SHELFIES: Nicole Kimberling of Blind Eye Books & One Block Empire

See full issue for 2018 02-26

Introducing Nicole Kimberling of Blind Eye Books

Nicole Kimberling lives in Bellingham, Washington with her wife, Dawn Kimberling, and several cats. Her first novel, Turnskin, won the Lambda Literary Award for Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror in 2009. She is also the author of the popular Bellingham Mystery Series.

Nicole on Her Book Shelf

As you observed (during the interview), I’ve downsized the books I keep over the years a huge factor in deciding whether or not I keep a print book is the art. I love art and I love graphic novels. On my shelf you’ll find a couple of really great ones— “The Less than Epic Adventures of TJ and Amal” by EK Weaver is a stunner of an American Yaoi Manga while “Monstress” by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda gets my vote for best fantasy graphic novel series running today.
Since I’m a fan of storytelling in all genres, I’ve also acquired the transcripts of the “Welcome to Night Vale” podcast and a weird little gem of a book about the Noh Theater—my most recent acquisition.
And, you know, it’s pretty clear that I like cats, I guess.

Please Tell Us About Your Brand & Your Niche

Please describe (insert name of your publishing company) briefly and what genre(s) you serve.

Blind Eye Books is dedicated to publishing the best science-fiction, fantasy, mystery and romance featuring LGBT protagonists.

How did you come to found Blind Eye Books? What titles and writers did you start with?

We started the company in 2007 because we wanted to create a venue for the kind of books we loved to read. Our first book was Wicked Gentlemen by Ginn Hale. Ms. Hale’s book went on to final for the Lambda Literary Award and win the Gaylactic Spectrum award for that novel.

As a small indie publisher, I expect your company and your home may be somewhat juxtaposed. How much of your place has been given over to publishing? Is it fairer to say that Blind Eye Books allows you to have a cot in the break room? Or, perhaps, there’s a clear separation between the two?

At one point we had most of our 900 square foot house filled with cases of books, but nowadays I confine work to my upstairs office.

Tales of Nicole Kimbering

Nicole Kimberling with a friendly red maple tree standing in a graveyard.

"Nicole Kimberling with a friendly red maple tree standing in a graveyard."

Tell us a bit about yourself before you put on your publishing hat.

Before starting Blind Eye Books I worked as a line cook and as a bookseller for the now departed Waldenbooks. I was not a tremendously good bookstore employee. (I don’t like to alphabetize and I refused to upsell the company credit card.) However, I truly excelled at suggesting new books for readers. This was before the algorithms had been invented so I spent a lot of my time thinking about what different kinds of readers enjoyed. That’s served me very well.

What did you read before you even thought of publishing?

Loads and loads of Regency romance novels and yaoi manga.

How did becoming a publisher changed your reading habits?

Nowadays I don’t try to finish a book I’m not enjoying. Life is too short.

If you meet someone for the first time and they introduce themselves as a writer, do you... a) say “Hey, funny coincidence...” b) talk about your “day job” exclusively... or c) point to a grouse in the trees and run away when their back is turned?

Ha! I say, “What sort of thing to you write?” Because I’m always looking for that next new author.”

On Community Interaction: Readers/Fans

How do you find your readers? Or do readers tend to find you?

We reach out to readers at conventions and through online fan groups and review sites mostly.

What sensations or experiences do you hope to evoke in your readers?

Because we are a queer activist press we hope to provide narratives that show queer characters as whole people rather than one-dimensional stereotypes. So our stories tend to focus on a character’s actions vs their identity.

If money was no object, which book(s) or author(s) would your readers demand to be published?

Every single word Ginn Hale has ever written: shopping lists, notes to her cat sitter, just everything.

What conventions or conferences do you attend where you meet fans? Do you tend to appear on panels, or do you prefer to revert to a fan yourself?

I usually attend queer or woman-oriented cons such as Geek Girl Con, Clexa Con and Gaylaxicon. But I do sometimes also attend larger events such as Worldcon or World Fantasy as well. I love to talk so I try to be on as many panels as I can.

On Community Interaction: Writers

How do you attract writers? Or do they tend to find you? From submission to publication to marketing, how closely to you tend to work with your creators?

Normally, I find authors via referrals made by my existing authors. If I acquire someone’s MS, I work with them very closely—even exhaustively—throughout the editorial process right through to the release week strategy.

In the winter of 2017, another small publisher announced that they'd no longer be working with agents and set off a Twitter storm. Do you have any opinions on that?

Opinions about Twitter? It’s not my favorite social media platform. I don’t have a lot of fun reading tweets. I’ve never had any problems with agents.

In addition to being a publisher, do you offer any literary services for creators outside of your publishing company?

I can be hired to edit. Rates are available on my website.

Even ebooks have to have covers. How much say do your creators have in selecting a cover artist? How much say in the layout and design?

Not a lot. (lolz)

Do you have one perfect font for your books or do you work with the writer to find the best font for each book?

We use Minion Pro exclusively.

On Marketing

Most indie authors understand that they must do some marketing of their book, once it’s published. If publishing was a pool and marketing was swimming, are you the doting parent that shows them a video, buys them water-wings, and eases them in? Or are you more the uncle that throws them into the deep end with a slap on the ass and a hearty “Sink or Swim!” shout?

Honestly, it depends on what I think will work best.

Where do you recommend indie writers go to market their books? Are there any types of services that you suggest that they avoid?

I would avoid paying for online ads. In my experience, they don’t work.

Do you have a regular release schedule or is each release customized for each book?

We normally release one book in early summer and one in fall.

Have you and yours won any awards or titles? What was that like?

Blind Eye Books titles have won several awards. To date we have three Lambda finalists and one Lambda Best Novel win. We also have a Gaylactic Spectrum Award, a Carl Brandon Parallax Award and a handful of Rainbow Awards. It’s always wonderful to win awards. It really helps authors believe more firmly in the clarity and validity of their own voices and visions.

On Community Interaction: Local Real World Stuff

What is your area like? What attracted you to it? Do you find it inspiring in any way?

Blind Eye Books is located in Bellingham, Washington right up in the upper left-hand corner of the lower 48. The Pacific Northwest is a beautiful region filled with a “maker” spirit that made it easy to start a publishing company here.

Do you do press releases locally?

Yes, we do—though we consider Seattle, Portland and Vancouver, BC to also qualify as “local”.

On Business vs Passion, Publisher vs Creator

Do you publish your own work? If so, do you handle the work differently from idea to distribution?

Yes, I do publish some of my own work. For that I hire an external editor.

How often do you get the chance to write for other markets? Do you do so grudgingly, or do you prefer the change of pace?

I write for other markets as often as people ask me. I like to switch up the routine.

What’s your day publishing like? How many days or hours of publishing are you able to get in per week?

If I’m working directly on a developmental or line edit for another author’s manuscript I have a set number of pages to get through each day. That can take me as little as 2 or as long as 12 hours. It all depends on what’s on the pages. Otherwise, I’m working on the company 4-6 hours a day, seven days a week.

On That Damn Slush Pile

How often is your “open” period, and where do writers find your latest story needs?

We are always open to submissions.

Anthologies? Love them or hate them?

I like shared-world anthologies a lot. Other anthologies I feel so-so about.

What makes a good cover letter or query letter? What was the last one that really blew your mind and made you want to read the whole book? Do you have any examples of the worst?

Oh how I wish I could share the some of the terrible cover letters I’ve received, but that would be tacky…alas…

As for good ones they’ve all started with “Dear Ms. Kimberling, Author X suggested I send my manuscript to you...”

How do you read a full book submission? Almost every book is going to need some work. How much interaction and work are you willing to give on a new book?

If I like a book I’ll more or less make its production my whole life for about three months. Because of this, I’m quite choosy.

How do you dole out rejection letters? Do you ever say “maybe with revisions”?

Not anymore. I used to, but I’ve found that with the advent of easy self-publishing few authors are willing to do revisions.

On Current and Future Plans

What are the plans for the immediate future? What books will be rolling off the presses shortly?

In May 2018, we’ll have the second release from Dal Maclean — a contemporary psychological thriller called Object of Desire that I’m completely excited about. We’ll also be starting a series of short mysteries by Jess Faraday. Set in the Victorian era, these will feature her character, Simon Pearce of London’s Metropolitan Police.

Do you have any long range plans in the works?

The inestimable Ginn Hale is currently hard at work on a new installment of her top-selling Cadeleonian series so soon there will be more high fantasy sword & sorcery with the characters we all met in Lord of the White Hell.

Visit BLIND EYE BOOKS on the web!

Bill Kieffer

Visit Bill Kieffer‘s website.

Contact Us    Visit the original Underground
Quality reviews of independent literature from 2011 - 2018