In 2016, fifteen-year publishing veteran Liz Frances decided enough was enough. In the wake of the U.S. presidential election, she was compelled to take a stand and has “become passionately driven to advocate for the power of love and compassion in the face of hate and oppression.” Bringing that passion and her years of experience and contacts together, she launched Street Noise Books as a means to share truths, foster community, and shape a future of inclusivity, respect, and acceptance.
Coming in 2020, Street Noise Books will debut the first of its titles after finalizing a distribution deal with Ingram’s Consortium. Accepting unagented submissions and through discovering new talent in various other ways, the Brooklyn, New York publisher’s focus is on providing a platform for marginalized voices through graphic novels and heavily illustrated nonfiction books for young adults that are “unapologetic, authentic, and politically relevant,” as their tagline reads.
The first season of new books from Street Noise will include the graphic memoirs Stupid Black Girl: Essays from an American African by Aisha Redux, illustrated by Brianna McCarthy, Spellbound by Bishakh Som, Shame Pudding: A Graphic Memoir by Danny Noble, and Crash Course: If You Want To Get Away With Murder Buy A Car by Woodrow Phoenix.
Street Noise promises many more books to come, with plans to release six to eight titles each year. In the meantime, Frances took the time to answer a few questions for WWAC about her role as publisher and beyond.
What brought you to the world of publishing?
I grew up surrounded by books. My grandmother worked in little indie bookshops her whole life, and one of my early memories is of a tiny corner store, piled with books. I remember as a very young child sitting in that shop with my grandmother behind a big old wooden desk. I remember the smell of the ink and the dust, and the binding. Books gave me comfort and took me to places I could only imagine.
I actually started my career in the executive training program at Macy’s. Looking back, I’m pretty sure that’s where I developed my business acumen and my perspective on the retail marketplace. But then, when I had children, I saw the power that books have to expand awareness and enrich our understanding as we are growing up, as we are developing our view of life around us. And I decided that this was the world I wanted to make my own. I wanted to be part of the process of bringing books to life.
What would it have meant to your younger self to see books like these published when you were growing up?
As you might expect, many of the authors that I read as a young person were straight, white men. But let’s not forget that there have been brilliant people from marginalized groups writing novels and memoirs and essays for a long time, people like James Baldwin, or Toni Morrison, or Rita Mae Brown. Books have always been a doorway into the lives and thoughts of others.
But what I think is different about what we’re trying to do at Street Noise Books is about shining a light specifically on those stories. And it’s also about using the power of the graphic novel or illustrated nonfiction format to bring the stories of marginalized people to life in a new way. I think it would’ve been incredibly powerful for me as a young person to be able to see in artwork, as well as in words, the details of life and humanity viewed through another lens. It would have helped me connect and relate to people in all sorts of circumstances. And hopefully, it would have strengthened compassion in me for the lives of oppressed people in my own community and across the globe.
You’ve found creators on Instagram or through previous connections. Do you still actively seek out creators outside of your submissions process? What are the kinds of things that catch your attention?
The process of searching for new creators is such a marvelous adventure. I love attending comic arts festivals and zinefests, where individual artists are putting their own, often DIY, projects out there for the world to see and appreciate! Our submission process is a very inclusive and open-ended one. We welcome unagented submissions, and are happy to work with debut authors. Since my background is in design and art direction, the first thing I look at is the artwork. The art needs to move me. And that’s a very subjective sort of a gut reaction kind of thing. But then, a proposal has to fit the Street Noise Books’ mission, and by this I mean that it has to bring a new perspective to the table, something that I think the world is lacking, and that I think the world needs to hear at this particular time. Primarily these stories should be from a personal perspective. We are particularly interested in what is called “own voices” writing. The author must have a personal connection with the writing, and the story must be the author’s to tell.
Learn more about the titles and authors in Street Noise Books’ line up on their website, www.streetnoisebooks.com.