Best Publishers of 2013

It’s that time of year again. It’s the time of year for lists. Everyone is making them – Best This Thing, Best That Thing, Top 10 Doodads, Top Ten Whatevers. Lists, lists, lists and I’m falling behind. I haven’t made too many lists yet, and I’m going to hold off on my Best Books of 2013 until January. However, I did realize that there is something I can talk about at the close of this fine year that I’ve had enough time to think about, write about, and ponder. What is this thing that you would like me to yammer on about for far too long? Well, that’s my favorite publishers of 2013!

In fact, regarding publishers, there are three that have impressed me throughout the year for very different reasons. While these publishers will probably not come as a shock to anyone, I will let you know who they are, and why they are worth watching for all things genre related.


Tor is the largest SFF publisher out there. They are a regular powerhouse and they pump out more genre books and make more authors big than anyone else. That’s not the reason I have fallen in love with them this year, however. The reason they have impressed me so much in 2013 is due to their proactive approach to engaging the genre fanbase. Tor dot com has blown up, and while I’m shockingly jealous of everyone who has been asked to contribute over there (Where’s my invitation, Tor?! – har har) the website itself is a load of fun and incredibly engaging to everyone who participates and reads it. Tor dot com publishes the latest genre news, they constantly post interesting links to other sites with content I might otherwise miss, they do exciting re-reads of popular series, and have interesting posts going on frequently (like the current one I am really enjoying about under appreciated series).

More than that, however, is what I mentioned when I started talking about this publisher – they are huge. Tor is a cornerstone for the industry and, especially this year, I’ve been beyond impressed with the diversity and sheer magnitude of quality books that they publish. Tor puts out everything from epic fantasy, to space operas, to Jane Austin retellings, and urban fantasy, and so much more. Their authors are top of the class, and the books they put out might not suit all readers all the time, but they certainly appeal to a broader audience than most other publishers.

Mix these two points together – their proactive approach to engaging the genre, and their wide range of very high quality books they routinely publish, and you can probably see why I think that Tor is not only one of the largest publishers in the genre, but also one of the most important for setting trends and bringing new trends to a constantly changing genre. 2013 has been a hell of a year for Tor. They’ve released some incredible books and have even more wonders coming out in 2014. Tor dot com has evolved quite a bit over the year, and it seems like their reach is (if possible) even wider than it was before.

This is a publisher to watch.

Angry Robot Books

I am ashamed to say that, before this year, I don’t think I’ve read one single book that Angry Robot Books has published. Not because I haven’t wanted to, I think I just haven’t really done it until now. Sometimes that happens. Books, publishers, and authors can (undeservingly) fall between the cracks. I’m remedying that now with Angry Robot Books by slowly working my way through their entire collection.

This publisher quickly put themselves on my list of publishers to watch because their books are so damn unique. They are a much lower volume publisher than Tor, but their lower volume makes the books they do choose to publish incredible. The thing about Angry Robot that I’ve noticed is that they publish incredibly unique books, the kind of cross-genre-refuse-to-be-categorized books that I absolutely love so much. In fact, the same reasons I loved Night Shade Books so much (before they crashed) is the same reasons I love Angry Robot. The difference is that, for whatever reason, Angry Robot seems to be succeeding where Night Shade failed.

Angry Robot Books is edgy and their books all seem to have a darker tone that just does it for me. Hell, any publisher that signs Chuck Wendig gets mad props in my book, and truthfully all you need to do is read some of his books to realize all the reasons why Angry Robot Books is so amazing. They refuse to be categorized, boxed, or labeled, and they embrace the edge rather than shy away from it.

Yes, they might put out a lower number of books than many other publishers, but don’t let that fool you. Their list of published books is surprisingly long. Their new YA wing is making serious waves in the genre (though I have yet to read anything put out by it). Their books are all well received and though they seem to get less discussion and attention than the big-box publishers, the attention they do get is well deserved, and won honorably.

Angry Robot Books is that one publishing house that refuses to be boxed and labeled. They are what they are and they aren’t afraid of challenging anyone or anything and that’s why I love them.


Ah, here is it, my true favorite publisher of 2013. Orbit Books has been one of my favorite publishers for years and years, but this year they’ve really iced my genre-nerd cake. Orbit is one of those larger publishers that most people in the genre have heard of. However, where Orbit seems to be different than many other big-box publishers is with how choosy they are with the books they publish. They are a huge publisher, and they publish quite a list of books each year, but they aren’t overzealous with it. They pick and choose what they put out very carefully, and you can tell with the sheer amount of amazing titles that seem to be constantly rolling out their doors.

In fact, I think I’ve loved nearly every Orbit book I’ve read this year. That’s quite an accomplishment because I don’t typically love every book anyone puts out.

Orbit picks and chooses the books they put out with care, and probably due to that, so many of the books they publish turn into huge deals in the genre. Daniel Abraham, K.J. Parker, N.K. Jemisin and so many more huge authors are published through Orbit and those authors have become common names everyone in the genre recognizes at a glance. Orbit seems to have a sense for great books and authors with massive amounts of potential. Whoever is in charge of securing authors for them is doing their job very well and deserves a raise right now. They have some magic ability for this stuff.

Orbit publishes science fiction and fantasy including the various subgenres that fall under those umbrellas. However, their books are all a little different than typical. The books Orbit publishes are all daring, the worlds are all unique and fresh, the stories are atypical and absorbing. Orbit is one of those big-box publishers that dares to push the norm and I love them for it. By operating this way, they have made huge waves in the genre, and I predict plenty more in the future.

Furthermore, the head of their PR department, Ellen Wright, is one hell of a woman who is masterful at engaging the genre fan community as well as bloggers, reviewers, and whoever else. She has a skill for keeping the discussion going and the excitement ramped up. Recently her online event Night at the Space Opera, held through the Google Hangouts, was not only loads of fun, but seems to show that Orbit is ushering in a new phase of engaging their fans by allowing them to interact with each other, the publisher itself, and authors no matter where they are at. Honestly, out of all the publishers out there, Orbit has impressed me the most this year with their incredibly high standard of excellence and their evolving publicity. I’m beyond excited to see what this powerhouse publisher has in store for 2014.

There you have it, folks. Those are my favorite publishers for 2013 and the reasons why I love them all so much. Pay attention to each of them, because they all have great things in store.

9 Responses

  • They refuse to be categorized, boxed, or labeled, and they embrace the edge rather than shy away from it.

    I thought you were going to go into a Prisoner riff there for a half-second 🙂

    I have a soft spot for Pyr in addition to your list. Lou Anders has a good and strong hand at the tiller.

    • I like Pyr, but they have seemed rather quiet to me over this past year. They’ve been publishing a lot of stuff, but not much of it has made much noise.

      Then again, I could just not have been paying attention.

  • I agree regarding Orbit. I trust their ‘brand’. I will pick a book up simply because it is published by Orbit. Pyr is the other publisher that, for me, has that level of quality. Tor just publishes so much stuff that their quality seems a little uneven. I won’t pick a book up off the shelf just because it has Tor’s logo on the spine.

    In the past two years, I more actively look for books from pubs like Angry Robot. They try real hard to put something different out there. I may not like everything, but can always expect something a little different.

    • I like how you refer to Orbit as a “brand” because I feel the same way. I trust it. I’ll pick up an Orbit book just because it was published by Orbit.

      Regarding Tor, I agree, they publish a ton and sometimes the quality isn’t all the way up there, but they really know how to engage the fans and they reach a wider audience than anyone else.

  • Angry Robot books can piss me off because they are so uneven in quality at times, but I always know when I pick one up the idea will at least be original and not a rehash of tired ground. And a few of their titles are just amazing.

    • I haven’t really read enough of their books to find any to be angry about (yet) but I’m sure my time will come.

  • David Greybeard

    I agree but I’d also add Solaris, Gollancz, Del Rey, DAW and Head of Zeus.

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