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Milkweed Editions

Because reading should be life-changing

Milkweed’s Purpose

Just as the common milkweed plant is the site of metamorphosis for monarch butterflies, Milkweed Editions seeks to be a site of metamorphosis in the literary ecosystem. We take risks on debut and experimental writers, we invest significant time and care in the editorial process, and we enable dynamic engagement between authors and readers. We operate as a nonprofit to pursue these ends without overbearing financial pressure. And yet, though profits aren’t our primary focus, helping our authors succeed certainly is. Just so, since our founding in 1980, we’ve published over 350 books of literary fiction, nonfiction, and poetry and now have over four million copies in circulation. We believe that literature has the potential to change the way we see the world, and that bringing new voices to essential conversations is the clearest path to ensuring a vibrant, diverse, and empowered future.


We view books as agents of change, and we publish literature that changes the ways readers see and live in the world.


We believe engagement with literature illuminates the depth and multiplicity of human experience, and we engage communities in innovative ways.


We believe all flourishing is mutual, and we cultivate relationships— with authors, readers, supporters, staff, and partners—that increase abundance.


We belong to the commons—a publisher of the public sphere—and we embrace the fact that our work is made possible by the generosity of our community.


We embrace our role in a vibrant literary ecosystem, and we envision a future in which all can thrive.

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The Butterfly Effect

The Butterfly Effect

Here at Milkweed Editions, we believe great books never really end. Because even after the last page has been read, the wisdom imparted lives on in the minds and hearts of readers. And then something incredible happens—that wisdom begins to shape behavior, and like ripples reverberating outwards, those lessons begin to spread.

This is The Butterfly Effect. A movement that creates movement. And by publishing the most daring, thoughtful, and powerful books we find, we believe we can create the greatest impact.

  • How does literature transform the way we see the world?

    When Robin Wall Kimmerer’s manuscript arrived, we knew we had something special. As a PhD botanist and a Citizen Member of the Potawatomi Nation, the author braided two worldviews—one scientific, the other a belief that plants are our oldest teachers—into a series of narrative essays that evoke a sense of wonder. But we never dreamed it could be this special: Since Braiding Sweetgrass was published in 2012, Kimmerer has been featured on Krista Tippett’s “On Being.” She has also been invited to address the General Assembly of the United Nations, and to speak to hundreds of schools, organizations, and bookstores. Her words have reached millions in just three years, and, judging by the thousands of fan comments the author and the press has received, this exposure has led to countless wild places preserved, activists created, and minds forever expanded.

  • How does literature transform an artist’s career?

    Rock Island Line introduced the world to July Montgomery in 1975, and earned the author, David Rhodes, wide acclaim as “one of the best eyes in fiction.” And yet he disappeared just a few years later. After a traumatic motorcycle accident left him paralyzed in 1977, he had lost the will to submit his work to publishers. But he hadn’t stopped writing. When an editor from Milkweed Editions rediscovered the book at the library, he contacted Rhodes’ agent to learn more. It turned out he was living on a small farm in rural Wisconsin. After a day of conversation, not only did Rhodes agree to allow Milkweed to reissue his novels from the seventies, he also admitted that July Montgomery had returned to him, and he shared a manuscript that became the novel Driftless. Since 2008, more than 100,000 copies of new and reissued books by David Rhodes have been sold, reaching nearly a half-million readers.

  • Tula

    How does literature transform our culture?

    The Ballard Spahr Prize for Poetry exists to bring new voices from the Midwest to prominence in the literary world. In Chris Santiago, the prize helped Milkweed Editions identify a poet and a book doubly deserving of broad attention. Not only is Tula an amazing debut collection, it is also an examination of the shortcomings and possibilities of both language and poetry to express the experiences of a second-generation immigrant who does not fully acquire the language of his parents. Throughout the collection, Chris illuminates what so many children of immigrants struggle with as they attempt to honor their parents’ culture and traditions. From books like Phoenix Gone, Terrace Empty to Dandarians, the poetry list at Milkweed Editions has a tradition of bringing new voices to the increasingly multicultural conversation in our country.

    Our mission & vision

    Milkweed Editions is an independent publisher of literary fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. Our mission is to identify, nurture, and publish transformative literature, and build an engaged community around it.

    We publish literature that transcends boundaries and fosters transformation. We identify and nurture outstanding literary voices, we connect readers with our publications through innovative engagement, and we cultivate a vibrant supportive community around our organization.

    Awards & Honors