INDIE RADAR: Queering Lent

queering lent

After seeing a number of my friends toting around Queering Lent, I decided to pick up the slim volume of devotional poems penned by a nonbinary pansexual Presbyterian pastor. Written as a spiritual practice over the course of last year’s Lent, the highly personal poems touch on interwoven themes of suffering, identity, and empathy burnout, all while employing classical mystical language of God as Lover.

Independent publishing can be a toss-up, so when I find something that shines in the lackluster mire of self-published titles, I’m quick to promote it. Queering Lent gleams despite its unpretentious packaging, and while some of the poems are unremarkable, many have a sort of understated profundity to them that’s hard to forget. In particular, I found the poetic sermon on binaries, the expansiveness of God, and the upside-down kingdom of Heaven in the back of the book to be particularly stirring, and I’ll be returning to it again and again in this Lenten season and beyond.

I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Slats a number of times, and they’re a truly unique artist and ardent lover of God who has a way of infecting atmospheres with joy. If you’re  interested in learning more about the creative process behind Queering Lent, you can check out this feature on Slats over at Sanctified Art. You can buy a copy of Queering Lent on Amazon, and 100% of the proceeds go to organizations committed to supporting queer and trans people in the church.

Seven Ways to Break Into the Publishing Industry

Today someone on Tumblr asked me how I had gotten my position as an associate editor of the Princeton Theological Review, and if I had any advice for those seeking a career in publishing. Well, I’m in the trenches right now seeking a career in publishing or book publicity, and I’m happy to share job-hunting tips I’ve collected along the way!

  1. Apply to work for your campus literary magazine or academic journal.  Campus mags are a great first step towards your goals; they tend to be eager to bring on new associates and to teach them the ropes. My first editorial job was as a submissions reader for my campus magazine; it was by no means high-profile, but I learned a lot about working as part of an editorial team. Once you’re brought onto the magazine, ask if you can help with or observe all the different stages of production. Be a sponge. Absorb everything.
  2. Gain editing, marketing, and writing skills at other jobs. While in college I worked as a web content editor for the provost, a writing tutor in academic advancement, and a scientific writer and editor at a national environmental agency.  None of these jobs related directly to publishing, and they required me to learn new skills, like basic graphic design and navigating the back end of drupal, but the experiences I gained are very translatable to a publishing context. Landing a job is all about showing employers that the skills you already have are the ones they need, whether or not you initially seem to check their “requirements” boxes.
  3. Sniff out internships at publishing houses, newspapers, or literary magazines. I worked as a summer intern for a local paper, but I so wish I had taken the time to be mentored by a literary agent or fiction editor!  If there are no job postings that interest you, don’t be afraid to send a company you love a brief, polite email asking if they would like an intern, and be sure to attach your resume. Sometimes you can find paid gigs, other times you have to do due diligence in an unpaid position for a semester.
  4. Know your industry. This is crucial. I’ve heard of interviewees at Penguin or Tor being thrown for a loop by the most important question an interviewer is likely to ask: “‘what have you been reading lately?”. If you’re looking for work in academic publishing, be up on current research; subscribe to journals in your field or read the current editions in your library for free.  If you love fiction, be able to rattle off authors you’re into and cite a couple of game-changers published in the last year. Extra points if they’re associated with the company you’re in talks with.
  5. Publish. There’s no better way to get a sense for the shape of peer review and the academic publishing process than to go through it yourself. So revise and polish some of your best academic work and start sending it out to journals.  If you’re a fiction enthusiast who also pens short stories and poems, it can never hurt to have your name in a couple of magazines where you would like to work. Those with journalistic aspirations might submit their bookish articles to place like BookRiot.
  6. Consider conferences and conventions. Cons are pricey and might not be a reasonable investment for you right now, but the kind of connections you can make there are invaluable. Big publishing events like BookExpo in New York, The Miami Book Fair, and the LA Times Festival of Books can be fertile territory for meeting authors, connecting with publishers, and passing out business cards. If you’re an academic, look into conferences where you can present your research, but also consider going even if you aren’t presenting to learn and connect.
  7. Slay social media. Make your accounts clean and professional, but also be attentive to ways to brand yourself with a unified tone and clear statement of what it is you’re good at. Connect with journals, contributors, and editors on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook, and showcase your projects, articles, and work experiences on those platforms. Networking is absolutely essential in this game.

I hope these tips help you guys get connected to some great opportunities! What advice do you have for someone looking to establish themselves in the publishing world?

The Death of the Book Tour…Or Is It?

Today while sipping on an eggnog latte at Starbucks and putting off writing my finals, I came across this article in the Atlantic on the death of the modern book tour.

In it, the author details the cutbacks publishing houses had to push through after the 2008 recession, including shortening book tours, replacing touring publicists with local “escorts” who show authors around, and nixing the book tour entirely for most first-time authors.  It appears the days of running down Harper Collin’s company credit cards while traveling all over the world, if they ever existed, are coming to an end. While its true that lengthy book tours don’t always translate into booming sales, the author is quick to point out that the sort of intimacy and loyalty fostered between writers and their fans on tour is something that can’t be duplicated anywhere else.

I’m a big fan of the book tour. I’ve fumbled over my words while the amused and handsome Reza Aslan autographed my book, driven myself two hours across Jersey to talk spirituality and The Raven Cycle with Maggie Stiefvater, and have been comforted by Catherynne M. Valente on Twitter when I had to bail last-minute on a signing. I’ve also been introduced to the wonderful writing of Joseph Bathanti and Lauren Winner because someone took me with them to a reading.

Tours may be expensive, and they might not translate well to the number-crunching bottom line, but I’m not ready to give up on them yet. Yes, book tours aren’t always sexy, and every author has read aloud to a conference room with four people in it. But for authors who know how to create hype on social media, events can be much more well-attended and, in turn, well documented on Twitter, Tumblr, and all the other places readers go to find the Next Big Thing.

And on the note of the internet, one critical issue the author didn’t cover is virtual tours, a publicity move that I think is quickly gaining traction and credibility.  In this model, publicists assemble a squad of book bloggers and booktubers who release promo material, reviews, and maybe even author interviews over a series of days or week. It’s an amazing way for bloggers to connect with new authors and boost their own visibility, and for authors to promotw their book on grassroots level to a diverse audience. Still, that’s not quite the same experience as shaking an author’s hand or passing them a letter about how much their work has meant to you.

What are your thoughts on book tours? I’m wild about them, but maybe they are falling out of favor after all. But, as the chyerti of Valente’s Deathless would say, life is like that.