Q&A with founder Lara (Trace) Harlow-Hentz
Tell us about Blue Hand Books:
I started Blue Hand Books as a collective of Native American authors in 2011 to help my Narragansett friend John Christian Hopkins. He and I worked together at the Pequot Times in the early 2000s. John had tried publishing himself, and it worked fine but he needed more readers (and book sales). My husband and I were having brunch with John and his wife Sararesa in Connecticut that summer and out of nowhere—BAM—I offered to help him publish his book Twilight of the Gods. He electronically sent me his files and somehow I formatted it and we published it! So the collective as a company officially kicked off on 11-11-11 when his book was published. It was more work than I imagined to layout a book but I’ve improved. As time went on, I needed to learn how to create e-books and tons of other stuff.
How did you come up with that name:
Blue Hand Books came like a vision. I’d looked at Mayan prophecy since it was 2011—the end of their calendar was December 21 and found out that the Blue Hand is a Mayan symbol for the time we are now in.
What is the mission:
Our motto “Where Native Authors Find New Readers” is our mission.
How many books have you published as a collective:
Eleven so far. Once we had John’s Twilight of the Gods book done, I published the second edition of my memoir One Small Sacrifice in 2012. (The first edition I’d used Lulu and hated the interior design—it looked awful to me. They were not at all what I’d expected.) We use Pressbooks software now for layout of both the ebook and paperback and it’s fantastic and much easier on me.
Back in 2009, self-publishing was not looked upon as “professional” so I knew John and I needed to have a publishing house and BE the publisher. We’re both journalists and former editors. I decided to use Create Space/Amazon after I did some research. I am going to move books to Ingram soon, though. Soon after that I worked with a new writer Jim Chavers, who is Bois Forte Ojibwe, and at that time he was in prison in Minnesota. We worked over the phone for months. I did his book Ojibwe Hunter (his true hunting stories) and published it on Create Space in 2012.
OH! I want to add that our mutual friend Barb Burke was our go-to-gal for graphic design. She designed the book covers and bookmarks. We could not have done it without her help and generosity. (She is a very talented writer herself! And now a busy new mom to Super-Sam.)
Since then, WE (the collective Blue Hand Books) have published my first poetry chapbook SLEEPS WITH KNIVES, an anthology TWO WORLDS: Lost Children of the Indian Adoption Projects (Patricia Busbee and I are co-editors and adoptees), John’s first poetry book RHYME OR REASON, Patricia Busbee’s hybrid fiction REMEDIES, and John’s 2nd edition of CARLOMAGNO: Adventures of the Pirate Prince of the Wampanoags. That’s not the exact order of books but close.
John’s also remastered Twilight of the Gods as the new book LOKI: God of Mischief, with a brand new book cover so that is done and published. In early 2014, I finally finished the interior of Dana Lone Hill’s POINTING WITH LIPS. It’s a fantastic debut fiction—her first book but definitely not her last. This Lakota writer has a huge gift and a huge following already! We asked graphic designer Kim Pittman to do the cover and it’s wonderful. (I realized my WORD program sucked at book interiors, especially doing Dana’s book, so I now use Pressbooks. It costs money but it’s worth it.)
In June 2014, Patricia Busbee and I finished and published CALLED HOME (Book 2) Lost Children of the Indian Adoption Projects, a brand new Native adoptee narrative anthology. It took forever since we had 50 writers, which includes me and Patricia, but it’s a masterpiece and an important chapter of American Indian history.
Now I am working with a Wampanoag writer Deborah Spears-Moorehead on her own story and tribal history. Finding Balance (tentative title) will be our 15th book.
My new chapbook BECOMING is our 12th title… I am so excited to be able to get this prose/short story collection out there since I started it last year.
John’s western TWO GUNS is lucky number 13 and he has already sent me more books ready to edit and publish like WRITER ON THE STORM, John’s humor writing, which is 14th. Patricia is working on a follow-up to Remedies. So I literally have my hands full.
Does BLUE HAND BOOKS have a blog?
Yes we do. It’s www.bluehandbooks.org. That is a story in itself. I had no idea how to create a website but I tried. First I used Webs to create bluehandbooks.com as a storefront but it was expensive and not helping sales at all! So back to the drawing board I went and decided to buy the name Blue Hand Books with the .org and use wordpress as our landing page and website. Like I said, it’s all been a learning curve for me to be a book publisher! Domain names, blogs, websites, book trailers, book tours, social media, all of this was new to me in 2009 when my memoir came out. I’d never guessed this was the direction my life would take—but I am sure glad it did!
Any last thoughts:
I hope we can publish lots of new Native American writers—that’s our collective future.
Read more about BLUE HAND BOOKS AUTHORS at www.bluehandbooks.org