Hello AW community! I am a new member and this is my first question.

I am a neuroscientist and a freelance journalist/blogger with a decent sized platform and some great bylines. I found a great nonfiction agent and we recently submitted my first proposal to the Big 5 and a couple of independent presses that are actually massive (I think W.W. Norton & Company falls into this category, as they call themselves independent but publish books like Neil deGrasse Tyson's new books and others I see in every bookstore).

Unfortunately, they all passed. Most thought it was a fascinating project, but since I am a neuroscientist (PhD) and the book was a "big picture" book, about the evolving cosmos, a couple editors thought they would have difficulty marketing me. There is a spiritual component to the book, but it is not quite self-help. I have had research published in big psychology and neuro journals, but only a handful, and am not a big name in the field (I immediately began science journalism after getting my doctorate, but stayed active in research just to get one publication a year or so).

So now we are trying small presses. But my agent really only suggested we submit to two so far, Prometheus and BenBella. He said BenBella has better distribution, and does advances from 10-20k, and Prometheus is smaller (advances from 5-10k, with less distribution), but still very respected and decent distribution. I believe he also submitted to one called Shambala, which passed, and they focused on spiritual or eastern style nonfiction books.

He wanted me to write a second proposal to give to big houses, something more related to my degree (neuroscience or psychology), but my heart is set on this book and I have already written multiple chapters. Also, my articles on this topic have gone viral, and I know there is a niche that no one has filled, Also, I tried a second proposal, but it inevitably started to go in the same direction as the first. It seems I have some things to say, and I have to say them.

Because of this I am willing to take a smaller advance (5k-10k) than most people in my position would (if it takes me a year to write the book that is far far less than minimum wage).

My agent is concerned that if the indie press is too small with poor distribution and marketing, I won't sell above 10k copies and won't be able to get another book deal. But I believe in the project so much, and am willing to promote it so heavily, that I want to try it, especially since I can't see myself doing anything else. Freelancing barely pays the bills so I wouldn't be making that much less.

I'm looking for suggestions for small presses beyond the ones I mentioned, that are good for science nonfiction and/or spirituality.

There are probably only a few for the U.S., but these could be just what I'm looking for. There are lists but it's hard to tell which one are vanity presses in disguise, or so small or unrecognizable that it would be career-suicide to go with them.

Anyone have any suggestions? Thank you for your time in advance!