CCLaP’s Marketing Director Lori Hettler talks indie books with Abby Sheaffer

(Image credit: Lori Hettler 2013) (Image credit: Lori Hettler 2013)

Lori Hettler is the founder and moderator of TNBBC and the Marketing Director at the CCLaP [Chicago Center for Literature and Photography]. Hettler makes it her business to let the world know about great indie authors. The enthusiasm Hettler has for her job is incredible. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to speak with her about what makes her so passionate for indie presses and what we can look forward to at the CCLaP later this year.

Interview after the jump. 

What is your favorite thing about working as a Marketing Director at the CCLaP?

I was a big fan of CCLaP’s books years before I landed the marketing director position. I really connect with the fiction they put out and their authors are so incredibly wonderful and accessible. Being able to work elbow to elbow with authors you admire, who write literature you love, is like living in a dream.

It’s so easy to pitch books you believe in, and it’s an absolute thrill to introduce them to new readers. I get chills whenever I read a positive review from someone I’ve pitched, knowing that they may never have picked up that book on their own. I love making those kinds of book connections.

Your blog, TNBBC, is a remarkable love letter to the indie book world. What has been your favorite indie book you’ve read so far this year and why?

“A remarkable love letter to the indie book worldâ€?… that is so sweet! I love that!

If you had asked me this question any other year, I’d probably have a really hard time limiting myself to one favorite. But in the very early part of this year, I read a digital arc of Eric Shonkwiler’s Above All Men. I wasn’t even 30 pages in and I’d already pegged it as my favorite book of 2014. Here we are, 5 months in, and no other book has even come close to blowing me away like this one did!

It has this incredible intensity and is written in this intentionally slow, meandering way, dragging the plot along, sticking to the specifics of the moment and letting the background work itself out without wasting much time or breath on it, keeping the reader on tenterhooks the entire time. It does all of the things you want it to and some of the things you don’t. And that’s what makes it so powerful.

Everyone has their first indie book that opens their eyes to the scene, what book did that for you and why?

I have always been quite the hungry little reader. Admittedly, it wasn’t until I started TNBBC over at Goodreads in ‘07 – two whole years before I discovered book blogging – that I started paying attention to who was publishing the books I read. I don’t recall the exact moment that I became aware of small press as a “thingâ€?, but I can tell you it was books like Ben Tanzer’s Repetition Patterns (which interestingly enough was published by CCLaP) and D.R. Haney’s Banned For Life that placed me on this literary path, one I’m proud to still be walking down.

Through books like those, I connected with their authors. Those authors connected me to their publishers and to other authors, and before I knew it, I was knee-deep in the small press publishing scene. It’s one of the most incredible, amazing things I’ve ever been a part of.

 Describe the TNBBC in five words.

I want to say Feeding the Reading Addiction (one book at a time) but that’s too few, or too many words, depending on how you look at it. How about Devoted to promoting literary underdogs. Or. Bringing you small press awesomeness. Or. Small press junkies at work. Something along those lines. Oh gosh. I suck at this!

Which fictional character would you describe yourself as and why?

This is a tough one. When I read a book, I experience the characters in such a removed way that I don’t think I’ve never actually found myself thinking “That person is so me�. I think, and this might sound strange, that I relate more-so to the overall feeling of the book and the circumstances that a particular character finds themselves in, rather than relating directly to the character themselves. A perfect example of this would be Lavinia Ludlow’s alt.punk. The main character is an absolutely mental mess and while her specific issues are nothing like my own, and the situations she finds herself in are not mirror images of anything I’ve gone through, I do see myself reflected back a bit in the things she thinks, says, and does.

What is your favorite word?

Well, if you base it on the words I used during this interview, apparently “incredible� would be in the lead. Ha!

I’m not sure I have a favorite word. Is that weird? Do people actually have favorite words? Aw man, I’m going to be sitting here, wracking my brain for favorite words because I feel like I should have one now.

What can we look forward to at the CCLaP and TNBBC later this year?

 CCLaP is poised to have a great year. Our publisher, Jason, raised the bar this year by introducing full-length paperback releases (previously, we were only publishing novellas in handmade, hypermodern hardback editions, available only through our website). That has expanded our reach tremendously, now that those books can be ordered directly through Ingram. The paperback releases, as with all of our other titles, will always be available as a free digital download on our website, too!

CCLaP has also just created and released a free “Weekender� e- magazine that features an original short story, a photography feature, and a list of local events happening all around Chicago.

And of course, I’ll be pimping review copies of each of our upcoming releases as they become available.

As far as TNBBC, we continue to do all we can to promote small press books and authors. While I’m brainstorming new and unique ways to feature them, our review contributors – Melanie (Grab the Lapels), Madeleine (Books, and Occasional Food), Drew (Raging Biblioholism), and Lavinia (author of alt.punk) – are hard at work uncovering amazing literature to share with you.


LORI HETTLERLori Hettler is the founder and moderator of TNBBC. Her passion for supporting the small press and self publishing communities began when she birthed The Next Best Book Club on Goodreads back in 2007, a group which now boasts an unbelievable 13,000 members who are collectively, endlessly searching for the next best book! She also puts her lit-loving heart to work for Chicago Center of Literature and Photography (CCLaP) as their Marketing Director. When she’s not curled up on the couch with a good book, you can find Lori on Twitter, Goodreads, and Facebook talking about it.