Last year, during a time when most traditional publishers were scaling back their GLTB offerings or eliminating their GLTB titles altogether, a small independent publisher based in Austin, Texas decided to fill that growing void. Not only did Zumaya Publications decide to publish quality books with GLTB content, but they have recently formed an imprint, named Zumaya Boundless, that focuses exclusively on publishing superior GLTB content books.
Earlier this week, I caught up with Elizabeth Burton, the Executive Editor and driving force behind Zumaya Publications, and she agreed to answer a few interview questions:
Q: In today’s tough publishing world, why did Zumaya Publishing decide to create a GLTB imprint?
Liz: I had noticed that much of the existing GLBT literature seemed to be highly focused on erotica. That could simply be a misconception on my part because that's what the retailers choose to offer, but then I signed Dorien Grey to continue his Dick Hardesty mysteries after his previous publisher opted to drop the series. I had already published a historical romance of his, a Western titled Calico, and as we talked he agreed with me that there could be a large untapped market in both the community and the world at large for fiction that, to put it badly, had GLBT characters but wasn't GLBT fiction.
It happened that about that same time a lovely literary lesbian romance I had edited for a client became available--Susan Brooks's She's the Girl--so since I don't believe in coincidence I chose to interpret that as a hint I should pursue the idea and Boundless was born.
Q: What are Zumaya’s goals regarding the Boundless imprint?
Liz: The same as for all our imprints: publishing excellent books by talented authors. As an adjunct, we also give those authors a place to submit works that may not have been considered suitable for the mainstream GLBT presses but that have clear value as literary works. If, in the process, we manage to overcome a bit of prejudice here and there, so much the better.
Q: How does Zumaya Boundless and Zumaya authors reach out to the GLBT community to sell books?
Liz: We don't. We market Boundless books the same way we do any other: to readers. The authors themselves do a fantastic job of marketing to the community; our goal is to expand their efforts to the world of readers at large. That we are actually achieving that seems possible, as we have a number of reviewers who wouldn't have ordinarily read a GLBT book who read Boundless and say how very much they enjoy the experience.
Q: How many GLBT titles per year does Zumaya Boundless plan to publish?
Liz: Right now, we're doing about four or five new titles a year; we're limited by the fact Zumaya as a whole is still a one-woman show.
Q: Who are some of Boundless’s top selling authors and what type of stories do they write?
Liz: Dorien Grey, with his large base of ardent fans, is our second-best selling author company wide--the top place goes to one of our Zumaya Enigma mystery writers who does a fantastic job marketing to her niche readers. Still, it's close. However, all of our Boundless people are doing quite well, and I expect them to do even better as their fan base grows and more people learn just how good they are.
Q: Has any of the Boundless authors won any literary awards?
Liz: Dorien has been nominated for the Lambda four times, and last year James Bennett (Unrequited) was also. Susan Brooks won the 2004 DIY Award for Fiction when her book was first self-published. Unfortunately, there's a nasty bias against digitally printed books that precludes us from having a chance at any of the major genre awards, but we plan to be more active submitting titles to those that welcome us: the IPPY and the ForeWord Book Award.
Q: With so many talented gay and lesbian writers today, why is it so difficult for many of them to get published?
Liz: Well, first of all, it's hard for any writer to get published, which is why the subsidy presses like Lulu and iUniverse are doing so well. People get frustrated and decide they'll just do it themselves. But I also suspect there's a perception within the non-GLBT publishing world that only gays and lesbians will read the books, which means there's not a big enough market. Zumaya disagrees, and so far the results seem to support our opinion.
Q: What advice can you give gay and lesbian writers who are trying to become published authors?
Liz: The same advice I give any writer: learn your craft, polish your self-editing skills, research before you query publishers so you submit to the ones most likely to want your work and read their guidelines.
Q: Other than GLTB titles, what other types of books does Zumaya publish?
Liz: In fiction, just about everything but erotica. In nonfiction, I tend to go with whatever looks interesting, although we do have one established series about true hauntings.
Q: With the economy in a tailspin this holiday season, is Zumaya Boundless or Zumaya Publishing doing any special promotional sales?
Liz: Well, first I think the pundits need to get out more, because both Black Friday and Cyber Monday indicated the public at large isn't nearly as scared to shop as they kept insisting. However, we're having our own little sale at our online bookstore: Novel Ideas from Zumaya (http://www.novelideaszumaya.com). From now through December 12 we're offering a 30% discount and free shipping on the titles offered, which will be rotated every few days. It will be sort of like the weather here in Texas, if you don't see anything you like, check back tomorrow.
Q: What do you see as the biggest challenges/opportunities for GLBT publishing in the future?
Liz: The challenge is the same everywhere--keeping on top of what people want and providing it. The number of new books published every year increases steadily, and the varieties of alternatives to reading do as well. Publishers have to be prepared to use whatever tools are available to encourage people to pick up a book instead of the Wii remote.
I would like to thank Liz Burton for taking the time to share her thoughts and experience with us. I would also like to commend her work in creating a place where talented gay and lesbian authors can see their work published.
To find out more about Zumaya Publications or browse the books available at Zumaya, please visit: http://www.zumayapublications.com
To take advantage of the Boundless holiday sale please visit:
To receive the Boundless Newsletter, send an email to: News@zumayaboundless.com.