Blue Crow Publishing: A Small Press with Big Plans

See full issue for 2017 09-18

Blue Crow Publishing, LLC, was founded by Katie Rose Guest Pryal and Lauren Faulkenberry in Chapel Hill, NC. BCP released their first titles this month, and will release three more this fall. In 2018, they plan to publish 5-6 books in the spring and fall, both fiction and nonfiction. How does a small press get started? Lauren and Katie, contributors to Underground Book Reviews, tell us the Blue Crow story:

For a couple of years, we kicked around the idea of self-publishing our novels. After sending out query letters, we both signed with a small press. After publishing multiple novels with them, we found that we wanted more creative control over the design and production of our books. We also wanted to publish books that we loved from other authors. We know how hard it is to find a good publisher, and we know that a lot of wonderful books are overlooked by the big publishing houses. We’ve all had that rejection letter that goes something like this:

“I really enjoyed this book, but I just don’t know how to sell it. Best of luck placing it elsewhere.”

For an author, that “elsewhere” can seem impossible to find. So we decided to create a press where we’d publish not only our occasional books, but also those gems that are often overlooked because of the publishing world’s overwhelming profit motive. We’ve both read through slush piles in our other work, and we’ve both had that moment of excitement when we’ve found a hidden diamond.

We also wanted to create an alternative kind of press that would offer a higher percentage of royalties to authors. Our goal with Blue Crow is to keep production costs down and give authors a royalty split that is closer to 50/50—after all, we know how much work goes into writing books, too. We might not have the marketing reach of the big houses, but we’re willing to support our authors as much as possible and help them get their books into readers’ hands.

We started putting our plan together in late summer of 2016. Blue Crow took its first books by referral, and we had our first publication list lined up by spring of 2017. Katie and I have been friends for a long time and have complementary skill sets that made launching Blue Crow both exciting and rewarding. Because we’re skilled in editing, proofreading, graphic design, web design, and social media, we’re able to do everything in-house to put a book together from start to finish. That means we have the freedom to set our own timetables, seek out authors we want to work with, and use our own creativity to support our mission.

Because we’re authors ourselves, we know how hard it is to thrive in such a profit-driven marketplace that seems to put the needs of both authors and readers after the needs of profit margins. That’s why independent authors—and publishers—are thriving today. But even independent publishers can sometimes forget why we do what we do. It’s about the authors and the readers. Blue Crow Publishing currently has two imprints, with more in the works. Blue Crow Books is our fiction imprint (which represents a variety of genres) and Raven Books is our nonfiction imprint, which includes memoir and social commentary. (You can read our full statement of beliefs here.)

Our fall lineup includes a novella by each of us. Both Katie and I were eager to continue a series we’d been working on, and excited to add new arcs to each of these series. We decided to make our own books the guinea pigs as we ironed out our methods for layout, cover design, and production. The learning curve felt steep at times—particularly on our timetable. We were both anxious to get our next books out into the world so we could move on to finding new authors and get cracking on our next novels. It felt overwhelming some days, but it also felt incredible to take manuscripts and turn them into finished books that were polished and swoon-worthy. We agreed in the beginning that, although this would be a lot of work, we would always make it fun. Books are like that: they’re a ton of work, but the reward in the end—having this creative work that you made from just a spark of creativity—makes it feel magical.

Blue Crow has a complete lineup for 2017, and as of now is seeking 1-2 more books for our Spring 2018 lineup. We’ve placed an open call for submissions and would love to find our next book for the spring. Send us your best, your most creative, your most compelling stories, and read about our submission guidelines here. Our first two books were released September 12, with the remaining three set for October and November of 2017. For a peek at all five books, check out the Blue Crow Publishing website. We invite you to follow on Twitter (bluecrowbooks and ravenbookspub), Facebook, Instagram, and TinyLetter.

Here’s our Fall 2017 lineup:

JUST THE TROUBLE I NEEDED: A Bayou Sabine Novella by Lauren Faulkenberry (Blue Crow Books, 9/12)
HOW TO STAY: A Hollywood Lights Novella by Katie Rose Guest Pryal (Blue Crow Books, 9/12)
GRACE PERIOD: A Memoir in Pieces by Kelly J. Harms (Raven Books, 10/2)
LIFE IN THE MIND INTERRUPTED: Essays on Disability and Mental Health in Higher Education by Katie Rose Guest Pryal (Raven Books, 10/16)
A TYCOON'S JEWL: the Sin City Tycoons Series by Avery Laval (Blue Crow Books, 11/1)

Here’s a little about us:

Katie Rose Guest Pryal is a novelist and freelance journalist living in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. She is the author of the Hollywood Lights Series, which includes ENTANGLEMENT, LOVE AND ENTROPY, and CHASING CHAOS, all from Velvet Morning Press, and HOW TO STAY (2017) from Blue Crow Books. As a journalist, Katie contributes to QUARTZ, THE CHRONICLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION, THE (late, lamented) TOAST, DAME MAGAZINE and other national venues. She earned her master’s degree in creative writing from the Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins, where she attended on a fellowship. Katie has published many books on writing, including HOW WRITING WORKS with Oxford University Press.

Lauren Faulkenberry is author of the Bayou Sabine series, which includes BAYOU MY LOVE (Velvet Morning Press, 2016), BAYOU, WHISPERS FROM THE PAST (VMP 2017), and the novella BACK TO BAYOU SABINE (VMP 2016). She is also the author and illustrator of the children’s book WHAT DO ANIMALS DO ON THE WEEKEND? (Novello Festival Press 2002, reprint edition forthcoming 2018). Lauren divides her time between writing, teaching, and printmaking. Originally from South Carolina, she has worked as an archaeologist, an English teacher, and a ranger for the National Park Service. She earned her MFA in creative writing from Georgia College & State University, and her MFA in Book Arts from The University of Alabama.

Blue Crow Publishing

Katie Rose Guest Pryal

Visit Katie Rose Guest Pryal‘s website.

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