Indie Press & Promoting Diversity: A Discussion with Hansen House Books

Table of Contents

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Good morning bookish friends! Today I’m doing something a little bit different than usual and I’m so excited to share! I’ve invited Elizabeth Jeannel onto Bookish Brews. Elizabeth is the founder and owner of Hansen House. Branded as a home for queer stories, Hansen house is an indie publisher of LGBTQIA+ stories, owned and operated by LGBTQIA+ people. With a firm belief that there can never be too much LGBTQIA+ literature out there, Hansen House has created a family for their authors by being dedicated to helping their authors succeed. Before we jump into what all of this means, here are a couple titles from Hansen House to get you excited! These are just a few but if you want to see more make sure to check out their website!

Not Your Type by Elizabeth Jeannel

Quick Take

When Ava meets Parker in an LGBT therapy group, Ava starts to see Parker everywhere and finds it hard to ignore the peace Parker’s presence in her life brings her. As they grow closer, they both have to decide if holding onto traumas from their exes is holding them back from their future.

  • 💜 Asexual Rep
  • ❤️‍🩹 Trauma and Healing
  • 🏳️‍🌈 Bisexual MC
  • 🎂 Coming of Age

Goodreads | Amazon 
Publication Date: January 29, 2022

Traitors of the Black Crown by Cate Pearce

Quick Take

After being exiled, Raena finds work with common-born Dutchess Aven Colby. As a looming invasion is approaching, Raena and Aven’s relationship is drawn closer together as they risk the Queen’s wrath and work together to form political alliances to save them all.

  • 🛸 Sci-Fi/Fantasy
  • 💖 Queer Romance
  • 📜 Historical Fantasy
  • 🏆 Strong Female Leads

Goodreads | Amazon |  Book Depository

I hope you’re as excited as I am to pick up some of these titles! Now if everyone could please help me welcome Elizabeth to Bookish Brews!

Interview with Hansen House

Just to make sure we’re starting from the basics, let’s start simple:
What is an independent publisher?

An independent publisher is a term that describes a small press that publishes below a certain limit of titles or earns below a certain number per year. There’s a bit more to it than that. As the industry has grown (the Independent Book Publishers Association currently boasts 3600 members), and the growth of independent publishers has diversified the publishing industry. 

Each business will vary, but with indie, there are a lot more niche publishers. Hansen House is all LGBTQIA+ titles. I’ve seen some presses that publish only Horror, only Romance, or only Literary titles. But in the end, what sets independent publishers apart most is their smaller size, as they use that to their advantage. 

Independent publishers can offer a more attentive publishing experience that is tailored to each author because they’re publishing fewer titles than their big five counterparts. By giving authors more creative freedom while simultaneously offering professional work and quality designs in the same fashion as a traditional publisher, these smaller publishers are giving their authors all the benefits of self-publishing and traditional publishing combined. 

Like authors, small presses aren’t one-size-fits-all, so authors should most definitely find an independent press that offers the things that matter most to them. 

 What is the difference between independent publishing and self-publishing?

I like to think of the difference between independent publishing and self-publishing like the rectangle/square comparison. Self-publishing is definitely indie, but indie isn’t always self-publishing.

Self-publishing is where you, as the author, tackle everything yourself. You manage editing, design, cover, marketing, you name it.

Independent publishing refers to anyone publishing outside of a traditional publishing house, often those big five. This means self-publishing, small press, and hybrid publishers are all considered indie.

 What is a hybrid publisher?

A hybrid publisher is a cross between what people consider traditional publishing and self-publishing. The only difference is the business model. Hybrid publishers handle editing, design, marketing, distribution, but at the cost of the author. This is actually a red flag to a lot of people because of what was known as vanity press in the 2000s up to 2015. They’re a bit rarer today, but still out there, lurking. To a lot of people who’ve heard the horror stories, if it looks like a snake…

According to the IBPA, in order to be a hybrid publisher (and not a vanity press), the press must adhere to publishing standards. So, they vet titles, they publish under an imprint, they tackle services (editing, design, covers, marketing). The biggest distinction is distribution. Vanity press most definitely don’t distribute books. 

And according to the IBPA, hybrid press must pay higher than standard royalties.

Hybrids are also considered indie publishers.

 How much does it cost to use an independent publisher?

Unless an independent publisher promotes themselves as a hybrid publisher, they should never charge you anything. Independent publishers pay their authors, sometimes much higher royalties than traditional publishers do. Some have advances just like traditional publishers, and others don’t.

Again, I say, do your research before choosing your publisher, and know for sure they offer exactly what you’re looking for. 

What are the benefits to publishing with an independent publisher? How do they help authors?

I think there are benefits to publishing in any area of the publishing spectrum.

For traditional publishing:

  • Prestige
  • Connections with book chains
  • Connections with distributors
  • Big budgets 
  • Editing, design, and big print runs

For self-publishing:

  • Creative freedom
  • Ability to keep all royalties
  • And independence

For independent publishers:

  • No need for an agent
  • Editing like traditional
  • Design like traditional
  • Niche opportunities
  • Often creative freedom
  • Higher royalty percentages

What does Hansen House specifically offer authors?

When it comes to Hansen House, we’ve built our entire business around a family dynamic. I try to get to know my authors on a more personal level so that I can connect with them and give them deadlines I know they can meet. I want to set each of them up for success and meet them halfway in areas they struggle. We communicate via Twitter or Discord far more than email, and there’s a mental health channel on the Hansen House discord server because I wanted each of them to have a place to vent or get advice if they didn’t have anyone else.

 Essentially, I’ve brought my “mom friend” attitude into my business, and I’m really unapologetic about it.

I ensure my authors have a say in design. With Cate Pearce’s Traitors of the Black Crown, we had thirty-two cover versions before we were both happy with the final cover design. Hansen House has higher royalties than most traditional houses, and I let my authors know that every aspect of their contract is negotiable. I’m not in publishing so that I can buy all their rights and give them nothing in return.

I’m in publishing because I love books, and I’m passionate about telling LGBTQIA+ stories. I devote as much time as I possibly can to each book, and for now, that means that as a one-woman show, I have to limit the number of titles I publish in 2022. I want to ensure that each of my authors gets the very best from me.

In the end, I think the benefits will most definitely vary between different indie publishers, as they would between different traditional publishers and different self-published authors. Because deep down we are only human, and that means we all have our strengths and weaknesses. Behind the veil of a beautifully presented business are the people who run it. And when it comes down to it, you as an author, have to decide which people are your people.

 How are independent publishers pushing diversity boundaries in the publishing world?

Independent publishers are pushing diversity boundaries because in traditional publishing, diversity is almost nonexistent. Multiple people far more well versed than me on the subject have talked about the lack of diversity in publishing ranging from advancement discrimination to racism to ableism. And the lack of diversity in LGBTQIA+ characters in traditional publishing is a big part of why I started Hansen House.

Publishing is subjective. There are multiple steps to traditional publishing in which any great book can be overlooked by someone guarding the gates of these steps because of their opinion on the book. And because independent publishers are niche a lot of the time, that opens a lot of doors. There are less hoops to jump through.

As an indie publisher, the majority of submissions that hit my desk are unagented. I’m okay with that. Because I know that not all good books need agents. A lot of other independent publishers are set up the same way. Agents aren’t required.

But it’s not the lack of hoops for authors that even pushes the boundaries. We are talking about nearly one hundred years of tradition for some of these companies who are clearly unable to change, grow, and adapt to the world we live in.

Independent publishers don’t have that tradition. We can adapt. We can change. We can grow. And we can do that by embracing niches, by accepting books that are fantastic but have been rejected a ridiculous number of times, and by implementing values that are inclusive.

Independent publishers aren’t big corporations out to take advantage of the little man. Independent publishers are also the little man. And when we stick together, we can do big things, like amplify our voices.

 What is the importance of more LGBTQIA+ publishers like Hansen House?

LGBTQIA+ fiction has really come a long way. I remember being in school, and my choices for LGBTQIA+ fiction were really limited. My school had one single book with an off-page gay character, and the plot was the aftermath of a hate crime. Not exactly what I was looking for as I was coming out and trying to picture my future. I wanted to be able to see myself in the characters like other people could.

I didn’t read my first f/f romance until my senior year. I’d been out for nearly five years at that point. And that particular book wasn’t available in my school library. I had to order it online. There just weren’t a lot of those titles out there.

And when you look at some of the big-name publishers, the big 5, even today they’re not publishing a ton of diverse titles, whether that’s LGBTQIA+ or otherwise. Penguin Random House, for example, publishes 15,000 print books per year. They had less than a hundred LGBTQIA+ titles on their rainbow list in 2018.

Hansen House is publishing all gay all day. That’s all we publish because I want LGBTQIA+ authors to know they have a home for their books. I can’t wait to see more niche presses out there focusing on LGBTQIA+ titles. Will that be ‘competition’? Sure. But that will also mean that more of these amazing books will be hitting shelves. There’s a sixteen-year-old version of me crying happy tears at the thought.

Because that means there are more books for LGBTQIA+ youth and adults to have their hands on, to see themselves in, to gush over, cry over, and maybe throw across the room. Really, I think that’s what publishing should be all about.

It should be about telling stories that mean something to someone. When there are hundreds of thousands of LGBTQIA readers out there begging for more, Hansen House is stepping up to the plate, saying ‘here you go!’

About Elizabeth Jeannel

Founder of Hansen House

Elizabeth Jeannel is an author, entrepreneur, and the self-proclaimed ring master of Hansen House where she is a wearer of many hats. She was born and raised in Southwest Missouri. With two English majors for parents, she was never without a book at arm’s reach. Her love for reading quickly transformed into a love for writing. She wrote her first short story at age ten, and decided then she wanted to become an author.

When Elizabeth began her self-publishing journey in 2015, she was surprised to find that many other authors did not enjoy the process as she did. Her love for publishing developed into passion over the years until she finally started her LGBT based publishing company, Hansen House, in 2020.

Today, Elizabeth runs a small farm in Southwest Missouri with her wife. She is the author of The Art of Feeling, Cursed (the novella), and Waking Rory. Her next book, Not Your Type, releases in March.

Let’s Chat!

🌈 What was the last LGBTQIA+ title that you read?
🌈 Are you excited to read some of Hansen House’s titles!?
🌈 Did you learn anything about indie publishers?

PS to all my book influencer followers: Hansen House has an ARC program!! If you want to help promote Hansen House and read some incredible LGBTQIA+ books, you can sign up for it here.

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Independent publishers are doing so much in the publishing world! Great article!

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