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Edith Pearlman (center) at the National Book Awards with Lookout Books faculty and student staff

Lookout Books made history with its 2011 launch as the first independent press to have its debut book, Edith Pearlman’s new and selected story collection Binocular Vision, featured on the cover of the New York Times Book Review. The collection went on to be named a finalist for the National Book Award, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, the Story Prize, and the National Book Critics Circle Award, which it subsequently won—a feat that prompted Washington Post book reviewer Ron Charles to call it “one of the most auspicious publishing launches in history.”

And the successes kept coming. Steve Almond’s story collection God Bless America won the Paterson Fiction Prize, and was longlisted for the Story Prize. Ben Miller’s memoir in essays, River Bend Chronicle, was shortlisted for the William Saroyan International Prize for Writing. Matthew Neill Null’s novel, Honey from the Lion, was shortlisted for the L.D. and LaVerne Harrell Clark Fiction Prize.

Clare Beams at the PEN/Bingham reading

Then in 2016, Clare Beams’s story collection, We Show What We Have Learned, swept prestigious national finalists lists for debut fiction, including the Young Lions Fiction Award, the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize, and the Shirley Jackson Award for a single-author collection.

“Risky books are finding their way to smaller houses, and we’re increasingly adept at helping them reach their readers,” publisher Emily Louise Smith wrote in “The Overnight Success of Lookout Books,” an essay about founding the imprint that was published in Milkweed Editions’ Literary Publishing in the Twenty-First Century. “We might just preserve the culture of literary publishing—that penchant for the original and the new, risk and innovation, bequeathed to us by our editorial predecessors.”

Championing such books is, in fact, Lookout’s mission. As a boutique press, Lookout focuses on thoughtful editorial relationships,

Bigger Than Bravery contributor Imani Perry at UNCW’s Writers’ Week

beautifully designed paperback originals with trademark French flaps, tailored marketing and publicity campaigns that result in national media coverage, expanded book tours that include classroom visits and community engagement, and connections with booksellers. The single title published every year receives dedicated attention from its staff, including both faculty editors and innovative students in UNC Wilmington’s publishing arts programs.

As Smith puts it: “We evangelize for our books.” Every applicable title is nominated for regional and national awards. That exposure is invaluable; whether Lookout titles take home the win or not, they reach the hands of judges and influential readers across the country.


Award-Winning Lookout Titles

Bigger Than Bravery: Black Resilience and Reclamation in a Time of Pandemic, edited by Valerie Boyd

    • 2023 Georgia Author of the Year Award
    • Best Books of 2022, Library Journal
    • Big Indie Book of Fall, Publishers Weekly
    • Foreword INDIE, Silver Winner in anthology

This Is My Body, Cameron Dezen Hammon

    • Nonfiction Discovery Prize, Writers’ League of Texas Book Award, winner
    • Independent Publisher Book Award in Creative Nonfiction, bronze medalist
    • Foreword INDIE Book of the Year Award in Autobiography and Memoir, finalist

We Show What We Have Learned & Other Stories, Clare Beams

    • Bard Fiction Prize, winner
    • PEN/Robert W. Bingham Award for Debut Fiction, finalist
    • Young Lions Fiction Award, finalist
    • Shirley Jackson Award for a single-author collection, nominee

Honey from the Lion, Matthew Neill Null

    • L.D. and LaVerne Harrell Clark Fiction Prize, shortlist 

Astoria to Zion: Twenty-Six Stories of Risk and Abandon from Ecotone’s First Decade

    • Independent Publisher Book Award, anthology category, winner

River Bend Chronicle: The Junkification of a Boyhood Idyll amid the Curious Glory of Urban Iowa, Ben Miller

    • William Saroyan International Prize for Writing, shortlist

God Bless America: Stories, Steve Almond

    • Paterson Fiction Prize, winner
    • Foreword INDIE Book of the Year, honorable mention in the short story category
    • Story Prize for Outstanding Collection, longlist
    • Frank O’Connor International Short Story Prize, longlist
    • Independent Publisher Book Award, short story category, bronze medalist

Binocular Vision: New & Selected Stories, Edith Pearlman

    • National Book Critics Circle Award in Fiction, winner
    • PEN/Malamud Award, winner
    • National Book Award in Fiction, finalist
    • The Story Prize, finalist
    • Los Angeles Times Book Prize in Fiction, finalist
    • Foreword INDIE Book of the Year, short story category, winner
    • Edward Lewis Wallant Award
    • Harold U. Ribalow Prize

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