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Happy Pride Month! In this issue of Magnify we're highlighting books by LGBTQ authors. 
If you're in Portland, check out the Pride Foundation Literary Fundraiser at Another Read Through, Friday, June 28!
A Critical Look
"Powerful but strange... beautiful but deeply sad." This is a description of Jaime Manrique's sixth novel Like This Afternoon Forever (Akashic Books) in a review on MuggleNet. The novel follows Lucas and Ignacio, young seminary students who fall in love. "Manrique tells their story largely as a constellation of moments, years passing between chapters only to pause on a significant walk through the woods. Despite there being moments when I wished I had a little more information about Lucas’s or Ignacio’s motivations, this unusual structure was almost hypnotizing, urging me forward through the story. It’s almost as if Manrique didn’t really want to let us inside of Lucas and Ignacio’s love–only let us know that it was there, a powerful force influencing their lives and actions."
In Alex DiFrancesco's new novel All City (Seven Stories Press) "the fictional Superstorm Bernice hits, and New York City is left completely flooded and destroyed. The book tracks several characters as they survive and strive to rebuild." In Lambda Literary, Christina Orlanda calls the novel "a very astute critique of wealth disparity. ... The interior lives of DiFrancesco’s characters are rich and move with momentum. The plot is laced with sly commentaries on gender, income inequality, and gentrification (the way disaster and struggle can be spun by craven opportunists into something that later hangs in a museum, removed from the context which gave it meaning). DiFrancesco illuminates this landscape with nimble prose and complex characters, which feel shockingly familiar."  
Artist and filmmaker William E. Jones's debut novel I'm Open to Anything (We Heard You Like Books) is described by reviewer Michael Kaler in Lamda Literary as "compelling and perverse. ... Set in the eighties, the novel follows an unnamed narrator as he moves from his Midwestern hometown to Los Angeles upon his college graduation. ... Jones takes as his starting point the well-worn premise of the young gay man from a backwards town who moves to the big city, and then subverts every expected plot beat. ... I’m Open to Anything runs away from any claim to representing the era’s zeitgeist, but Jones is a talented prose stylist and sharp cultural commentator whose debut is well worth reading."
"I have read it countless times, with certain pages being consumed like an addiction I can't shake." That's Katie Collins-Guinn writing about Naked by Nastashia Minto (Eldgredge Books) in the introduction to their conversation in Nailed Magazine. "This book is like a coming out to oneself story told through pieces that superbly stand alone. Nastashia talks about being a queer African American woman rising into her power and strength, recognizing her own beauty and love for herself." In the interview Collins-Guinn and Minto discuss her work, influences, and the circumstances that brought Minto from Georgia to Portland. Of the title of the book, Minto explains: "There is such a freedom that comes with nakedness and I feel like I’ve been chasing that freedom for so long, not realizing that all I wanted to be was me."
An Inside Look
Promoting a book is labor-intensive, nerve-wracking work for authors: we worry about how to create “buzz” for our books without annoying everyone we know, stress about bad reviews or no reviews, and struggle to find creative ways to engage readers. This work can be even more daunting for small press authors, whose books don’t often have the support of large distributors or publicity teams. This month, I wanted to give an inside look at indie book promotion, with a conversation with small press freelance publicist Lori Hettler.

Lori has been a reader and reviewer of small press literature for more than a decade. She was previously the Marketing Director for the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography (CCLaP) and Chief Staff Interviewer for Alternating Current’s The Coil. She’s the founder of The Next Best Book Club on Goodreads (which currently has almost 20,000 members) and its corresponding Next Best Book Blog. As a freelance publicist, Lori has represented many small press authors of literary fiction, including—as of a few weeks ago—me! I’m thrilled to be working with Lori to promote Besotted and was excited to chat with her about the challenges of marketing small press books and how small press authors can set themselves up for success.  
Let’s start with the upsides, Lori. What do you love about your work as a publicist?

What’s not to love? Championing small presses has been such a passion of mine for so long, and I simply can’t think of a better way to channel it. As a freelance publicist, I have a lot of control over which titles I take on. I’m not bound to promoting titles by any one specific publisher, so if I’m signing with an author it’s because their work spoke to me in ways I just couldn’t ignore. And then I get the opportunity to take that work and help it find its audience! There’s no better feeling than helping one of my authors land a review or interview in one of their dream venues.

I know from my own experience that one challenge marketing a small press book is simply time and energy. Large presses have teams of people behind promotion, wider distribution, and more cache when it comes to landing reviews. Are there other challenges beyond these to effectively marketing small press books?

There’s a challenge that I think is connected to the strength of small presses. They aren’t afraid to break the mold and publish books that might introduce a unique narrative or defy genre, or that are written by marginalized writers. By taking risks on amazing literature that looks and feels new, they ultimately create their own marketing challenges because there’s nothing out there to even compare it to. 

Do you have any tips for authors who want to work as effectively as possible with their publicist?

One of the best things an author can do is be up front about the level of personal involvement you can commit to. As you brainstorm ideas for outreach with your publicist, let them know if you have no interest in, say, writing essays for culture blogs or snapping shots of your bookshelves for a “shelfie” post. Do offer up a list of venues where you or your work have appeared and don’t forget to share points of contact, if you feel comfortable doing so. Are there things that you believe are unique to you or your book that we should know about that could be leveraged during our campaign? Don’t be shy! Sometimes the best way to market the book is by marketing you!      
 
Money is a big factor for small press authors debating hiring a publicist. It can feel like a big risk to pay for help with promotion without any guarantee that you’ll earn the money back in book sales. I don’t mind being transparent with my readers that I’m paying you $900 for your help promoting Besotted—money I don’t expect I’ll earn back. I decided to invest in a publicist more as a long-term strategy for my writing career. It was a decision, though, that I spent a lot of time weighing. Do you have any thoughts for writers who might be similarly on the fence about publicity? What are reasonable expectations for authors to have, and what questions should they ask if they’re considering hiring a publicist?

Hiring a publicist is a pretty big decision for an author. Ultimately, you’re trusting someone else to be your book’s greatest ally, so it’s important to explore whether their vision on how best to support your book aligns with your own. While it may appear costly up front, challenge yourself to consider the time and potential stress a publicist could save you when all of the hard work is left in their capable hands. And if they’re well established, many will come with a built-in network based on strong relationships with editors in a variety of venues that have been cultivated over many years. While you might not be able to sell enough books to balance out the cost of a publicist, you’ll have to weigh how much tapping into that network might be worth to you.

As far as questions to ask: it’s important for you to understand how wide of a reach they have, and what their area(s) of expertise are. Have they pitched books in your genre before? Who are a few of their past clients? Which venues can you expect them to pitch on your behalf? What level of involvement do they anticipate from you during the campaign? Are they as enthusiastic about your book as you are? Does it sound like they have creative marketing strategies that would complement your book? If you’re looking for more than just review and interview coverage, you may also ask if they also submit to book award programs, do outreach with radio or TV, or assist with setting up book signings. Don’t be afraid to interview a few before making your decision! 
Have a question about working with a small press publicist? Email Lori!
In the Inside Look column I'll share with readers a bit about my own writing life and experiences publishing my debut novel with the small press 7.13 Books. I'll also be reaching out to other writers, publishers, cover designers, book reviewers, and independent literary magazines and journals to learn more about the small press landscape. If you have an idea for the column, please feel free to reach out! 
Another Look
Dreadnought by April Daniels (Diversion Books) is a superhero story that was missing from the canon for too long. Danny is trans, lesbian, and fighting to save the world while also fighting against the transphobia and homophobia she faces. April Daniels tackles a lot in this book—from the world building and a superhero saving humanity, to the main character's issues of identity (as both a trans girl and a superhero) and acceptance, morality and politics. Once Danny transitions, her issues aren't over, and Daniels handles the issues of transphobia and homophobia realistically. Like life, this book holds both light and dark and it's such a full depiction of the world. The cast of characters is diverse and the side characters are well fleshed out. I can only imagine what this book could mean to a young trans person, seeing themselves so understood, both the hurt and harm they encounter, as well as the soaring superness of their inner self being so seen. As readers, we're so lucky when such an important book is also well-written, fun, intense, and so easy to recommend.
Each month, Another Read Through owner Elisa Saphier will choose a small press book released a year or more ago for our Another Look column. Based in Portland, Oregon, Another Read Through ships, so if you want to order any of the books featured in Magnify, follow the links to order them from Elisa
Community Close-Ups
In this newest section of Magnify, I'm highlighting people, organizations, and events that help build literary community and support small presses writers. Know of a community builder you'd like to see included in a future issue? Check out my blog for more details on how to submit! 
Amplify is a series of all-inclusive retreats for writers interested in learning more about how to publish and then promote their work. The first Amplify retreat, "Submit Your Book With Confidence" is an all-inclusive weekend in Banks, Oregon from August 30-Sept 1. Participants will leave the retreat with a polished query letter, synopsis, elevator pitch, and artist statement. We are offering one full scholarship to a writer of color. Check out the schedule and learn more about the venue on my website
Co-founded by Erin Dorney and Tyler Barton, Fear No Lit is a literary organization working to create offbeat literary experiences both online and in person. According to Jesi Buell, editor at Kernpunkt Press and author of The Book of the Last Word (Whisk(e)y Tit), "In addition to providing digital resources and in-person literary events and workshops, Fear No Lit has a Submerging Writer Fellowship that is dedicated to writers who have not yet had a book published and face barriers to writing."
The Debutante Ball is a group blog for authors making their debut in the literary world. Current member Devi Laskar (The Atlas of Reds and Blues, Counterpoint Press) had this to say about her experience: "It has been an honor and a pleasure to be part of The Debutante Ball this year. I’ve been lucky to be part of this amazing five-woman band! Together we have extended the life of a community platform for aspiring and emerging writers (it was first started in 2007). And, we have each had support in establishing our own platforms as we launch our debut books and our writing careers. I’m so lucky to have these friends and colleagues for life." Applications for the 2020 Debutante Ball are due Friday, June 28!
Thanks so much for reading Magnify! If you have a review of a recent small press book you'd like to see included in our Critical Look, or questions about life as a small press author, feel free to contact me. See you next month! 

 
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