These are exciting times for book people, gay book people included. Although the LGBT book world has seen some sad transitions in recent months, including the loss of two of our most venerable bookstores (New York City's Oscar Wilde Bookstore and A Different Light Bookstore in West Hollywood), we've also seen some exciting and hopeful transitions; for starters, the appointment of the smart and innovative Amy Scholder as editor-in-chief of the Feminist Press and Don Weise as the new publisher of Alyson Books.
With the Feminist Press approaching its 40th anniversary and Alyson, along with Cleis Press, celebrating 30 years in 2010, these stalwarts of gay and feminist publishing are moving forward with energy and creative vision.
Indeed, some of the best LGBT literature continues to be issued by independent publishers, some of them formally gay or feminist presses and other more general presses with a commitment to the issues. We invited Alyson's Weise, who moved to that house after five years at Carroll & Graf, to reach out to some of those presses to see what they are planning for fall. And we spared him the duty of reporting on his own efforts at Alyson and include our own talk with Weise at the end.
Johnny Temple, Akashic Books
“Akashic has always had a strong commitment to publishing works by LGBT authors. We're delighted to have released work from the likes of Nina Revoyr, T Cooper and Felicia Luna Lemus. Our current top-selling novel is Ruins by Achy Obejas; although the story, set in Cuba in the mid-1990s, doesn't offer prominent queer themes, the author has a very strong lesbian and gay readership. The novel was recently selected for the Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers series.”
The Show That Smells by Derek McCormack ($15.95, July; ISBN 978-1-933354-71-2) mixes elements of humor, horror, history, haute couture... and homosexuality.
Alice Fantastic by Maggie Estep ($15.95, May; ISBN 978-1-933354-81-1) is drawing rave reviews and features queer and bisexual characters in a tale set amid evolving relationships in the lives of two sisters and their mother.
Will Work for Drugs by Lydia Lunch ($15.95, July; ISBN 978-1-933354-73-6) is a new collection from the downtown New York City icon.
Brian Lam, Arsenal Pulp Press
“The books that sell best tend to be ones that most reflect the current culture—in the years since Will and Grace and Ellen put a face to the LGBT experience, there is a growing interest in books that represent all aspects of it. One of our fall 2009 titles, The Nearest Exit May Be Behind You, reflects on the transition from being a lesbian to a gay man. At the same time, the debate over gay marriage is reflected in our Dictionary of Homophobia in 2008, a 300-page translation from the French edited by Louis-Georges Tin, who recently spearheaded a U.N. resolution to criminalize homophobia, which has been signed by President Obama, among others.”
The Nearest Exit May Be Behind You by S. Bear Bergman ($18.95 paper, Oct.; ISBN 978-1-55152-264-7) Humorous, thoughtful essays on gender by the author of Butch Is a Noun.
American Hunks: The Muscular Male Body in Popular Culture, 1860—1970 by David L. Chapman and Brett Josef Grubisic ($29.95 paper, Oct.; ISBN 978-1-55152-256-2). A full-color collection of images and essays on the muscular American male from a homoerotic perspective.
Karin Kallmaker, Bella Books
“Technology has created new challenges, not the least of which is maintaining that old, very low-tech person-to-person building of readership. We and our sister press, Spinsters Ink, are not relying exclusively on Internet marketing, waiting for the readers to come to us. We are launching an annual Y Tour to bring authors to where the untapped readers are and connect through mutual interest in local charities. Over four days, lesbian authors from both presses will be building houses with Habitat for Humanity, raising money for local charities at one of the largest party gatherings of lesbians in the United States, and taking part in a first-ever all-lesbian public library event in the Denver area. It's called the Y Tour because we're putting some 'Y' back in womYn.”
Sea Legs by KG MacGregor ($14.95 paper, Sept.; ISBN 978-1-59493-158-1). A screwball comedy ensues when Kelly agrees to help Natalie win back her ex, Didi, by pretending they are crazy about each other—only Kelly's not pretending.
The Scorpion by Gerri Hill ($14.95 paper, Dec.; ISBN 978-1-59493-162-8). Reporter Marty Edwards and Det. Kristen Bailey have to learn to trust each other, and fast, or neither may survive the sting of a murderer.
Len Barot, Bold Strokes Books
“Publishers of gay and lesbian literature find themselves in a gray zone between 'mainstream publishing' and 'niche publishing.' While it's true that we predominantly publish works that are of interest to a minority population, there is definite crossover between books written for and about the gay and lesbian (and bi/trans/queer) community/experience and the non-LGBTQ reading population. The crossover is strongest in general fiction, both lesbian and gay, and in the genre fiction categories of mystery and speculative fiction. In this time of economic recession, digital publishing has definitely offered some insulation against the decline in print sales, with a fourfold increase in e-book sales for our titles in the last year. The trends among our titles mirror the general trend in fiction sales as a whole—the largest single category of sales is genre romance followed by mystery/intrigue. We have also had an excellent response to our 'Classics Reissues'—works by luminaries such as Felice Picano, John Morgan Wilson and J.M. Redmann.”
The Reluctant Daughter by Lesléa Newman ($16.95 paper, Sept.; ISBN 987-1-60282-118-7).
Returning Tides by Radclyffe ($16.95 paper, Nov.; ISBN 987-1-60282-123-1).
Felice Newman, Cleis Press
“Despite trends, the mission of gay/lesbian publishing doesn't change. We publish books that save lives. Last spring's The Transgender Child: A Handbook for Families and Professionals is the only book on the subject and hopefully it can prevent the bullying and harassment that harm transgender young people. Recently, we received an e-mail from a young bookseller in the South asking for Jon Ginoli to stop by his store on Ginoli's tour for Deflowered: My Life in the Pansy Division. The young bookseller wrote that the queer punk band kept him from killing himself in high school.
“On the business front, we are relieved to report that we are actually up 10% in the first quarter of 2009, compared to last year, due to backlist sales and newly released books outperforming projections.”
The Low Road by James Lear ($14.95 paper, Aug.; ISBN 978-1-57344-364-7) brings the author's trademark high adventure, crackling dialogue and rowdy sex to this historical romance in 18th-century Scotland.
Riddle of the Sands by Geoff Knight ($14.95 paper, Sept.; ISBN 978-1-57344-366-1). Indiana Jones meets gay erotica.
Amy Scholder, The Feminist Press
“Having worked in independent publishing for more than 20 years (as editor-in-chief at Seven Stories Press, U.S. publisher of Verso N.Y., editor of High Risk Books/Serpent's Tail, to name a few), it has been exciting to bring my particular background and expertise to the Feminist Press. We've retooled, launching a new Web site (in September 2009) to reach out to younger readers; hiring new staff to address the changing industry; acquiring over a dozen books by writers including Barbara Hammer, Laura Whitehorn, Elizabeth Streb, Karen Finley, June Jordan and others; and introducing a new series called Contemporary Classics, while actively seeking literary works by feminist writers from around the world.”
Women Who Kill by Ann Jones ($15.95 paper, Oct.; ISBN 978-1-58861-607-3) is the first in the Contemporary Classics series.
Hammer! Making Movies Out of Sex and Life by Barbara Hammer ($19.95 paper, Mar. 2010; ISBN 978-1-55861-612-7; $39.95 limited edition hardcover, ISBN 978-1-55861-614-1). “Barbara Hammer is a true cinematic pioneer.”—Jenni Olson.
John Scognamiglio, Kensington
“Kensington continues to do what it does best, publishing commercial gay and lesbian fiction and nonfiction. Two of its summer titles are aimed not just at gay and lesbian readers but mainstream readers as well: Rakesh Satyal's charming debut novel, Blue Boy, about a young Indian boy coming-of-age in Ohio, and Eddie Sarfaty's Mental, a collection of humorous essays very much in the tradition of David Sedaris and Augusten Burroughs. The focus isn't on being gay.
“One genre that is growing for Kensington is the coming-of-age story, which has really evolved since Edmund White's A Boy's Own Story.”
Midnight Hunger by Todd Gregory, Chase Masters and Sean Wolfe ($15 paper, Sept.; ISBN 978-0-7582-3536-7).
Men I Might Have Known by Brad Saunders ($15 paper, Nov.; ISBN 978-0-7582-2962-5).
Laura Baumbach, MLR Press
“Just this month, the Romance Writers of America accepted a new chapter: Rainbow Romance Writers, devoted to authors who write LGBT romance. And New York publishing houses are publishing more mainstream stories with LGBT characters; one is even experimenting with a line of gay historical novels marketed to straight women. As a publisher of gay romance and fiction, I see a wider appeal growing in that audience of straight women, traditionally the largest consumer of romance novels. At the same time, in this age of expanding legalization of gay marriage and a growing realization that love and romance are for everyone, reading romance is even beginning to appeal to gay men. Acceptance of LGBT romance by mainstream readership can only nurture acceptance in other walks of everyday life.”
The Golden Age of Gay Fiction, edited by Drewey Wayne Gunn ($TBA, June; ISBN 978-1-60820-048-1). Essays by Earl Kemp, Ian Young, Victor J. Banis, William Maltese, Michael Bronski et al. survey the period roughly between the first Kinsey Report and the first collection of Tales of the City.
The 38-Million-Dollar Smile by Richard Stevenson ($14.99, Sept.; ISBN 978-1-60820-013-9). The 10th novel in the acclaimed Donald Strachey mystery series from a three-time Lambda finalist.
Jennifer Joseph, Manic D
“Books have always been key to opening people's closed minds. The success of Thea Hillman's recent memoir, Intersex (for Lack of a Better Word), demonstrates that curiosity and compassion are stronger than ever among all readers. At a recent San Francisco book festival, a heterosexual lawyer dad stopped by, pointed to Intersex (for Lack of a Better Word), and said, 'Oh, I'm reading that now. I picked it up at Books Inc.; it's really interesting.'
“Forthcoming this summer is a debut novel, Lilac Mines, a spellbinding narrative that's part history, part mystery, very contemporary... with a dash of magical realism thrown in. In September, Manic D is releasing Lynnee Breedlove's One Freak Show. Known for his critically acclaimed bike messenger novel, Godspeed, Breedlove is hilarious—whether he's taking on transgender restroom etiquette issues, language limitations involving pronouns or the difficulties in making a cup of coffee before you've had one.”
Lilac Mines by Cheryl Klein ($15.95 paper, Aug.; ISBN 978-1-93314-931-8). Trendy hipster dyke Felix joins her stoic aunt Anna Lisa in a hardscrabble town in the Sierra foothills after being gay bashed, and explores the town's namesake mystery: the disappearance of 16-year-old Lilac Ambrose in 1899.
Lynneé Breedlove's One Freak Show by Lynn Breedlove ($14.95 paper, Sept.; ISBN 978-1-93314-932-5). A gender-bending collection of comedic thoughts and essays.
Raphael Kadushin, University of Wisconsin Press
“Those books that have attracted multiple markets are working best for us, especially now that gay authors aren't as easily ghettoized as they once were. So, for example, Lev Raphael's My Germany is building sales largely through a Jewish market and readers interested in the Holocaust and German history, as much as Raphael's existing gay audience. Michael Montlack's My Diva is getting a lot of attention from the mainstream press as well as the gay press, since the figure of the diva is such an integral part of pop culture. Alistair McCartney's End of the World, though informed by a gay sensibility, really won attention among serious readers of literary fiction more for the beauty of its prose than for its gay content. And Maureen Seaton's Sex Talks to Girls sold as well to fans of Seaton's poetry as it did to a lesbian market. But all these books also depend very much on gay readers and reviewers, and we don't want to take that core market for granted.”
Gay American Autobiography, edited by David Bergman ($29.95 paper, May; ISBN 978-0-299-23044-9). Collecting 150 years of gay life writing from Thoreau and Henry James to David Sedaris and Justin Chin.
Sugarless by James Magruder ($24.95, Oct.; ISBN 978-0-299-23380-8). A coming-of-age (and coming-out) story set in the 1970s against the backdrop of cutthroat high school forensics tournaments.
Alyson Books, Don Weise
Despite arriving as publisher of Alyson Books only last fall, Weise has put together a strong fall list. Alyson continues its titles in humor, mystery and erotica, but Weise has expanded into new categories, including lesbian and gay true crime, current affairs, more self-help/wellness and, perhaps most notably, TV/film/magazine tie-ins to the properties owned by Alyson's parent company, Regent Media, which operates the premium cable channel Here TV and owns the Advocate and Out magazine.
Says Weise, “In spite of what I sometimes hear about 'nobody reading' or gay books no longer functioning as a driving force of visibility, our lives as LGBT people can't always be reduced to a half-hour sitcom or a two-hour movie. We sometimes need an 80,000-word book to tell our stories.”
Mapping the Territory: Selected Nonfiction by Christopher Bram ($23.95, Sept.; ISBN 978-1-59350-143-3). The first book of nonfiction from an author Tony Kushner calls “one of the best novelists writing in the world today.”
Zipper Mouth by Laurie Weeks ($14.95 paper, Jan. 2010; ISBN 978-1-59350-154-9). The long-awaited debut novel from Boy's Don't Cry screenwriter Laurie Weeks, whose work was recently selected by Dave Eggers for Best Non-Required Reading 2008.