Five out of the first six books of fiction Acre Books published were finalists for national prizes, including one longlisted for the PEN America Bingham prize. It wasn’t beginner’s luck: the six (and growing) poetry and prose titles Acre releases annually continue to rack up award nominations.
So how did a small press, housed partially on the second floor of UC’s McMicken Hall, pull this off? It starts at the top, with editor Nicola Mason. She founded The Cincinnati Review—now regularly ranked as one of the top 10 literary journals in the country—in 2002. “[At CR], we read everything that comes in, and we try to find fresh voices and new talents. We concentrate not on the credentials but the work itself,” Mason says. “I thought, We’re becoming talent scouts for everyone else, why can’t we become talent scouts for ourselves?” So she created Acre, which has moved under the umbrella of the larger UC Press and picked up a national book distributor to get more books on more shelves.
A novel, a short story collection, and a book of poetry have been released this spring, with three more ready to go for the fall. As for the M.O.? “We are interested in innovation, combining genres, hybrid forms,” Mason says, “and the idea that we can shape how literature looks in the future by concentrating on the work itself.”