Naiad Press Is Founded Summary

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Life partners Barbara Grier and Donna McBride built Naiad Press from a home-based vanity press into the leading publisher of lesbian books.

Summary of Event

In the years immediately following the Stonewall uprising of 1969, affirmative lesbian literature was scarce and often difficult to find. Mainstream publishers rarely published positive lesbian-themed fiction, which meant authors were forced to self-publish their novels. [kw]Naiad Press Is Founded (1973) [kw]Press Is Founded, Naiad (1973) Naiad Press Publishing;Naiad Press Literature;lesbian [c]Publications;1973: Naiad Press Is Founded[0930] [c]Literature;1973: Naiad Press Is Founded[0930] Grier, Barbara McBride, Donna Marchant, Anyda Crawford, Muriel

It was in this context that two lesbian couples began Naiad Press. Anyda Marchant and her life partner Muriel Crawford approached Barbara Grier and her life partner Donna McBride with a manuscript and $2,000 in startup money. The couples first became acquainted through Grier and Marchant’s work on The Ladder Ladder, The (periodical) , the first national lesbian periodical. Grier was the last editor of the magazine, which ceased publication in the fall of 1972, and Marchant was a contributor. Although the cofounders of the press place Naiad’s birthday at the beginning of 1973, it was not until 1974 that their first book, The Latecomer, Latecomer, The (Marchant) was actually published under Marchant’s pen name, Sarah Aldridge. Both Grier and McBride continued to work full-time jobs, devoting evenings and weekends to Naiad. Running the business from their home near Kansas City, Missouri, the couple spent the next six years building the press’s list one title at a time.

At the time of Naiad’s inception, marketing Marketing;and lesbian books[lesbian books] lesbian books was a difficult proposition. Most mainstream bookstores did not carry “alternative” literature, and, although women’s bookstores were beginning to sprout up in the wake of the women-in-print movement, they were few and far between and consequently largely inaccessible to the majority of lesbians. Additionally, the social stigma attached to lesbianism meant that many potential readers were closeted and isolated. Naiad was able to reach these readers through direct mailings based upon a list of 3,800 addresses gathered over many years by Grier and her colleagues at The Ladder. As Naiad grew, so did the list. In 1982, the press was sending out several mailings each year to more than 10,000 addresses, and by 1998 the mailing list had grown to 26,000.

In 1980, the couple moved to Tallahassee, Florida, where McBride became assistant director at the Leon County Public Library. The two continued to run Naiad out of their garage in their spare time until 1982, when Grier became Naiad’s first full-time employee in January and McBride quit her library job to follow suit six months later. Although at first both took substantial cuts in pay from their regular jobs, throughout the next two decades the couple’s hard work and tireless dedication transformed Naiad into the world’s largest lesbian press. In the video Lesbian Tongues, Grier comments on Naiad’s phenomenal growth from home-based business into a million-dollar-plus enterprise: “I love the idea that lesbian money literally is keeping Naiad Press growing like crazy.”

Over the years, Naiad not only has introduced readers to a wide variety of authors of lesbian-themed genres—including romance, mystery, science fiction, and fantasy—but also has reintroduced lesbian literary and pulp classics to new generations by reissuing works such as Gertrude Stein’s Lifting Belly (wr. 1915-1917; reissued 1989), Jeannette Foster’s Sex Variant Women in Literature (1956; reissued 1985), and Ann Bannon’s Beebo Brinker series (1962; reissued 1983, 1986, 2001). In 1985, Naiad garnered its biggest success and most notoriety when it published Lesbian Nuns: Breaking Silence, coedited by former nuns Rosemary Curb and Nancy Manahan. Selling the serial rights for this anthology to other publications, notably Forum (a Penthouse-owned magazine) not only broadened the book’s audience and led to unheralded sales but also caused considerable controversy within the lesbian community.

Naiad has been recognized by the LGBT literary community, which has bestowed an American Library Association Gay Book Award (now Stonewall Book Award) and several Lambda Literary Awards on specific titles. Publishers Grier and McBride have been similarly honored. The couple received the Lambda Literary Foundation’s 1991 Publisher’s Service Award and Grier received the foundation’s 2002 Pioneer Award.

Near the start of the twenty-first century, Naiad began to wind down its operations, publishing only a handful of new books each year, in preparation for Grier and McBride’s eventual retirement. Fledgling publisher Bella Books Bella Books took on many of Naiad’s authors and bought out much of Naiad’s inventory, thus ensuring the survival of Naiad’s legacy when the press closed its doors on June 30, 2003.

Significance

During its thirty-year history, Naiad Press published almost five hundred titles. The press has achieved the goal of cofounder Barbara Grier to “[make] it possible that any lesbian, anywhere, any age, who comes out can walk into a bookstore and pick up a book that says ’of course you’re a lesbian and you’re wonderful!’” Naiad Press Publishing;Naiad Press Literature;lesbian

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Greenblatt, R. Ellen. “Barbara Grier.” In Gay and Lesbian Biography, edited by Michael J. Tyrkus. Detroit, Mich.: St. James Press, 1997.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Grier, Barbara. “Climbing ’The Ladder’ to Success: Naiad Press.” In Happy Endings: Lesbian Writers Talk About Their Lives and Work, edited by Kate Brandt. Tallahassee, Fla.: Naiad Press, 1993.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Grier, Barbara, and Rhonda J. Factor. “A Burning Love for Lesbian Literature.” Journal of Lesbian Studies 5, no. 3 (2001): 87-94.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">

    Lesbian Tongues: Lesbians Talk About Life, Love, and Sex. Video recording. Washington, D.C.: Pop Video, 1989.

1928: Hall Publishes The Well of Loneliness

1956: Foster Publishes Sex Variant Women in Literature

Fall, 1967: Oscar Wilde Memorial Bookshop Opens as First Gay Bookstore

1970: Amazon Bookstore Opens as First Feminist-Lesbian Book Shop

June, 1971: The Gay Book Award Debuts

1973: Brown Publishes Rubyfruit Jungle

1980: Alyson Begins Publishing Gay and Lesbian Books

October, 1981: Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press Is Founded

May, 1987: Lambda Rising Book Report Begins Publication

June 2, 1989: Lambda Literary Award Is Created

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