Tips for Getting Your Author Ready for an Instagram Takeover

Social media is a great way to generate publicity for a book, and one trend that has recently gained popularity is Instagram takeovers. For authors who aren’t familiar with Instagram, the platform can look incredibly complicated at first glance. Knowing the basics of the platform is crucial, especially given the frequency with which it’s updated. In this post I will offer tips to get your Instagram-newbie author ready for a takeover in no time!

  1. Get Them Familiar with the Platform
  2. Most takeovers usually happen on Instagram stories, but the buttons to add this content may not come across clearly. Make sure your author knows that in order to access this button, they will need to either swipe left or locate the circle at the top left of their screen. I always find that screenshots and examples are incredibly helpful in this step! A great way to get comfortable with this feature is to practice—have them create test posts on a private or personal account so that they have a better idea of what to do when the time comes. This will also allow you to gauge their understanding of the platform as well.

  3. Set Expectations
  4. The idea of a takeover may seem overwhelming to authors who don’t know what to expect. They may ask questions like “How often should I post?” and “What kind of content do I share?” Giving your author some guidelines can help soothe some of this anxiety. Let them know specifics like how often they should post (i.e. once an hour vs. ten posts total), what the time frame is for their takeover, and what you and your viewers expect to see during that time. Make sure they know what they are getting into. I always recommend that authors share fun facts about themselves, pictures of their pets, and other material that allows viewers to get to know them. This will look different for everyone, so make sure you are as clear as possible every step of the way.

  5. Communicate
  6. Given everything going on in the world with social distancing, virtual meetings, and geographical limitations, it is more important than ever to establish effective communication. While emailing back and forth is convenient, giving a step-by-step tutorial in text can be overwhelming. Sharing screens or having an audio connection is a great alternative that will help take stress off your author and make them feel like they aren’t alone in figuring this out.

  7. Know Your Resources
  8. One of the great things about the “new normal” of virtual meetings is that it is easier than ever to find a video tutorial that can do some of the work for you. This video by Louise Henry is very in-depth and effective at covering all of the options that Instagram stories has to offer. In his tutorial, Dusty Porter offers a quick, but thorough, rundown on Instagram stories. These are just a few examples, but you always have the option to take matters into your own hands and screen-record your own tutorials as well.

  9. When in Doubt, Take Over
  10. Some authors just won’t get the hang of Instagram, and that is okay! I recommend that you sit down with your author and plan out content that you can post for them: choose photos to share and create captions with together, or offer a Q&A session via email so followers can still have authentic engagement with the author. There are endless possibilities!

  11. Move On
  12. An Instagram takeover will not make or break a campaign, so if things really aren’t working out, then it’s time to move on. With that being said, always be patient and allow your author the time and space to acclimate to Instagram. Only move on as a last resort.

Instagram takeovers are a fun and low-stress marketing tool that anyone can take advantage of. With these tips, you may be able to help your author in a big way! Just make sure to do your own research, because in the world of social media, the platforms we know and love can change in an instant.

Front cover of the book Finding the Vein which portrays the title on a forested background.

Positive Predictions for FINDING THE VEIN

As of writing this, Finding the Vein is on the verge of publication and the entire team is so excited! We’ve been working on a number of things to ensure that the book has an excellent launch. Ooligan has partnered with Hood River’s favorite indie book retailer, Waucoma Bookstore, to host our virtual launch event. Our team has been hard at work creating content for our social media campaign, and we’re getting the word out through our local library partners. While this post will be going up after the launch for Finding the Vein has officially kicked off, rest assured that our team will keep the enthusiasm rolling as we continue to promote Ooligan Press’s first mystery novel.
The Finding the Vein team partnered with Waucoma Bookstore to host our Zoom launch event on April 20, 2021. As Ooligan’s third foray into digital launches, it was an interesting event to set up and gave our team members the opportunity to work with an independent bookstore to arrange an evening that would serve the interests of the press, the author, and the shop itself. The terms of the launch had to be negotiated carefully to ensure that everyone was happy with the outcomes.
Originally, the bookstore wanted to do a traditional Zoom room for the event to allow the audience to pop on camera and ask their questions during the Q&A. The case they made for this modality was in good spirits, and the bookstore representatives wanting to allow for a similar kind of audience engagement one would have at an in-person launch event is understandable. However, our team was concerned about some of the hazards this modality could pose to the event’s schedule and that it might cause lag if the event was well attended. Most of us are familiar with Zoom-era horror stories of someone forgetting to turn off their microphone or have experienced firsthand the bandwidth problems of having too many cameras on at once. On top of that, we were also concerned that if people decided to keep their cameras on that it could distract from the author and do a disservice to the launch experience. Lastly, we were worried that the chat, which we wouldn’t be able to disable in a standard session, would also distract from the questions audience members wanted to ask. It took us a bit, but we got everyone on board with a webinar format instead as it would bypass so many of the problems we were hoping to avoid. Of course, by the time this blog is released, the event will have already happened, and because of the team’s careful planning and dedication to quality, I’m certain that it will have been a hit!
The Finding the Vein team is also hard at work creating engaging social media content both for the launch event and for the weeks following the launch. We’re leaning heavily into the mystery plot and imagery of the Pacific Northwest for our campaign, tapping into some of the most celebrated themes of the book to engage readers. On top of social media, Oolies have been distributing posters throughout the city to advertise the launch, using the beautiful Oolie-designed cover to catch the eyes of passersby. We’re not alone in promoting Finding the Vein as our partners at the Multnomah County Library Writers Project are also busily working to distribute the book through their system and help increase patron awareness of it once it officially launches.
With the launch of Finding the Vein, it’s only natural for one to think: “What’s next?” We have an exciting new project on the horizon—but all I can tell you right now is that it’s going to be awesome. The incoming project manager, Wren Haines, will be taking over for the outgoing manager, the amazing Bailey Potter, at the end of the term and they will be announcing the new project in detail soon! So stay tuned to Ooligan’s official channels for an update about next year’s Library Writers Project release.
Finding the Vein launched on April 20, 2021, in both trade paperback and ebook formats. To learn more about the Library Writers Project and how to submit work to the Multnomah County Library, please visit their website.

A blue and green postcard with book cover, description, and author bio

Ramping Up to Launching FINDING THE VEIN

The ramp up to the launch of Finding the Vein has begun! Just as a quick reminder before the publication update, Finding the Vein, written by Jennifer Hanlon Wilde, is Ooligan’s first mystery title and follows both campers and police detectives as they investigate the death of a beloved camp counselor. Little do they know that his death is just the tip of the iceberg of secrets at Heritage Camp.
Whereas fall term was mostly about planning our marketing outreach campaign, winter term found us actually following through with those plans. We sent out advance review copies (ARCs) and digital review copies (DRCs) to national review outlets, finished our postcard (see image above), sent out blurb requests, wrote our social media copy and paired posts with images, prepared email templates, and finished our press kit. The Ooligan web page for Finding the Vein has also been created! Additionally, the interior of the novel has been designed (by yours truly, I might add) and the print and ebook proofreads have been completed. The project team, department managers, and other Oolies who have volunteered for certain assignments have been working diligently and I’m so excited to see the seeds of our efforts take root and bloom into fruition.
I’m happy to say that a few blurbs have come in so far, one of which was written by the previous Library Writers Project author, whose book published just last year:

Finding the Vein has a multidimensional cast of characters, with interwoven backgrounds and complex emotions. Vivid, sensory descriptions drew me into the story, and a plot full of tantalizing hooks kept me guessing right up to the end. Jennifer Hanlon Wilde has penned a satisfying mystery!

Cindy Hiday, author of Iditarod Nights

Finally, the day has come to publish Finding the Vein! On April 20, you’ll be able to find this thrilling and sweet mystery novel in bookstores everywhere, even here! We’ve been ramping up to this launch for months now, and are so excited that Waucoma Bookstore is hosting our virtual launch event, but also that best-selling novelist Jean Hanff Korelitz is joining us to interview and converse with Jennifer Hanlon Wilde! This event is going to kick off the publication of Finding the Vein and will (hopefully) herald in a new age of Ooligan press delving into more genre titles in the future. Speaking of which . . .
In other Library Writers Project news, we are moving forward with our next LWP title set to publish in 2022. I can’t say quite yet what it will be, but while Finding the Vein has been chugging along in its final stages of the publishing process, the copy chief, Erica, and I were been busy reading among the collection of LWP titles at the Multnomah County Library in search another self-published ebook to publish in print. We have chosen our next title, reached out to the author, officially acquired the manuscript, and have begun the process of developmental editing. While launching Finding the Vein will be a dream come true for Jennifer (the author) and all of us at Ooligan who have devoted our time and hearts toward its publication, we are all very excited to begin the rewarding process of publishing all over again with this next title.
To learn more about the Library Writers Project and how to submit work to the Multnomah County Library, please visit their website.

Sign that says time for change with led lights in background.

Demanding Diversity with BookTube

BookTubers are a well-known part of the book-loving community. BookTube is the place on YouTube people go to hear others rave about books they love or discuss all things wrong with the books they don’t. Throw in some fun bookish tags and it is the perfect space for readers to get more content when they aren’t curled up with a book. That being said, BookTube has gone through some important changes over the years and one vital change is that the personalities and faces of these channels are becoming more and more diverse.
Diversity is something the publishing industry has long struggled with, but BookTube isn’t letting that stop them. Anyone who has a passion or an interest can upload a video onto YouTube, and that is no different for the book community. These videos afford BookTubers an audience and platform to speak their minds and call for change, much like the creator Christina Mitchell does consistently. Mitchell’s channel takes the issue of lack of diversity head on and calls out the community in dedicated videos. One video, which criticized the attendance of BookCon, resulted in the Con giving her a panel to speak on issues that concern her, such as diversity.
Mitchell’s example of speaking out isn’t the only headway the community is making on diversity. YouTube recently released a trailer for a BookTube video featuring David Sedaris. While Sedaris is highlighted, this video also features a panel of numerous BookTubers including Cindy Pham, Joel Kim Booster, Jake Roper, and Francine Simone, a small selection of people that still showed a more diverse set of content creators from the platform. This support from YouTube itself shows that people are taking notice and their platforms are just as successful as the white creators from BookTube’s inception. This is also a show of growth as YouTube’s previous feature with Michelle Obama consisted of a largely white panel of BookTubers. A HuffPost article was even written with Black BookTubers criticising the choices of creators included in this video and the missed opportunity YouTube had to highlight a marginalized group of the book community. These outspoken creators are a huge part of the visibility of these issues and a huge step into holding the publishing industry as a whole accountable.
BookTubers aren’t just making callout videos—they are also uplifting authors and books that are already representative of the diversity they seek. They are still coming up with popular BookTube content while also featuring people of color, LGBTQ+ people, and so much more. For example, Cindy Pham from readwithcindy even posts an annual Asian readathon in the month of May to highlight Asian Heritage Month. This event is specifically targeted for Asian authors, characters, or both. These creators are using their platforms to both create a positive and fun space for book lovers while also giving a spotlight to issues they care about. These content creators are unapologetically calling for change out of love for reading, something their audiences can no doubt identify with. BookTubers are making it quite clear that they won’t stand for the industry’s lack of diversity, and with their impact we can look forward to how that will change the face of the industry in the years to come.

Thumb hovering over Instagram app on a smart phone.

Learning the ABCs of Bookstagram

I started my bookstagram page at the end of September 2020. In under half a year, I have amassed 3,400 plus followers, held conversations with some of my favorite authors, and made many bookish friends. There are many tips and tricks only accessible to those engaging with other accounts, consuming a lot of content, and running an actual bookstagram account. Thus, I have gathered my most useful tips and tricks on how to create, operate, and brand a successful bookstagram account.

  1. Realize your definition of success.
    1. What do you want to get out of your account? Do likes matter? Do followers matter?
    2. Know your own value. Likes and followers only hold the weight you place on them. Big or small, this account is ultimately for you!
  2. Develop your content strategy.
    1. Will you be posting book reviews? Do you want your feed to be aesthetically pleasing and uniform in style or color? Will you post other content besides books?
    2. Many followers first engage with your image—this is Instagram, after all. Having good lighting and photo quality are a great first step to running a professional account. Many bookstagrammers use props like fake flowers, bookish merch, and other knickknacks to create a theme, while others use a consistent filter or color scheme.
    3. Your inaugural post is a great way to introduce yourself to the bookstagram community! Why did you choose to begin? What books do you like? Why is your account unique?
  3. Design your profile.
    1. Start with your account name, a.k.a. your @ handle. Making it book related helps alert others to your interests.
    2. Another critical part of your account is the profile picture. Some choose to pay for a designed logo, but you can make your own in many different apps, Adobe Creative Cloud, or even Word. A picture of books or you with books would work, just make sure it is recognizably your account. This is your chance to stand out!
    3. Many times people decide to follow and follow back based on your @ handle, profile picture, and bio. If you choose a random selfie or obscure name, other bookstagrammers may not recognize your account as a book page.
    4. You have the option to switch your account to a “business profile.” It is not required, but it can be worthwhile because you are able to see the best times to post, the demographics of your followers, and engagement rates of your posts.
    5. You can also create highlights on your profile from the Instagram story feature. You are able to further brand your account by creating cover images for different highlights.
  4. Extra tips.
    1. Engage. With. Other. Accounts. If you follow an account, like a few of their photos, and even comment, they are more likely to return the favor! You will also create friendships and start to carve out your own space in the bookstagram community.
    2. A big part of success on Instagram (and beating the algorithm) is consistency. Most recommend posting at least once a day. However, post as much or as little as you can manage. Do not overwhelm yourself!
    3. If you choose to use hashtags on your posts, choose ones with fewer than fifteen thousand posts and more than one thousand. This will help your post be shown to more accounts.
    4. There are many apps you can employ to help you. Instagram layout apps are great for planning your feed, follower apps can help you keep track of any spam accounts or bots, and editing apps can make your images pop!
    5. Follow trains are useful for beginners looking to make new friends and find new accounts to follow; you can often find them under hashtags and around general bookstagram.
    6. Do not follow too many accounts or like too many posts in a short period of time, especially when you have a new Instagram account. They will temporarily block your account. Since the numbers frequently change, you can google the current Instagram algorithm and rules.

Ultimately, successful accounts bring something new to the table! Convey your unique voice via your reviews, use unique props, or just find your people. If you are confused about any steps or features of Instagram, Google will most likely have the answer. You are also free to message me on Instagram, @fringebookreviews, and I will try to address your questions! You can also use my account as an example. Good luck, and happy reading!

FAULTLAND's red book cover featuring a map of Portland in the shape of a piano.

FAULTLAND Shakes Up Social Media

Ooligan Press is in a flurry of excitement over all the new projects coming out in the next few months, and the Faultland team is busy at the frontlines of it all. Ooligan’s newest speculative fiction novel is the next book on our release schedule and is due to hit shelves on March 30, 2021! Behind the scenes, the team is working hard developing new ways to promote the novel online and coming up with original ideas for how to get more readers to engage with the book through the Ooligan social media channels.

Faultland is set in a near-future Portland that is rocked by a major earthquake. While not Ooligan’s first foray into speculative fiction, Faultland is unlike anything we’ve published before. Author Suzy Vitello masterfully combines future-tech and family drama to bring her “what if” landscape of a not-so-distant Portland to life before razing it to the ground. When the city is hit by the Portland Hills Fault earthquake, siblings Morgan, Olivia, and Sherman are faced with keeping their family alive following one of the worst natural disasters in living memory. Once separated by secrets and resentment, the Sparrow family realize they are now united by survival.

Right now, the Sparrow family’s survival is at the forefront of the book’s online presence as Faultland moves into the all-important social media phase of our production cycle. While each step of a title’s development helps Oolies hone their publishing skills, there are few moments in a book’s lifecycle that allow us to be as creative as social media, so our team is using this moment to put all of our creativity to good use. We knew early on that Faultland was the kind of book that could carry a strong and unconventional social media presence, and our Oolies are busily working away to demonstrate just how accurate that prediction was. The whole team is committing their efforts to creating engaging copy and images to generate interest in the book, and all the while they’re sprinkling in their favorite quotes and excerpts from our fantastic early reviewers to make their posts really pop.

While there are few specific parameters around what topics the team members are able to talk about in their posts, most have been focusing on the landscapes that the author, Portland local Vitello, creates in the book. We see the city both before and after the earthquake shatters it, filtered through the eyes of the narrators in quotes and in images created by the team. Another focus has been on the subject of emergency preparedness, with many early readers of the book internalizing the warning at the heart of the novel—that being ready for this kind of emergency can lessen the physical, emotional, and mental toll that just such an event takes on all of us. Several posts link to preparedness guidelines through the CDC, Red Cross, and other emergency agencies in order to guide readers to resources that the Sparrow siblings don’t have access to in the novel.

Perhaps the most exciting aspect of this social media initiative is our advanced planning for an upcoming scavenger hunt to get readers even more excited when the book launches. That’s right, the Faultland team is busy working on an emergency preparedness–themed scavenger hunt that will allow fans in the Portland area to follow along with Olivia’s journey after the book officially hits shelves. While the specific details for this initiative will remain a secret until we get closer to the book launch, the Faultland team will be centralizing Ooligan social media channels to get it off the ground and get readers engaged.

Stay tuned into Ooligan’s social media at @ooliganpress on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook for the latest news about what’s on the horizon for Faultland and to see some of the incredible work the team has put together there.

The Mod of Twitter Fiction

The Twitter novel, falling under a category coined “Twitterature,” is a modern phenomenon in which authors publish their stories in increments of 140 characters at a time to eventually form a full narrative that online viewers can easily access for free right in the palms of their hands. It is important to note that Twitterature as a whole does not limit itself to novels, but to all kinds of writing including poetry and aphorisms. Some writers choose to work collaboratively while others release their work on an individual basis.

Twitterature takes an innovative stance on both the publishing world and the digital community, with writers releasing original content on a platform that is accessible to all. Twitter fiction has become especially prominent, with award-winning authors—including Pulitzer Prize winners—taking part in this inventive and groundbreaking format. Founded in 2009, the Twitter Fiction Festival promotes Twitter fiction from a multitude of established authors every year. There are several magazines devoted to Twitter fiction, such as Outshine and Nanoism, which give authors even more exposure and readers an opportunity to compartmentalize their content.

Twitter novels can be published over the course of months with one or two tweets a day being released from the author. This allows for the literary technique of using a cliffhanger to precede the text being released. The concept of releasing stories in increments is not new; serialization of literature began as early as the seventeenth century due to the prominence of moveable type. Books were a great expense to produce during this period, so to reduce costs and expand readership, publishers produced larger works in small installments called fascicles—considerably the formative version of the Twitter novel. Charles Dickens is a prominent author who wrote serialized fiction such as his renowned and infamous novel Great Expectations, which was released in parts in the literary magazine All the Year Round from December 1860 to August 1861. Great Expectations remains a vital literary classic to this day despite its initial periodic publishing format.

Examples of Twitter fiction span far and wide. Released by Sceptre Books, an acclaimed work of fiction entitled The Right Sort was released by author David Mitchell in 2014. The story combines compelling elements of psychologically thrilling content with magical realism. Jennifer Egan’s Black Box was released on the New Yorker‘s Twitter feed in 2012 as a work of science fiction which rose to high critical acclaim.

Titles such as these prove that literature is boundless in its reach. Twitter fiction has brought on a new way for the public to connect with literature on their own terms, at their own pace, and by their own means of discovery.

Reaching Unconventional Contacts

Welcome back to Finding the Vein by Jennifer Hanlon Wilde, Ooligan’s third title in the Library Writers Project, our partnership with Multnomah County Library. Ooligan’s first mystery title follows two detectives, a teen sleuth and a police sergeant, as they and their respective partners-in-crime (or in-justice, as the case may be) investigate a camp counselor’s death. In addition to the multiple potential murderers and classic mystery genre red herrings, Finding the Vein is filled with comedy and heart.

When we developed the marketing plan for this book, we included unconventional contacts that were appropriate for the themes in Finding the Vein. These included adoption associations, libraries, book clubs, and summer camps, in addition to the typical contacts that a project team collects such as national and regional publications and magazines, independent bookstores, individual bloggers and book reviewers on social media, and podcasts. Our question was this: How do we reach the unconventional ones? Thankfully, some of the libraries are already taken care of through our partnership with LWP: Multnomah County Library purchases a few copies of the LWP books as they are published to distribute among Multnomah County’s library branches. For the adoption associations, other libraries, book clubs, and summer camps, though, we needed to get more creative. Due to COVID-19, our options were limited because we didn’t have the usual physical collateral that teams include in a sales kit.

We decided that we needed to design something versatile that could be used both physically and virtually in both our marketing and social media campaigns, and we came up with the idea of designing a summer camp–themed postcard. We have a small budget set aside for collateral, which we haven’t used yet, so this is a completely doable strategy. First, we’ll send our contacts an email that informs them of the forthcoming Finding the Vein, gives a summary of the book, describes why it may be of interest to them, and encourages them to tell their colleagues about it. If we get a response, we will send them a physical postcard; that way we don’t waste any by sending them to contacts who won’t be interested or informed of its relevance beforehand. Hopefully we will receive more sales through these connections. At most, we may receive a couple of reviews or an announcement in a newsletter out of our efforts, both of which would be fantastic to have from these more specialized contacts.

The additional benefit of designing a postcard is that we can use it virtually as well. I’ll be sending it to Jennifer, the author, in case she’d like to use it during her email preorder campaign in the early spring of 2021, as well as for usage on her website and blog. They can also be printed out and used as flyers, so we’ll be sure to send the independent bookstores and libraries on our contact list a virtual copy as well. Lastly, the design can be used as an image on social media. Through the combined usage of the postcard design, we are essentially creating an immediately recognizable image that nearly every one of our contacts (and their associates) will eventually see in some format. This ensures that if they or a member of our intended audience sees Finding the Vein on a bookshelf or an online store, they will be that much more likely to purchase it, and in turn, tell others about it.

I’m excited to see how our postcard campaign moves forward, and I can’t wait to see its results!

Finding the Vein will launch on April 20, 2021, in both trade paperback and ebook formats. To learn more about the Library Writers Project and how to submit work to the Multnomah County Library, please visit their website.

#PitMad: Your Quick Ticket to Pub

For many new writers, the question is how to break in, get an agent, and get published. There are many tracks to getting to the peak, but the route is often long and arduous, and authors can go many months—which can compound to years—without hearing about the masterpieces on their hard drives. How can a writer get noticed and noticed fast?

Like with all contemporary remedies, the internet has a hand in getting new authors noticed.
According to Pitch Wars, the curators of the event, “#PitMad is the original twitter pitch event, where writers tweet a 280-character pitch for their completed, polished, unpublished manuscripts. No previously published works. Agents and editors make requests by liking/favoriting the tweeted pitch.” It’s really something like speed dating, where agents and editors get to peruse the quick pitches and interact with authors. It doesn’t guarantee that you’ll be published, but you will have eyes on your manuscript’s idea.

Another key feature of #PitMad is the use of hashtags, not only to denote the genre of your manuscript, but also to let agents and editors know about target audience and authentic authorship. As we move forward with Ooligan’s acquisitions process, we looked at not only #YA, but also at #BVM (Black Voices Matter, for Black writers), #POC (People of Color), #IMM (Immigrant), #OWN (Own Voices), and many more. These hashtags help agents and publishers fill in gaps in their publication list, but also help promote diversity in publishing.

However, not all see this as a great use of time. Jessica Faust from BookEnds Literary Agency says that not only is #PitMad not the best use of her time as an agent, but also that she doesn’t consider “an event like this [as] querying.” She goes on to say that 140 characters is not enough for a full pitch. And while Faust isn’t wrong about the pitch length, she doesn’t speak for all agents and publishers out there. Writers do get picked up here, but it might be a bad idea to put all your eggs in this basket.

In summation, #PitMad is a way for you to meet agents, publishers, and even writers in the Twitter community. Pitch your idea of your manuscript and wait for the likes to roll in. It may not be a total success, but it’s a quick route to get there if you remember to also query for real on the side. As an acquisitions editor for a press, I’ll divulge a few pro tips to writers: pitch in the morning (and think about Eastern Standard Time), pin the post to your Twitter page, and post the pitch a few times, but don’t spam. Use the hashtags, but don’t embellish the truth. Add realistic but known comp titles—not comp TV shows or movies—to your post. I’m less likely to go for “Casablanca x Fifty Shades” than a more grounded “Love, Simon x The House on Mango Street.”

Transcending “Business As Usual” in Publishing

This is a call to action for publishers, editors, and writers alike to think boldly and critically when engaging with social justice movements, specifically the Black Lives Matter movement. Public relations and optics should not be the sole motivation for an ethical operations practice. You might be hoping for an explicit outline of anti-racist strategies in the style of White Fragility––this is not that. The process of unlearning privilege and integrating anti-oppressive ethics into one’s life is messy and cannot be articulated in a how-to format. Committing to being a white accomplice is to subject yourself to discomfort in order to reconcile hundreds of years of complicity.

Publishing, like all areas of industry, has much to aspire to in terms of racial equity. In Portland and the Pacific Northwest specifically, publishing houses must represent the vast, rich histories of the region’s Black and Indigenous writers who have been historically underrepresented in literature while simultaneously pushed out of our cities. Because those who create, engage with, and publish literature are very real people, the industry is rife with the social problems that plague our greater society. We must share stories about the flooding of Vanport that displaced Black Portlanders in the early twentieth century. We must document the modern and historical narratives of the Indigenous tribes of Oregon whose people lost their lives and their land to white colonizers. Literature provides us a safe space to learn, reflect, and evolve. We cannot do this without amplifying the voices of Black and Indigenous communities in all forms of media.

The current uprising and weeks of protests make one thing apparent: “business as usual” has never been a justification for inaction. Posturing through performative allyship (posting a black box) or demanding emotional labor from the Black community during times of mourning reifies the misconception that it is the onus of Black folks to tell us how to do better. If publishers are only concerned with their viewership as it correlates to generating income, the consumer should and will hold them accountable. During a global pandemic, when we are all relying on social media to provide us with factual information (when news conglomerates continue to fail us all), we are navigating through an exponential amount of noise. As of this current socio-political moment in American history, brands and businesses need to take pause.

What I can offer you is a starting point. Throw everything away. Reimagine your mission, broaden your scope, hire Black staff and Black contributors. Don’t circulate redundant narratives of the white experience. Commit to doing more than a sensitivity read and if a manuscript reeks of an oppressive voice, leave it in the slush pile. Sometimes we have more questions than answers. I urge you to begin with Audre Lorde’s Questionnaire to Oneself, then push further. What have you, as a representative of your writing community, done differently in the last thirty, forty days? If you could quantify your anti-racist labor, could you sustain this work for a year? The rest of your life? Are you actually reading the resources and texts that you’re recommending? Have you budgeted your future earnings for reparations? Do you understand the necessity of abolition? Are you listening?