dennis Loy Johnson, March 7, 2007. "I’m intensely conscious of winning this award in the immediate aftermath of the PGW fiasco .... Let me tell you, there are a lot of publishers out there right now who deserve an award for creativity by simply staying alive. I accept this in their honor, and with thanks to them for what they do."
  5. ^ Pushcart Prize XVIII 1993-1994, "Forrest in the trees" by Dennis Loy Johnson
  6. ^ "..launched as a blog in March, 2001."
  7. ^ Pierogi Gallery
  8. ^ Melville House moved to DUMBO, Brooklyn
  9. ^ AIGA 2006 winners list
  10. ^ Deahl, Rachel (24 April 2012). "Melville House Has a Fan in Lena Dunham". Publisher's Weekly. Retrieved 28 September 2014. 

External links[edit]