16 books we’re reading in summer 2020

Summer is in full swing, and that means summer reading is too! Whether you’re searching for a hot new release (may we suggest a few of our fantastic Books Forward authors below!), or you’re craving a fresh dip into a hit from summers-past, we’ve got you covered! Here’s what we’re reading in summer 2020: 

Ellen Whitfield, Senior Publicist 

Adult Conversation by Brandy Ferner (Fiction)

What mom doesn’t need a quick trip to Vegas right now? Brandy’s book is the perfect pandemic read for moms like me who were a little overwhelmed by their families BEFORE they were quarantined with them. Add in a therapist with her own issues, and a Thelma-and-Louise-style trip and you get a great summer read that’s a dose of fun with some deeper themes.

The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune (Fantasy) 

To me, a book set by the ocean will always be a perfect summer read. I think everyone can identify with the themes of belonging in this book, and the fantasy elements add so much fun to the mix. Linus Baker is a simple man living a simple life as a case worker who checks on magical children living in orphanages. But when he gets sent on a very secret mission to an island, the inhabitants and their secrets change everything for him. 

Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender (Young Adult)

For some reason, I read a lot of YA books during the summer months, and Felix has been a standout for me so far. I read the library book in a day and immediately ordered my own copy because I loved it with my whole heart. Felix is a trans teen attending a prestigious art school and struggling with his identity on top of the typical teen complications. He also wants desperately to fall in love, but when he starts to receive harassment — both in real life and online — he worries he’ll never truly be accepted for himself.  

Angelle Barbazon, Lead Publicist 

The Second Mother by Jenny Milchman (Thriller, releasing Aug. 18)

Every time Jenny Milchman releases a new book, it shoots straight to the top of my reading list, and The Second Mother is no exception! Exploring themes of isolation and survival, this summer thriller follows a schoolteacher who attempts to outrun her past by accepting a job on a remote island off the coast of Maine, only to discover her new community isn’t quite as safe and welcoming as it seems. Jenny Milchman proves once again that she’s a master of suspense!

Eleanor and Hick by Susan Quinn (Historical Nonfiction)

I’m looking forward to digging through my TBR pile this summer and finally cracking open a few books that I’ve been meaning to read for years. First up is Eleanor and Hick, which I randomly discovered sitting in a Little Free Library last summer, and it’s been on my bookshelf ever since. The book follows the love affair between the ever-fascinating Eleanor Roosevelt and Lorena Hickok, a journalist who was assigned to cover the First Lady. This is a piece of history I never heard about, so I was automatically drawn to their story, and I can’t wait to read more.

Hunting Teddy Roosevelt by James A. Ross (Historical Fiction, releasing July 31)

If you can’t travel this summer because of the coronavirus, let James A. Ross whisk you away to the savannahs, jungles and deserts of Africa in “Hunting Teddy Roosevelt.” This historical fiction novel is based on an obscure true story about an assassination attempt during Roosevelt’s post-presidency hunting expedition that’s not found in most history books. I don’t want to give too much away, but if you’re looking for a book brimming for larger-than-life characters, an exotic locale and thoughtful writing, pick this one up!

Jennifer Vance, Publicist 

The Ninja Daughter by Tori Eldridge (Thriller)

Time to let y’all in on a little secret: I took martial arts for about eight years when I was growing up — it was seriously a huge part of my life. So reading about a tough and cunning modern-day Ninja like Lily Wong not only took me back to my glory days of summer karate tournaments, it also kept me on the edge of my seat and reminded me how awesome it is to read about fierce women fighting for justice. I’m excited book 2 in the series, The Ninja’s Blade, is out Sept.1 so Lily’s story can continue!

Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi (Fiction, releasing Sept. 1)

After a million friends telling me to, I finally read Homegoing this year by Gyasi, and I hate myself for waiting so long — it’s hands down one of my favorite books of the past five years. So I’m excited to bookend my summer with her newest, Transcendent Kingdom. Following a Ghanian family of immigrants living in Alabama, the novel touches on themes of faith, science, love and religion, all wrapped up in Gyasi’s exquisite prose. I’m going to be anxiously waiting by my mailbox for this one to arrive. 

Jackie Karneth, Publicist 

In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado (Nonfiction, Memoir)

The most visceral, exhilarating, and painful short stories I’ve ever read can be found within Machado’s 2017 collection, Her Body and Other Parties. I’m overjoyed and grateful for the chance to experience her writing again, this time in the form of her memoir, which draws from her experiences in an abusive same-sex relationship. Abuse in queer relationships is often downplayed or overlooked entirely. Yet Machado’s heart-wrenching recollection lays it all out for the reader, while also tacking on her characteristic wit and humor.

Finding Hemingway by Ken Dortzbach (Fiction, Rom-Com)

This rom-com set in Spain is exactly what you need to escape to Europe from the comfort of your own home. In a magical-realist twist, Ken Dortzbach sends his protagonist — highly talented lawyer, Callie McGraw — on a whirlwind adventure after she receives a mysterious phone call from Ernest Hemingway. This endearing tale of friendship, experiencing new cultures, and finding oneself is one you’ll want to loan to your best friend after reading.

The Way You Burn by Christine Meade (Fiction)

If the main characters from Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor and Park had met in their 20s, it might look something like this debut new adult novel. A gorgeously well-written tale that brings back vivid memories of my childhood in New Hampshire, this book is told from the point of view of David as he remembers the ups and downs of his relationship with a woman named Hope. Also a tale of family secrets, this book has a brightly burning emphasis on how gender impacts our lives. 

Ghost Wood Song by Erica Waters (Young Adult, releasing July 14)

I swear when you hear what this book is about, you’ll be ready to bump this up to the top spot on your summer TBR. A young adult novel with LGBTQ representation, this eerie read follows Shady Grove, who has the unusual ability to call ghosts using a fiddle. Like a true Southern Gothic tale, it’s evocative and atmospheric with a strong focus on family history and secrets. Do yourself a favor and pre-order this baby like no tomorrow.

Lana Allen, Executive Administrator

Gyroscope of Life by David Parrish (Literary Nonfiction)

This unique book is a beautiful and insightful ode to biology and the joy of learning. Parrish tackles concepts relating to biology and agriculture while sharing his personal experiences with religion, battling illness and more, proving not only that science is relevant to daily life, but that it profoundly impacts all of our lives.

Humankind: A Hopeful History by Rutger Bregman (Nonfiction)

I’m a big fan of historian and journalist Rutger Bregman and I can’t wait to dig into his latest work! Bregman makes the case that our greatest asset as a species is our capacity for kindness and cooperation.  In these trying times, his hopeful message could not be more timely! 

Hannah Robertson, Publicist 

The Moon Always Rising by Alice C. Early (Fiction)

I was immediately drawn into Alice C. Early’s The Moon Always Rising. Her descriptions and character development are both incredibly lush, and, even though I didn’t actually take a vacation, the way she describes the little island of Nevis made me feel like I had. This story is full of heartbreak but also hope, and that’s the most important thing. Her ethereal elements and the setting make this the perfect summer or beach read, but I’ll be recommending it all year long!

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara (Literary Fiction)

This book is my white whale. Years ago when I worked in a bookstore, a customer with eerily similar reading tastes as me recommended this title, and ever since this book has been sitting on my nightstand waiting to be picked up. I’ve tried a few times but it was never the right time. With the current situation, I’ve been leaning more on fantasy and magic to take me away, but recently I’ve been drawn to its story and it’s currently at the top of my TBR list for this summer. Don’t worry, I’ll be reading it with tissues at the ready.

What to expect leading up to your book launch

The day a book launches is one of the most exciting of an author’s career, but the weeks leading up to it can be nerve-wracking. Knowing what to expect can help give you a sense of calm as you move into “launch month.”

I like to describe the publicity leading up to your publication date like a snowball: it starts out rather small and moves slowly, but as you get closer, momentum and size build up.

First, many readers prefer to wait until launch day or launch week to cross-post reviews (Amazon actually doesn’t allow reviews to post before then, although other sites do). This burst of reviews in a short period of time can be beneficial; it’s similar to advertising, and the sudden, frequent exposure to the book’s cover and title can lead to more orders!

Second, local media publications in your area are more likely to post a review or blurb about the book near the launch date, in order to create a more timely hook for their newscycle.

So how can you help build the momentum?

Check in with your network of family and friends around this time to ask them to help spread the word about your book. They can do this through Goodreads reviews, social media outreach, or good old-fashioned word of mouth. Many of your supporters will want to help you during this time, but they might need you to tell them how.

Post regularly on social media. Prior to launch, you may have been posting about your book on social media less frequently in order to not overwhelm your followers. However, the weeks leading up to your launch is the time to really use those platforms to display your excitement and share this part of your journey! You should also use social media to share any reviews, and to thank the people who wrote them.

Make sure your website is fully updated and running smoothly. As more people hear about your book, your website is likely to have more visits. Make sure buy links (including IndieBound) are displayed prominently to give you the best chance at getting those orders! If you have a reader newsletter, make sure that you have a system in place to capture email addresses of anyone who wants to subscribe.

Be savvy about making your book launch event a success. Encourage your contacts in the area to come, and to spread the word about the event to their networks as well. Stores appreciate when events gather a crowd, and it gives you an opportunity to spread your message beyond your circle. Ask the store what format usually works best for them, whether it’s a short reading, a Q&A, a conversation, etc.

Bring bookmarks and extra pens for signing, and a notepad to take down any email addresses for contacts you may make. Plus some water and mints–you’ll be doing a lot of talking!

In the wake of COVID-19, many stores are offering virtual events instead of in-person events, which is a great option to reach a wider audience beyond where you can travel! Even if an event is virtual, we still recommend being strategic about when, where, and with whom you set up events: you want to make sure you can draw an audience, so that it is a good investment for you and the bookstore.

If the bookstore doesn’t set up a Facebook event for your launch, you should set one up yourself! It’s a great way to let a wide audience know about your launch, and you can include a lot of information in one place.

And most of all, remember to enjoy yourself! This is a special time, and at the end of the day, nothing can diminish your hard work, creativity, and the amazing accomplishment of releasing your own book!

Literary PR Company Books Forward Makes Three New Hires

Company celebrates 20-year anniversary with staff expansion & new services 

NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana – Literary publicity company Books Forward (part of the veteran JKS Communications brand) has hired three new staff members for its growing team.

Rhodes Murphy has joined the Books Forward team as a publicist. He holds both undergraduate and Master’s degrees in English Literature, from Loyola University and Tulane University respectively. He has written for both national and local publications, including Slate and Document Journal, with a particular focus on covering the LGBTQ community. Like his Books Forward colleagues, Murphy is driven by a passion to help marginalized voices be heard.

Erica Martin has joined Books Forward as office administrator. Martin brings a wealth of energy and creativity to the team in her role, where she coordinates special projects and oversees creative book mailings to media and industry influencers. Her background managing teams and leading client and customer communications in property management and political campaigns, coupled with her love of literature, have proven essential to supporting the Books Forward team and brand.

Rachel Hutchings has joined Books Forward as a digital marketing strategist after two semesters of interning with the company. Hutchings graduated from Belmont University with a major in Publishing and a minor in Psych. She previously worked on the Belmont Story Review, and interned with independent publishing company American Blackguard Inc. Hutchings now helps Books Forward clients cultivate and establish their digital voice, working hand-in-hand with authors to ensure authenticity in their online presence. She is constantly finding innovative ways to promote author brands and their books.

Books Forward celebrates 20 years of innovative literary promotion in 2020 with a new name, new team members with publishing and media expertise, and new expanded services. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the forward-thinking publicity team launched a Virtual Learning Author Program to provide free at-home education, as well as the #BooksForwardHelpline to help readers support indie bookstores and libraries, troubleshoot e-readers, and connect with great new book recommendations.

About Books Forward: Books Forward is an author publicity and book marketing firm committed to promoting voices from a diverse variety of communities. From book reviews and author events, to social media and digital marketing, the company helps authors find success and connect with readers. Interested in what’s possible for your book sales and building readership? Check out the Books Forward author services, submit a query form with your individual author brand goals, and get a customized publicity campaign.

What can authors do to make the most of their time stuck at home?

We at Books Forward know how important this time is for our authors and readers alike. People are going back to basics and reading more than ever (let’s take that good news where we can!).  Sitting at home, readers are wondering “What can I read today?” while Authors are wondering “How can these readers get a copy of my book?” We are here to be that clotheslines between the two! Grab your pegs and pulley that fresh book into their (hopefully) clean hands with a few of these easy tips!

Audience 

Start with your reader –  Who  are they?! And find them! 

  1. Who is your audience? What do they look like? What stores do they shop at? How old are they? Are they married, single,  young, old…  You get the point! Narrow down that audience as best as you can and go after that using hashtags and similar accounts.
  2. Comparable authors – This is a trick that can help you not only find your audience, but find out what works best for that author, which in turn could work well for you! What content are they posting? Where do they get the most engagement? Follow some of their audience and engage. 

Photos

We live in a very visual society – which *err* doesn’t really help us wordsmiths –  but if a visual photo is going to give them incentive to read your caption or better yet your book then we have to think about the immediate bait. With some extra free time at home, why not try to snap a few good photos for content? If a photo is going to get your readers hooked, then let’s reel them in.

Tips for photos:

  • Lighting! Lighting! Lighting! In this day and age, most smart phones carry a quality camera. However, to get the best quality of the camera, you need to take pictures in natural lighting. Move your camera around different angles to see how the light affects your photo. Shoot outside if that helps (*Insiders Tip*  A photographer’s favorite day, is overcast – not too bright and not  too gloomy)
  • Editing Apps: You can download free editing apps such as ColorStory, Afterlight and VSCO but to avoid being overly complicated, most phones have an editing option right in the photo. 
  • Editing Tips:
    • Lightning: Don’t brighten it too much, but adding a little extra can make your photo look extra professional!
    • Crop: Don’t be shy to take a photo as is and use the crop tool to clean it up!
  • Content: Not every photo has to be a perfect photo, people want to see the real you so feel free to share a recipe here and there, your writing setup, your morning coffee routine,, your family – anything that may pull readers in to who you are and how you write. Inspire them!

Easy Photo Examples:

1- Flat Lay: Greenery, or flowers can help bring color to your photo! Place your book on a stool, a chair or table – add greenery around it and voila!

2- Add in textures and colors that you have lying around the house! Where’s your reading spot? Maybe your writing desk? A fun angle: Hold out your book  below using one hand, and snapping the photo with your other:)

3- Use different covers and mediums of how you can listen or read your book!

4- Furry Friends are welcome! People love pets – sneak in those hashtags of your dog’s breed and find new followers that love books &  pets too!

5- Bookstacks – Share with your readers, what you’re reading or what inspires you! Sharing your name and associating with other authors always gives good perception. Tag them and see if they repost it!

6- Don’t be too shy to get in the shot! Set up a timer or have a friend/family member to take a picture of you writing or reading. Get that book plug in there too  by having it somewhere in the frame;)!

Instagram LIVE

This is a great new tool for creatives. Although, it may seem terrifying to go live – It’s a great way to  connect! *just remember to turn on AND off the camera*

Here are a few ways you can use this tool:

1- Pair up with another author! They can be in the Books Forward family or a fellow author you know. Schedule a time, share it with your fans on both socials and choose to ask each  other questions about the writing process, or any chapters in your book etc. You  can have a theme or it can just be a quick happy hour chat!

2- The new donation button – This tool is a great way to get readers to buy  your book on the spot. OR, you  can use this tool to pick a charity and raise money during your Live. Team up and Tag!

https://www.socialmediatoday.com/news/instagram-adds-live-donations-feature-for-fundraising-via-instagram-live/576951/ 

Facebook LIVE

Again, another great tool to reach out to people on that platform! You can do a  reading hour, where you read and discuss a section of your book, throw a launch party, cook your favorite meal- anything that helps create content, tags other accounts and promotes your book at the same time is a good recipe!

Example:

1 –  Authors, David & Julie Bulitt LIVE making their favorite drinks in the kitchen!

https://www.facebook.com/172783613413991/videos/235977604179931/ 

2- Author Katie Burke, jumped on a Zoom call with local bookshop The Booksmith and a few kids from her book “Urban Playground;  What Kids Say About Living in San Francisco.”

https://www.facebook.com/172783613413991/videos/235977604179931/  

REVIEWS

Don’t be shy to reach out to  Instagram, Facebook or any book reviewers and offer a copy of your book in exchange for a post! Now, on Amazon you can send an ebook as a gift, super easy and practical for social distancing! 

All in all, social media is a great tool but you have to be patient with it. The more time you spend engaging, creating content and connecting with people you will start to see your numbers grow – Remember, consistency is key! It’s a clothesline, where you need to hang each item up one by one –  give it time. Unfortunately, social media is not an automatic dryer. *welp*

Book recommendations for every dad this Father’s Day

We’re the kind of people who buy books for every occasion, and Father’s Day is no exception. We’ve compiled a list of book recommendations based on the type of dad you have in case you aren’t sure where to start looking!

  1. For the dad who loves police procedurals: Missions by Marc McGuire, Long Bright River by Liz Moore
  2. For the dad who likes to be kept on his toes: Gentlemen and Players by Joanne Harris, Know Where You Sleep by Alan Orloff
  3. For the dad who is fascinated by cults: Sins of the Mother by August Norman, The Incendiaries by R.O. Kwon
  4. For the dad who has a great relationship with his daughter: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, The Price of Safety by Michael C. Bland
  5. For the dad who likes to read with his kids: Games of Deception by Andrew Maraniss, Ghost by Jason Reynolds
  6. For the dad who enjoys being out in nature: The Gyroscope of Life by David Parrish, H Is For Hawk by Helen MacDonald
  7. For the dad who does NOT enjoy being out in nature: The Ultimate Guide for the Avid Indoorsman by John Driver, The Revolution Was Televised by Alan Sepinwall
  8. For the sports-obsessed dad: The Last At-Bat of Shoeless Joe by Granville Wyche Burgess, Shoe Dog by Phil Knight
  9. For dads who are history buffs: The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson, Soldiers of Freedom by Samuel Marquis
  10. For the dad who loves a good revenge plot: The Unrepentant, E.A. Aymar, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

20 LGBTQ+ bookstagrammers to follow for Pride Month and their book recommendations

Pride is traditionally marked each June to honor the Stonewall Uprising in 1969. We asked 20 LGBTQ+ bookstagrammers to recommend a book that holds meaning for them. Many of them are also involved in #BookstaPride, a project donating funds to Lambda Literary and the LGBTQ Freedom Fund. And we also included 10 queer reads that we’ve loved and 10 books that are on our TBRs this month!

  1. Allison Reads DC: Nobody actually reads those intimidating books that everyone talks about and loves to reference, right? Allison does! Her picks often center on social justice and equality. She’s smart and funny, and frequent appearances of her “Bae” in her stories are always a highlight. She recommends Fire Shut Up in My Bones by Charles M. Blow: “It is one of the most moving nuanced portrayals of the complexity of sexuality I have ever read, not to mention the other topics he covers — trauma, brotherhood, poverty, race, and coming of age. Blow is a phenomenal writer, and the writing in how he relayed his coming-of-age affected me deeply.”
  2. Shelf By Shelf: We are missing Hunter’s #yogadrama stories while in quarantine but not to worry — the whisper stories he films from his office are just as entertaining. Bonus, he’s a talented writer and artist and sometimes shares his work. He recommends The Light Years by Chris Rush: “It’s a memoir about being a young gay artist in the ’60s, and it’s filled with drugs and unusual coming-of-age experiences, told in sharp prose. I couldn’t put it down!”
  3. Bowties & Books: Jesse is the founder of the Enby Book Club, which seeks to highlight nonbinary books and readers. They’ve also recently been on the front lines in Minneapolis, amplifying the voices of the protestors. They recommend Pet by Akwaeke Emezi: “This dazzling showcase of imagination where a trans girl awakens a monster was a much welcome escape.”
  4. Read Molly Read: Molly started the #queerliteverymonth hashtag to encourage allies to remember that queer books aren’t just relevant in June. She recommends Mean by Myriam Gurba: “This is a collection of sharply-written essays about coming of age in the ’90s as a queer Mexican-American woman. Gurba’s writing doesn’t shy away from her experiences with misogyny, homophobia, racism, and sexual assault but rather attacks them head-on with brutal, biting humor.”
  5. Paris Perusing: Paris is open, honest and kind, and his reviews are incredibly well-thought out and descriptive. He recommends The Prettiest Star by Carter Sickels: “It is a poignantly urgent novel that depicts the ways homophobia and ignorance can turn a family — and a town — against each other in cruel ways. How Sickels renders a gay man’s tragic fall from grace did nothing but leave me trembling with tears.”
  6. What’s Jenna Reading: An avid reader of romance, SFF, and everything in between, Jenna is a warm presence on Bookstagram who will (gently) try to make you read ALL the books. She recommends The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon: “Queer representation is still relatively uncommon in genre fiction like science-fiction and fantasy. I love seeing characters like me in any stories, but it is especially delightful when they’re wielding magic or leading an intergalactic heist. The Priory of the Orange Tree is an epic fantasy full of magic, intrigue, assassins, and dragons and it features a beautiful love story between two courageous heroines. It’s one of my all time favorites, and I cannot recommend it enough.”
  7. Case Bounder: You know those people whose posts you just look forward to? Casey is one of those people — his genuine good nature and well-written reviews keep us coming back for more. He recommends The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne: “It is one of my all-time favorite reads — it’s clever, heartbreaking, and hilarious. Spanning 70 years, the story covers a lot of recent history through one gay Irish man’s life. I love what this book has to say about biological family vs. found family, and I still think about some of these characters years after reading.”
  8. Books Tea n Henny: Come for the books, stay for the tea. Oscar is hilarious and not afraid to get real. He can also teach you the best way to find your light for book photos. He recommends We The Animals by Justin Torres: “This book, while tackling many different themes, captures perfectly what it means to be queer during childhood. There aren’t many books out there that talk about queerness and childhood so Justin Torres’ book with breathtaking language instantly pulls you in to illustrate what it feels like growing up feeling different from the rest. This is a heartbreaking story yet at the same time so gentle and beautiful.”
  9. Eloise Reads: Her #readingitqueer readathon incorporates nine wonderful prompts to help readers incorporate different stories into their June TBRs. She recommends Everything Leads to You by Nina Lacour: “Everything about it is just pure magic — from the description to the characters, it’s a book that always fills my heart with joy and the sapphic relationship is portrayed so beautifully too.”
  10. Scared Straight Reads: His profile kind of says it all: “The NYC HBIC.” Dennis’ stories never fail to make us laugh, and he truly is the king of memes. He recommends A Beautiful Crime by Christopher Bollen: “… A Beautiful Crime is not only a thriller, but it also is a great character study; infused with love, romance, and deception. This may be the first time ever that I’ve fallen in love with all the characters. Everyone was so multifaceted and deep — it was hard to hate on anybody! … It’s 2020, and I want to see more mainstream novels feature homosexuality in a ‘nonchalant’ and ‘matter of fact’ type of way. I loved that A Beautiful Crime was centered around a gay couple, and it wasn’t portrayed in a taboo fashion. … I really appreciated how the author portrayed the gay community with respect and gave readers a voyeuristic opportunity into that reality. Overall, A Beautiful Crime is a beautiful story about love, conflict, sexuality, and desperation. Go into the story with an open mind and an open heart.”
  11. Booked By Tim: Tim’s inventive photos will draw you in immediately, and he’s a total artist with matching makeup with a book cover. He recommends Tinderbox by Robert Fieseler: “It’s nonfiction and tells the story of the largest mass killing of gay people in the U.S. before the Pulse nightclub shooting: an arson in New Orleans. These people have had their names erased from history; most queer people aren’t even familiar with this event. Together, we can honor their legacy and eliminate their erasure by reading their story.”
  12. Casey the Reader: Her clean feed is a thing of beauty and is often filled with cute cats and cozy spots. She recommends Magic For Liars by Sarah Gailey: “Their books effortlessly incorporate a wide spectrum of queer identities. Magic For Liars is their magical murder mystery, blending tropes from noir and YA fantasy into an entirely unique novel.”
  13. BKLN Books: Larissa is a midwife who provides wonderful info on women’s health, and she just had her own baby! Look no further for any rec you may need on literary fiction. She recommends Cantoras by Carolina De Robertis: “It is a beautifully written ode to chosen family and the importance of finding your people.”
  14. Stax on Stax: She lives in a treehouse! She champions body positivity and loving yourself, and will make you laugh at least once a day. She recommends Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera: “It is about a queer Latinx from the Bronx who is faced with white privilege, love in its many possible ways, and what feminism truly is. Loved loved loved this book.”
  15. It’s A Bookish World: Jimalion has somehow mastered the art of taking a good ebook picture — teach us your ways! She’s also a total ray of sunshine who wears her emotions on her sleeve, and we just want to give her a hug. She recommends Like A Love Story by Abdi Nazemian: “It covers being gay during the height of the AIDS crisis, and it highlights the fact that love while feared during an uncertain could still be beautiful.”
  16. Books N Blazers: The blazers have been alternating with pajama pants during quarantine, but Megan rocks both looks. She also shares some fun behind-the-scenes looks at what it’s like to work as a social media associate for Penguin Random House. She recommends Mostly Dead Things by Kristen Arnett: “I love this book because it is so unabashedly queer, but it’s a complicated, messy, icky kind of queer that feels so much organic and true than other queer narratives. The blend of complex family dynamics, the main character’s emotional unavailability, queer unrequited love and taxidermy (yes, taxidermy) somehow makes for a perfect queer slice-of-life book.”
  17. Read Run Sea: A talented writer, Sarah often provides reviews that make you stop and think, and she highlights books beyond popular frontlist titles. She recommends Abandon Me by Melissa Febos. “Febos is a north-star writer for me; her work is intricate, rich with imagery, cerebral and yet so smooth to read. I love how queerness informs her worldview in her writing, even when she’s not explicitly writing about it. Abandon Me is one of those books that changed my reading and writing DNA, one of very few books I re-read every year. It’s so complicated and gorgeous.”
  18. The Book Advocate: We always look forward to Alex’s reviews, especially when they come with a photo of the book in front of her gorgeous library. She reads a diverse selection across genres, so everyone will find a recommendation here! She recommends How to Make a Wish by Ashley Herring Blake: “This was the first book I read with diverse queer representation that made me feel seen. It helped me on my own coming out journey and will always hold a special place in my heart.”
  19. _perpetualpages_: Adri’s bright and colorful feed is truly a joy, and their emphasis on so many different and wonderful queer voices is a bright spot in Bookstagram. They recommend You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson: “This is a triumphant and joyful queer YA book that is set to deliver readers the queer prom rom-com of their dreams! It’s a realistic look at the deeply systemic disadvantages that a poor, Black, queer girl in a small town might face, but it’s also about family, friendship, and realizing who has always been there and who will always be there to pull you through when you need it most. Liz Lighty is determined to succeed in her own way, on her own terms, which is exactly what young readers need to see right now.”
  20. Esoterica Reads: Erica is the QUEEN of thrifting books — you won’t believe the awesome finds she comes across! She even has a shop where you can browse through her discoveries. She recommends High School by Sara Quin and Tegan Quin: “It is an autobiographical look at the famous musician duo Tegan & Sara and their experiences coming of age in the ’90s. The queer twin sisters came together through music even while they were fighting to distance themselves from each other.”

And in case that didn’t provide you with enough books to read, here are 10 of our favorite queer reads that would be perfect for June (and beyond!), and 10 more we’ll be tackling this month.

  1. Real Life by Brandon Taylor
  2. The House In the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune
  3. Check, Please! by Ngozi Ukazu
  4. To Be Taught, If Fortunate by Becky Chambers
  5. Here For It by R. Eric Thomas
  6. Darius the Great Is Not Okay by Adib Khorram
  7. Tin Man by Sarah Winman
  8. Red, White and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston
  9. This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel
  10. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
  11. We Are Never Meeting in Real Life by Samatha Irby
  12. Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevado
  13. American Dreamers by Adriana Herrera
  14. All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson
  15. Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls by T Kira Madden
  16. How We Fight For Our Lives by Saeed Jones
  17. How to Write An Autobiographical Novel by Alexander Chee
  18. The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
  19. Kings, Queens and In-Betweens by Tanya Boteju
  20. Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender

Books Forward June 2020 Newsletter

Read the latest newsletter featuring our award winning authors and industry news. This issue features upcoming events and book releases!

Download the June 2020 newsletter here!

BFFs June 2020 Newsletter

Read the latest newsletter featuring our award winning authors and industry news. This issue features upcoming events and book releases!

Download the June 2020 newsletter here!

Books Forward author Tori Eldridge uses Asian-Pacific pride to promote representation in literature

I can’t imagine a better place to grow up as an Asian-American, Pacific Islander than Hawaii. Our island community is predominantly Asian and mixed-race, so most of the kids I went to school with had dark hair and lovely shades of brown skin. I fit in perfectly.

My mother is Chinese-Hawaiian, my father is Norwegian from North Dakota, and they met and married in Tokyo, where my sisters were born. I came along over a decade later and was born and raised in Honolulu. There weren’t many full-blooded Hawaiians, even then, so being part Hawaiian was and is a source of pride. And with over 50 percent of the population identifying as Asian, being almost half-Chinese was common.

Things were quite different when I moved to Illinois to attend Northwestern University. I didn’t see anyone who looked like me. In fact, less than 4 percent of the student population was mixed race and less than half a percent were Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander.

Fortunately, my self-image had been set in Hawaii, and I carried my Chinese, Hawaiian, Norwegian heritage proudly with me when I moved to Chicago, New York, Boston, Washington D.C., and Los Angeles, where I’ve lived for 36 years. Rather than feeling isolated by my extreme minority, I’ve felt kinship to everyone because of my mixed race.

I was able to share my heritage and mixed-race experience while writing my debut novel, “The Ninja Daughter.”

The protagonist Lily Wong is a Chinese-Norwegian modern-day ninja in Los Angeles with “Joy Luck Club” family issues. I drew heavily from my own Chinese-Norwegian culture and experience as a fifth-degree black belt in the Japanese art of the ninja to write her story. But I also drew from the experience of my Chinese-American friends and fellow ninja.

Although my character and I are undeniably close, Lily is definitely not me. She is her own powerful person, plagued by doubts and demons, defined by family, and fueled by purpose.

That said, family and heritage are also deeply important to me.

I can trace my Hawaiian roots to 1783, during the reign of King Kamehameha. The kānaka maoli — native Hawaiians — are generous, beautiful people with a culture, rich in song, dance, and storytelling. Hawaiians are our own race of people with native language, customs and ancestry. But modern Hawaii culture is an amalgamation of many, especially those from Asian countries.

My Chinese ancestors were early pioneers on the island of Maui and, along with all the other first-wave Chinese settlers, contributed to its modern culture, language and commerce. The people of modern Hawaii are a mixed plate. This is evident in our fusion of food, clothing and our Hawaiian Pigeon English. Unlike other forms of pigeon English, Hawaiian Pigeon is a legitimate creole language — fully developed and taught to many children as a primary language. Although it incorporates many words from the native Hawaiian language, they are not at all the same. Although both have their place, I am happy to see a resurgence of our beautiful aboriginal language.

In the midst of this deeply ethnic environment, my father infused me with stories and wisdom from his own North Dakota upbringing and Norwegian heritage. Naturally, I wanted to celebrate this with my protagonist, Lily Wong.

It meant the world to me that my parents lived long enough to know I was writing a novel — and now a series — that would celebrate their heritage.

Asian and Pacific Islander representation in literature and media matters. Not only is it vital to see ourselves and identify with positive role models, but it’s important for everyone of all ethnicities to expand our awareness of each other. This is how people learn to appreciate and connect with one another.

I love that Lily Wong’s mother is an immigrant from Hong Kong, that her father is Norwegian from North Dakota, and that her ninjutsu teacher was born and raised in Japan. I love that my son fell in love with a woman from Hong Kong — after I was well into writing the first draft of “The Ninja Daughter” — and has married this wonderful woman into our family. I love how my art has not only become an expression of my life but a means to delve even more deeply into my ancestry and identity. I am honored to celebrate all of this during Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month.

Tori Eldridge is the Lefty-nominated author of “The Ninja Daughter,” which was named one of the “Best Mystery Books of the Year” by The South Florida Sun Sentinel and awarded 2019 Thriller Book of the Year by Authors on the Air Global Radio Network. Her short stories appear in several anthologies, and her screenplay “The Gift” earned a semifinalist spot in the prestigious Academy Nicholl Fellowship. Before writing, Tori performed as an actress, singer and dancer on Broadway, television and film. She is of Hawaiian, Chinese, Norwegian descent and was born and raised in Honolulu, where she graduated from Punahou School with classmate Barack Obama. Tori holds a fifth-degree black belt in To-Shin Do ninjutsu and has traveled the U.S. teaching seminars on the ninja arts, weapons, and women’s self-protection.

Amplify Your Book: The Value of Radio for Authors

As an author, your first radio interview can feel daunting, exciting — maybe even frustrating if you worry the whole thing will be in vain. Radio’s dead, right? Or at least dying? Will it really help to promote my book? Like all media that isn’t deemed “social,” radio has been given a bad rap in the past few years. But just as print books haven’t keeled over at the sight of ebooks and audiobooks, radio seems to have carved out an essential place in our lives.

Debunking the Myth of “Drive Time” as Radio Royalty

If you’re like me, when you think of a time and place for radio listening, you think of your morning or afternoon commute. This is what’s known as “drive time” radio, which typically encompasses the hours of 6 a.m.–10 a.m. and 3 p.m.–7 p.m.

Many authors believe that drive time is the only time in which radio effectively reaches a large audience of potential readers. If you’re on air during any other time slot, you might as well not be on air at all. In fact, a January 2019 study from Advertiser Perceptions which surveyed 301 marketers and other agency professionals determined that advertisers feel the same way: advertisers believe that more than half of all AM/FM radio listening happens during morning and afternoon commutes. (Source: Advertiser Perceptions as cited in Westwood One).

Yet the reality of radio listening proves quite different. Nielsen Audio reveals that morning and afternoon drive times each comprise 21% of radio listening, which, while strong, actually ranks second to midday listening. Twenty-six percent of listening occurs between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.

Furthermore, this study reveals that, while advertising professionals assume that only 13% of radio listening happens during the weekend, the reality cited by Nielsen is 21%—the same percentage of listening held by one of the coveted drive times!

For a more thorough outline of the mythical superiority of drive time radio, check out this article from Pierre Bouvard, CIO at Cumulus/Westwood One.

Radio-Podcasting Crossover

When it comes to the potential reach of a radio interview, there is another factor worth considering. Many radio programs also publish their segments online via their website or a podcasting platform such as BlogTalkRadio, Spreaker, Buzzsprout, or Podbean. This creates a web link (or multiple links) of your interview that can be shared on social media, creating digital impressions and meeting more potential readers.

In addition to reaching an extended audience, podcast links also contribute to author branding. These links can be published on the media page of your author website where booksellers, librarians and media professionals can check up on your credentials. 

Relationship-Building with Hosts

Another important aspect of radio is the chance to make an impression on a host or producer that develops into a mutually-beneficial partnership. It’s not uncommon for a radio interview to lead to more coverage down the road, whether it’s a “part two” to your conversation that will be recorded next week or a follow-up interview set to take place when you release your next book.

Remember that radio is beneficial to you beyond the here and now. With SEO-serving web links and the opportunity to build your promotional network, radio can be an investment in your long-term branding.

Becoming Fluent in Your Own Book

At this point, I hope you see why radio is a valuable addition to your plan for book publicity! But in case you need one more reason to jump on the bandwagon: radio will also help you become fluent in your book. 

Writing is one remarkable skill that you have. Yet verbally communicating what you’ve written about in a way that is concise, relatable and entertaining is another skill altogether. Radio interviews operate as the perfect testing ground for you to share your elevator pitch (without seeming rehearsed!) and to answer some questions you may not have prepared for in a fairly low-stakes environment. These interviews will help you become fluent in your book so you can shine during future TV interviews, bookstore events, Q&As with book clubs, and networking events.

Radio interviews can be an extraordinary tool for authors—no matter the time of day! If presented to you, I would recommend seizing the opportunity to amplify your book, gain credibility, and make a lasting impression.