LJ Talks to Roxane Gay About Roxane Gay Books, Her New Imprint with Grove Atlantic

Award–winning author and editor Roxane Gay discusses the launch of her new imprint at Grove Atlantic, part of a welcome and necessary change in publishing.

Award–winning author and editor Roxane Gay discusses the launch of her new imprint at Grove Atlantic, part of a welcome and necessary change in publishing.

Congratulations on your new imprint, Roxane Gay Books. When did you decide to start this new venture? What was the process?

I’ve always wanted an imprint and have been editing both magazines and a micropress over the past 15 years. When I finally felt ready to do something like this, I asked my agent if she thought it was possible. We came up with a brief proposal, and she took it to my two publishers. I decided to move forward with Grove Atlantic because I believe in the importance of independent presses. Over several months we hashed out the details, and now we have launched.

What will be your role in this new imprint? Will you be the sole person to pick and choose books, or will you be working with others at Grove Atlantic?

I will be acquiring and editing the books, but I will absolutely be working with the rest of the Grove Atlantic team. Amy Hundley, who edits my fiction, has excellent taste and editorial insights, and I won’t hesitate to seek her counsel. And, of course, the publicity and production teams will be doing their vital work to support these titles.

Photo by Reginald Cunningham

Can you speak to the voices you hope your imprint will amplify?

I will amplify the voices of Black women and women of color more broadly, queer women, trans women aka women, really any underrepresented writer whose voice is too rarely heard in our cultural discourse.

Are you accepting unagented submissions? How are you working to undo the gatekeeping in publishing?

Yes, I am accepting unagented submissions, but I do not know how long that will be sustainable. I don’t know that it is possible to undo the gatekeeping in publishing. Roxane Gay Books is one imprint at an independent publishing house. But I do hope to lower some of the unnecessary barriers to publication.

You and Grove Atlantic have created a one-year fellowship program for those not familiar with publishing. How did this fellowship come about, and who can apply? What does the program offer? Will it be limited to certain genres of books?

As we know, publishing is incredibly white, and that must change. This fellowship will provide an opportunity for an underrepresented person to join the team and move across departments to learn the ins and outs of publishing. They will spend half their time working with me, reading submissions and evaluating manuscripts, and other support activities. Anyone can apply that meets the criteria. The fellowship pays $25,000 for 20 hours of work a week, and health insurance is available.

You’re limiting publications to three titles per year. Why is that, and do you hope to increase in the future?

I have a lot of other projects and my own writing. I wanted to be realistic about what I could feasibly edit in a year. Three books a year is a good number to start with, so the books get the attention they deserve at every step in the publishing process. If the imprint does well, in a few years, I will definitely consider producing a larger list each year.

What kinds of books are you looking to publish?

I am interested in fiction, nonfiction, and memoir. I am open to an eclectic range of genres and subjects. I am not open to children’s books, but I may be open to YA fiction at some point in the future. I am looking for beautiful, provocative, compelling writing. I don’t want to be overly prescriptive. I want people to send me their best writing, rather than writing they think I might like.

Are you continuing your work with graphic novels and comics, and are you open to publishing them?

I am still writing comics. I am currently working on a new series called “The Ends,” about a Los Angeles detective who learns that she has an incurable cancer and decides to become a vigilante. I don’t know if I will publish any graphic novels. It depends on the project, but in the first three or so years, it isn’t likely.

EDITOR’S NOTE This interview has been edited for length.

Leah Huey is an Adult Services Librarian at DeKalb Public Library, IL. She holds an MLIS from the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee and reviews nonfiction with an emphasis on the Black experience in the United States. 


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