What are some upcoming trends for the next year?
Our offices are in El Paso, Texas. That puts us well outside the echo chamber of New York publishing and gives us a nice vantage point from which to create our own editorial vision. It also frees us from worrying about trends. We’ve turned that freedom into being an industry leader in publishing what we jokingly call non–publishing normative books. Our interest is in publishing wonderful writing and great stories. We get especially excited when that writing and those stories open up worlds we didn’t know about before. For example, this fall we are publishing Sonia Patel’s Rani Patel in Full Effect, a young-adult novel about a Gujarati immigrant girl growing up in Hawaii who dreams of being a hip-hop MC, and also The Right Way to Be Crippled and Naked, an exciting anthology, edited by Sheila Black, Michael Northen, and Annabelle Hayes, that collects short fiction by writers who have disabilities.
What book/genre/topic would you like to see cross your transom?
I grew up in a literary family (my parents, Bobby and Lee Byrd, founded Cinco Puntos in 1985) but also spent a lot of time scraping together bus fare to go to the comic book shop north of my house and digging through the stacks at my local library for science-fiction and fantasy novels. I’d love to read more writers and illustrators who are blending those same interests with the uniqueness of their growing up: their culture, their gender identity, and their neighborhood. I bet those would be fun books.
What topic don’t you ever want to see again?
I’m tired of talking about diversity in literature. Or, at least, I’m tired of the way we’ve been talking about diversity. It’s been 31 years since the Cooperative Center for Children’s Books started releasing its annual report on the demographics of North American publishing, and little has changed since then. Most books, both for adults and children, published in the U.S. are by and about white folks. That lack of change is not an indication of defeat. But I do think it is a sign that our conversation about representation in literature has grown stale. The questions we are asking are not yielding interesting answers. And those questions are certainly not rewarding the indie presses that publish most of the books by nonwhite authors and illustrators. Most every conference I’ve been to this year has featured a panel discussion on diversity. That can be a way of highlighting the work of some very talented writers. But in many cases, that diversity panel is the only place those writers get featured at the conference. And then the diversity panel just becomes a way to keep all the people of color in one room, talking to the same audiences.
What’s unique about your corner of the publishing industry?
Everything! I work for my parents at a wildly eclectic independent publishing house in El Paso. Come on. Name one other person in publishing (who I’m not related to) who can say that.
John Byrd is managing editor at Cinco Puntos Press, based in El Paso, Texas. He lives in El Paso with his wife and daughter.