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  • ScenesBroken River Books
  • James D. Osborne

Could you briefly describe your press's history?

Broken River Books started in 2013. I was working in the kitchen of a hot dog restaurant in central Oklahoma. I loved books. I figured, "Why not?" I asked around and got five great manuscripts: The Least of My Scars (2013) by Stephen Graham Jones, Peckerwood (2013) by Jedidiah Ayres, Street Raised (2016) by Pearce Hansen, Gravesend (2013) by William Boyle, and XXX Shamus (2013) by Red Hammond. The authors and I ran a successful Kickstarter campaign to publish the first five books. I moved to Portland, Oregon for about three years. That was mostly a mistake, though that area of the country is very beautiful. Now I live out in the desert in Texas, right by the border of Mexico. I like that better. In that time, I've published over forty titles.

How would you characterize the work you publish?

BRB started off as a "weird crime fiction" press. A ninja flies to Hawaii to repossess a Harley Davidson from a were-shark (Repo Shark [2014]), for example. Or Zero Saints (2015), which Gabino Iglesias calls a "barrio noir." Iglesias has these incredible passages where the narrator describes what life is like for someone who crosses our southern border. It's really powerful stuff, and it alternates between Spanish and English seamlessly. But Zero Saints also has a shootout between a popstar, a Russian hitman, and a gangster with a demon inside of him. It's doing a lot of different things, is what I'm trying to say.

I like books that flow between pulp sensibilities, but take the quality of the prose seriously. Genre and literary meeting in the middle. David Bowles (Chupacabra Vengeance [2017]) described it with Gloria Anzaldúa's concept of "nepantla," or existing in the middle space, the liminal space. It's in the name, "Broken River." Two places separated, that are no longer separate.

I like to mix it up.

At this point, the "weird crime" genre label doesn't fit as well. I've published all kinds of books. It became a "whatever David wants to publish" press. Standard Loneliness Package (2018) by Michael J. Seidlinger is poetry. Itzá (2017) by Rios de la Luz is a magical realist portrait of a family of water witches. Heathenish (2017) by Kelby Losack is gritty crime novella.

I'm getting more into smoothing out the genre, making it more crime-oriented in the future. For now I'm having fun.

Who is your audience, and in what ways are you trying to reach them?

My audience is diverse. It started off as fans of crime fiction. Then we added some folks from the Bizarro community. Now it's really hard to pin down. I think younger people dig what we do (they're the ones I hear from the most, at least). I reach out through my blog, newsletter, and Twitter account.

I used to do sponsored posts on Facebook, and I might start to do that more often, but the longer I do this (having seen some books succeed and others not), I'm becoming more and more convinced that there is no science to selling books. People are either interested in what you've done, or they're not. You're not going to trick anyone into taking a chance on something anymore. There's too much out there. Interesting books with good covers is the best marketing.

What is your role in the publishing scene?

I like to think of myself as a stepping stone to bigger and better places. Take William Boyle, for example. I published him, then Gravesend got translated in French by Rivages. It was a huge release over there. Bill is a star. Now Gravesend is no longer in print with Broken River, because it got bought out by Pegasus Books. My authors have gotten their works translated, sold film rights, gone on to greater success. I am a good "starting point," I think. I find the talent, the big guys swoop in and pick them out.

I also think that I'm able to take risks that others can...


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