Emily Books: Our Next Chapter

Today marks several very important milestones for Emily Books. Two are purely joyful, and one is bittersweet. Let’s talk about the joyful ones first.

Today marks the publication of Chloe Caldwell’s essay collection I’ll Tell You In Person, which is the second book published by our imprint at Coffee House Press. That means you can buy the ebook from us and the print book anywhere.

Ruth Curry and I have been fans of Chloe since her first collection came out, and were honored to feature her novella Women as an Emily Books pick. When we had the opportunity to acquire her next book with Coffee House, just as our imprint was first starting, we fought hard for it. When she chose us to publish her book, Chloe took a chance on a respected but small nonprofit indie publisher with a new imprint that hadn’t published any books yet. We were nervous as hell about this. We wanted to do right by Chloe and her work, to edit the book to be the best it could possibly be, and to make sure it had the publication it deserved. The geniuses at Coffee House have done amazing work on this book, from finding it the perfect cover to making sure it doesn’t drown in the giant wave of books that rush out every Fall. Ruth and I, meanwhile, spent so much time with these essays. We finally got the chance we’d been longing for to make a book that was exactly how we wanted it to be, and to share it with the audience we’ve spent five years building. Now, that day is finally here.

I’ll Tell You In Person is a collection of essays about the relationships, jobs and experiences that defined Chloe in her twenties (she’s now 30.) Chloe is fearless and hilarious and generous with her experiences; her voice is just a pure pleasure to have in your head. No matter how many times I read about her struggle to impress a celebrity with ill-advised purchases of scented candles and cheese, I still laugh. And no matter how many times I read about her intense friendships and relationships that ended in death, or heartbreak, or just falling out of touch and moving on, I still cry. I absolutely love Chloe’s work and I am hopeful that it will find the widest possible audience. I also hope you’ll love reading this book as much as we loved working on it.

The second milestone is that this month marks five years of Emily Books. When we sent out Ellen Willis’s then-out of print collection No More Nice Girls in October 2011, we had no idea what we were doing, but we had a feeling that starting a book of the month club that specifically focused on undersung non-male geniuses was an idea whose time had come. As it turned out, it might have been an idea slightly ahead of its time! Over the course of the last five years, we’ve seen some of the ideas that seemed controversial and revolutionary when we first started —

  • that female protagonists shouldn’t have to be “likable,”
  • that writing in the first person doesn’t make someone a “narcissist,” whatever the hell that means
  • that writing about living in a non-cis-male body isn’t inherently unserious
  • that writing about female interiority isn’t inherently inferior to writing about being a straight white man
  • that Eileen Myles should be a huge celebrity

— become, if not commonplace, far more widely accepted. We would of course love to think that we had something to do with this, but in reality we were just one part of a giant cultural shift that’s still happening all around us.

While we don’t feel — AT ALL — like “our work here is done,” we are closing a chapter on one aspect of our project. Chloe’s book is the last one we’ll send to subscribers. We will no longer offer a subscription, and we will stop picking a book every month. We’ll still sell all the books we’ve picked, via our website, and we’ll still feature the books we’re publishing with Coffee House there, too.

As our imprint began and blossomed and we found ourselves devoting our time and energy to reading submissions, editing books, finding new authors, and helping to publicize our print originals, we started to realize that our monthly picks didn’t feel like the core of what we were doing anymore. Over the past 5 years we’ve featured 60 books, some out of print, some not available elsewhere, all by women and gender nonconforming authors. For now, at least, that is going to have to be enough.

We’re always going to feel a pang of loss every time we come across a book that would have made a perfect Emily Book. Since deciding to end the subscription, we’ve read several, including Pamela Erens’ Eleven Hours, May-Lan Tan’s Things To Make And Break, and Fran Ross’s Oreo. We also will always think about the “ones that got away” — books we wished we could feature but for whatever reason couldn’t, like Kathleen Foulds’ When Mystical Creatures Attack, or the entire oeuvre of Cookie Mueller. But switching our focus to finding new voices and giving them the best publication we can feels like the right direction for our business and the best use of our skills and experience.

We are incredibly grateful to our longtime supporters and subscribers, everyone we’ve worked with, the team at Rumors, and all our current and future customers. And if you’re working on a book that you think might be an Emily Book, by all means, let us know!


Emily and Ruth