Alec J. Marsh, author of the holiday novella To Drive the Hundred Miles (pre-orders open now!) lives in the Pacific Northwest, where they write romantic adult fantasy and self-indulgent fanfiction. They make candles inspired by their favorite characters.
You can get to know him better by checking him out his preferred social media platforms:
Many Drops Make a Stream features Droplet, a vigilante shapeshifter, assuming many animal forms while she takes on the corrupt powers-that-be of the fantasy world she inhabits. Today, the novel’s author Adrian Harley joins us to answer five questions about Droplet specifically and in the book in general!
Q: How did you build the world for Many Drops Make a Stream?
A: I’ve been writing in this world since I was 13, full of confidence, when my only guide for what showed up in my fantasy world was “What do I personally think would be cool?” I highly recommend this, it was great fun. The twenty years since then have been a slow process of asking myself questions, which has also been great fun. I asked myself things like “why does this world have half-human, half-animal hybrids?” and “what’s beyond that mountain ridge on the map?” This has resulted in dozens of story ideas, some of which are even drafted, and I hope a lot of them make it to final book form some day.
Q: Tumblr user definitely-not-a-shark asks, “There are so many wonderful animals that Droplet gets to shapeshift into! Which of them is your favorite form, and why is it the shark?”
A: Tragically, a shark form did not make it into the final draft of this book, so it cannot be a shark. I ended up with a surprise favorite form – I loved writing Droplet as a rat. The runner-up is Droplet’s goose form. I have a soft spot for geese. I find their total disregard for people and open hostility very entertaining. I started writing Many Drops Make a Stream before Untitled Goose Game came out, but that sort of aggressive commitment to upending order is something I enjoy writing.
Q: Following up on that, what animal would you love to write that you haven’t written yet?
A: Otters, definitely. Otters or some other kind of mustelid. That bounciness and playfulness would be quite a change of pace for Droplet, but we may see more shapeshifters who would be more at home in an otter form. I’d also like to write Droplet taking on a rabbit form, in homage to Watership Down.
Q: What was the first story you ever wrote?
A: Before I could write, I dictated stories about Land Before Time characters to my mom, who wrote them down for me so I could illustrate them with dinosaur stamps. I don’t remember the first story I ever wrote myself, but it was probably about a cat. I don’t even know how many magical cat stories I came up with as a kid.
Q: What are some hobbies you have outside writing?
A: I absolutely love being outside. I take a lot of walks, and I go on hikes as often as I can. I do my best brainstorming out walking in the woods, too. My main sedentary hobby is reading, closely followed by checking out books from the library that I do not read, which sit on my end table for a month before I return them.
We’ve now vended at our first two cons, and we wanted to take a few minutes to blog about it!
I (press owner Claire Houck/unforth) attended Fandom Fest in Schenectady, NY, and Albacon in Clifton Park, NY, and vended on behalf of the Press. Authors Nova Mason, Shea Sullivan, Catherine E. Green, and Tris Lawrence helped me out with manning the booth, handling transactions, participating in our first DPP panel, and more, so huge THANKS to them. (Also to Prof. Robert Heverly from Albany Law School, for contributing his expertise on copyright law to our Fandom Fest panel). I wrote about our Fandom Fest panel here, and about our events at Albacon here and here.
To be honest, we really had no idea how things would go, and I’m not exaggerating when I say that we far exceeded our expectations. Going into this, I’ll own I was very afraid – would people be interested in our Press? Would we make money? Or would we be that sad, lonely table that everyone walks quickly by? But things couldn’t have gone better – they went so well we’re already looking at more events to attend in the future.
From a fiscal standpoint, we made almost double what I anticipated and completely made up the expense of buying the supplies and equipment necessary for us to vend at these events and going forward. From a panel perspective, our events were nicely attended. From a “growing the business” standpoint, we added many names to our mailing lists and gained social media platforms. And, from a networking standpoint, we had a fantastic time and met a lot of awesome people – and that’s primarily what this post is about!
You already know about us; we’re here to shout-out some other folks we’re now very happy to know!
The amazing Syrrenand I bonded instantly over our shared love of the men of Mo Xiang Tong Xiu books and Stardew Valley romance options. I miiiight have ended up with some merch (though the Genshin Impact ones are gifts for a friend).
According to the Fandom Fest organizers, it was 100% a coincidence that we ended up next to Duck and Cover, but we couldn’t have had a cooler or more appropriate neighbor. A con attendee felt it was so on-brand for Duck Prints Press that they actually bought us this one-of-a-kind hand-painted James Bond duckie! We also talked with Duck and Cover about maybe offering some of their custom ducks as campaign add-ons in the future, so be on the lookout…
The owner of The Cogitation Zone, Lisa, is a long-time friend of Tris Lawrence, who commissioned us this custom Duck Prints Press business card holder that’ll be accompanying us to all our future cons! Lisa also had made a large number of adorable creatures, and I miiiight have traded a copy of one of our anthologies for an axolotl. Because. Axolotl.
The Consol Collection, sadly, has no website that I can find, but they had a lot of things such as this adorable Totoro sticker I got for my kids. And when the owner of Eclectic Arts approached me in an absolutely fabulous Hawaiian shirt featuring Pride-flag-colored twenty-sided dice, I instantly agreed to a sticker trade. On the right, jiadoesart had many lovely things, and I picked out some stickers for my Ghibli-loving kids.
Some Other Neat Folks We Met:
Pastel Prince Shop: lots of gorgeous queer art and merch; I’m hoping to get one of their asexual pride bracelets in the future (it got sold before I could grab it, sadly).
Bear and Bird Boutique: a local business that was vending at Fandom Fest, too, they have a lot of amazing bits and baubles, both fandom-related and original. We’ve bought everything from the Hilda graphic novel to a dragon puzzle at their store.
Picnocline: the only reason I didn’t buy things from Picnocline’s shop is that there were so many cute things that I literally couldn’t pick.
It’s Getting Dicey: dice, one of my true weaknesses! They have metal pride-flag dice sets, and lots of queer dice trays. I wish I could get them all…
Two-Penny Nerdlesque: a local burlesque troupe; they were very enthusiastic about And Seek (Not) to Alter Me and our queerifying of Much Ado About Nothing, and delighted told me about their own very queer versions of Shakespeare and other plays – I’m definitely going to have to check them out in the future.
(There are others too, but I didn’t grab everyone’s information, and I think this is plenty for one post. 😀 )
If any of you all are seeing this post, it was an absolute delight to meet you, and please don’t be a stranger!
Going forward, we’re looking forward to participating in more events and making more connections with other creators, especially other queer creators! Just today, we’ve applied to vend at A Big Gay Market, taking place in Washington Park in Albany on October 29th, 2023. We’ve also got a tentative schedule for 2024, and we’ll post more about where you’ll be able to find us as the dates grow closer and we find out if the juried shows have accepted our applications. We’re going to do our best to continue the success we’ve enjoyed at our first two conventions by pursuing vending as a way to meet potential readers and customers, grow relationships with other queer creators, and get the Duck Prints Press names out there for the benefit of all the authors, artists, and others we work with!
Got a con in New York State or Massachusetts that you love and think we should try to attend in 2024? Let us know in the comments or by dropping us an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org!
As a result of the many moves that Elon Musk has made since he bought Twitter last November, and in protest of his repeated expressions of transphobia, Duck Prints Press has decided to no longer have a presence on Twitter. We are not deleting our account so that bad actors cannot claim our username, and we will maintain minimum activity so that we are not summarily removed, but we will not longer post any new content there.
Our Pride Bundle sale has concluded, and (enough of) the funds earned have cleared, and so today is donation day!
First, for accountability, here’s the sales data from our webpage:
We ended up selling the same number of each bundle – 23 General Imprint bundles, 23 Erotica Imprint Bundles.
The Press is donating the same percentage of our earnings across the board – about 40% of our “share”, which is itself about 25% of the net (post-processing fee) value of the sales. Several authors also opted to donate part or all of their shares to the charities. I’m not getting specific here because I don’t want our authors to feel pressured to donate more than they’re able to, so I apologize that this isn’t quite as explicit, but the way things worked out, after fees and everything, 35.71% of the GROSS proceeds from the General Imprint Bundle and 40.56% of the GROSS proceeds from the Erotica Imprint Bundle are to be donated. This includes the Press share and the shares for the volunteer authors. The breakdown works out as follows (all amounts are USD):
Gross sales: $907.51 Processing Fees: $39.05
Net Sales: $868.46 Press Share (pre-donation): $217.11 Collective Share to Split Among the Authors (Including to-be-donated shares): $651.34
Total Amount Collected for Charity: $346.08
We decided to round this up to $350, since that’s a nice, even number, and so we’ve donated $175 to each of the charities!
THANK YOU to everyone who helped make this event such a success for Duck Prints Press, our authors, and our chosen charities!
For those who may not have heard, Redbubble has recently changed their account tiers and payment scale in a way that’s very unfavorable to small-scale sellers with them. As a result, many people have decided to cancel their accounts, and we are among them.
In case anyone was wondering how I and the Duck Prints Press team feel about the changes to Redbubble, this is how.
I felt like it was very important that they understand that this was directly tied to their money grab.
When I asked the team, last meeting, if they thought I should delete the account (after I explained to them what happened), I got three different people instantly reply with the exact same words:
Yeet them into the void.
So. Redbubble has been yeeted.
The last two+ years, the only merchandise available on our Redbubble has been shirts, because they are expensive to stock when sizing and such are taken into account. We will be looking into other vendors for providing on-demand shirt production, and we are considering several already. We’ll post more information when we’ve made a choice! In the meantime, if you want a Duck Prints Press, feel free to get in touch and we can add you to a list of people to notify when they are available again.
March was National Small Press Month, and Duck Prints Press celebrated by collecting 12 questions from press contributors, recording the answers, and posting them on Tiktok and Instagram! Curious about the Q&A? This post includes a link to all the videos, and transcripts of each one for those who aren’t inclined to watch a mess of recordings. Read on, and learn the answers to…
Transcription: Howdy everyone, I’m Claire. I go by Nina Waters and unforth, and I’m the owner of Duck Prints Press, and I am very very very very much not accustomed to being a talking head in a Tiktok video, so I hope that this will be okay and that everything is awesome. So we are here at Duck Prints Press celebrating Small Press Month, and for that we had a bunch of our folks suggest questions that they might like me to answer and so over the next couple weeks (I expect) we’ll be answering those. So now you know what the basic idea is, and I hope you enjoy the answers.
What inspired you to start your own press?
Transcription: Hey folks, it’s unforth again from Duck Prints Press and here answering some questions about the press for Small Press Month. The first question that we got was “what inspired you to start your own press?” There were definitely a lot of factors that went into it, but I would say that the sort of most immediate big one is that when I started writing fanfiction I found that I was surrounded by all these really really amazingly skilled writers and many of them dreamed of being involved in publishing and didn’t really know where to start, how to get involved, who to talk to, blah blah blah, all that stuff, and I had just enough connections in publishing to think I had some idea of what I was doing and some qualifications for filling that space. And then it took 7 years to actually do it, so yeah it was a pretty big job. But here we are!
What distinguishes Duck Prints Press from other small presses?
Transcription: Hello again, here’s unforth/Claire/Nina, depends on what you want to call me I guess. Unforth is online, Claire is my actual name, Nina is my pen name. Once again here to talk about Duck Prints Press as part of our feature for Small Press Month, and our second question is “what distinguishes Duck Prints Press from other small presses?” Answering this well would require knowing a lot more about other small presses than I actually do, but I would say a lot of it’s different because of – well, for several reasons. We are much less top-down, in that we have a much more collaborative process for basically everything we do. We’re also much less of a black box, which is to say that it’s not like “send in submission, get answer back, that’s all you ever really know.” We try to be really really transparent and open about our process, what we’re doing, our timelines, our reasons for picking some people and not others, all of that jazz. We also are different in that we focus very strongly on LGBTQIA+ and queer stories and characters. I try not to say writers and creators and authors also because I’m not here to out anybody, but many of us are queer. I’m queer, hi! Yeah, that’s just a few of the ways, there’s way more, but I’m trying not to turn this into video essays. Have a good one, guys.
What is the best thing and what is the hardest thing about running a small press?
Transcription: Hi! Unforth here again for Small Press Week – Month – with Duck Prints Press, and we are answering questions we got from our contributors about the Press, and I am the owner/founder/manager/almost everything. “What is the best thing and what is the hardest thing about running a small press?” The best thing is the people. That one is really easy. I have met so many amazing creators who I would never have gotten to know otherwise, and everybody is just brilliant, talented, skilled, wonderful, y’all are amazing. I do this for you, and I do it for all of us, and I want to see us all succeed and be awesome and show everybody that a press modeled like this can work. You guys make it worth it every single day. The hardest thing is all of the not-fun parts. You know, everybody’s going to enjoy different parts of running a business. I find fiscal stuff to be challenging and a drag and it takes forever. I spent 3 hours doing our taxes last week. Don’t even get me started on collecting sales tax. It would bore you to tears, and it bores me to tears and I have to do it anyway. And marketing. Marketing takes so much time and so much work for so little reward that’s visible immediately. Like, the reward’s coming. It goes – little by little we get there, but it’s – man, it feels like you take baby steps for months to get, like, 5 feet closer to where you want to be. So I would say, the parts I find hardest are the actually “being a business” parts.
A word of advice to people wanting to start their own press.
Transcription: Hi hi, unforth here again from Duck Prints Press, filming some questions – sorry, filming some answers to questions we got from people involved in the press about how Duck Prints Press came to be as part of our features for Small Press Month. And our next question is, oh – it’s, well. “A word of advice to people wanting to start their own press.” One word: don’t. No, I’m kidding. It’s way more work than I ever thought it would be, but perhaps more importantly, you’ve got to be ready to be a jack of all trades. You’ve got to be ready to think that you can learn anything you need to learn, because you’re gonna have to. I know more about tax law than I ever would have imagined myself capable of learning because there’s never enough money to hire all the professionals you need who are experts and there’s never enough resources to recruit the people who have that information so you need to figure it out yourself, or at least that’s what my situation has been. Maybe if you have a lot more starting capital than I do you’ll be in a better position in that regard. Just, don’t be afraid of it, but be ready to learn all kinds of things you thought you’d never learn. And also if you think you’re gonna have time for your own writing, haha good luck with that. I hope you have a better time of it than I’ve had.
What is the best way for people to support small presses?
Transcription: Hi! It’s unforth/Claire/Nina Waters here again. I’m the owner and founder of Duck Prints Press, a small press that focuses on working with fanfiction authors to publish their original work, and we are answering questions we got from our contributors about things about the press as part of Small Press Week. And the next question is – “what is the best way for people to support small presses like Duck Prints Press?” Money. The answer is money. I can’t imagine this is a surprise. I mean – this is best way, mind you, I’m not saying only way. But I mean – there is never enough sales. It would be, you know, back our Patreon, support us on ko-fi, buy our books, review our books on Storygraph, Goodreads, our website, any place else you can think of. Your personal blogs. I don’t know – anywhere. Instagram. Tiktok, hi! But I know money is in short supply for basically everybody. If you’re looking at this and going “well, duh, money, but how can I do that?” That’s fine. Signal boost us. Talking about us. I mean, even just literally, just hitting a reblog/retweet/share button really, really, really helps. Because even if you don’t have money, when the posts spread through social media if they find – if they spread through 100 people and one of those people has money, then we make a sale. And that helps us, because in the end, this can only be a passion project for us, and we need to make money if we’re really going to succeed and show people that we can do this. And I think and know and believe that we can. And so help us out!
Why do small presses matter?
Transcription: Hi, it’s unforth/Claire again, here for another Small Press Month update from Duck Prints Press, and I just realized – I decided to do all of these on a day I’m wearing a ducky shirt. I didn’t plan that or anything, just worked out. I only own one ducky shirt – it’s not even like there’s a lot of them. And our next questions is, “In your opinion, why do small presses matter?” Small presses matter because traditional publication – trad pub – is really obsessed with marketing and success and corporation stuff and making huge profits, and they don’t have time for small voices and taking risks and margin – you know – marginalized people and publishing stories stories that they don’t think will succeed. And they’re wrong. I think those stories absolutely can succeed, but also, you know, there needs to be somebody out there taking those chances and that’s what small presses do. And a lot of small press don’t succeed, but even when we fail, stories have still been published, they’ve still been out there, the stories have still gotten told. So even when we fail fiscally, we’ve still succeeded in the core goal, which is to tell these stories to as wide an audience as possible. And that’s why small presses matter.
What are the common misconceptions about small presses, either internal or external?
Transcription: Hey hey, unforth here again with another of Duck Prints Press’s Q and A session answers to questions from our contributors that we’re doing for Small Press Month. And the next one is the first one that I’m sort of like “I don’t have any idea what I’m gonna say.” “What are common misconceptions about small presses, either internal or external?” I can answer internal I guess. I think people have a – well, maybe external too – I think people have a much inflated idea of our earnings and sales. They’re – they’re very low. Hi, I’m the owner. I’ve been running this for over 2 years and I have never taken a paycheck. One of these days I need to get paid. That would be nice. But I think there’s this idea that “if you build it they will come,” which is to say that if you write the book and put it out there, then people are going to magically appear to buy it. And that’s really, really not the case. It is so much work to get books into people’s hands or onto their devices as the case may be. In terms of other misconceptions from an external standpoint, I have no idea. You know, everybody comes to a job from a direction when they start a business. There’s gonna be things that they knew ahead of time and things that they didn’t. I came to this with a lot of experience in writing and editing and things like running web pages and organizing fandom events and things like that. I have no press experience. I haven’t worked for other presses. I am not traditionally published. I know some people in the industry, that’s about the closest that I get. And so what their point of view might be, I could not begin to tell you. But you know, we manage.
What are your biggest non-monetary victories?
Transcription: Unforth from Duck Prints Press here again answering questions we got from our contributors about Small Press Month and what running a small press is like. So our next question is, “what are your biggest non-monetary victories?” I guess it sort of depends what you consider a victory. I really appreciate the buy-in we’ve gotten from fandoms that know about us. Every time we get a lot of reblogs and a lot of boosts, it feels good because these are our people. We are fans. That’s the whole point is that we’re fans doing this in the hopes that we can get other fans involved as readers and writers and artists and graphic designers and website people and like every single person is a fan. The only person involved who isn’t a fan is my – is the lawyer I hire. And for all I know he is a fan, I haven’t asked. It’s really none of my business. It’s also – it always feels good when somebody big notices us, so, you know, the owner of another small press backed our first Kickstarter. I don’t care about the money – it’s cool that this person noticed, that’s what I was excited about. Cecilia Tan reblogged – sorry, retweeted us. A few other, you know, people who you’re like “hey, I know that name! I know who they are!” saw that we existed, and that feels good. I also feel like it’s essential. So yeah, I would say that most of our biggest non-monetary ones have been, like, “senpai noticed me” moments, haha. But you know, we’re getting there. I feel like I keep ending them with things like that so let me trying tying this off a little bit more intelligently. I think that in order to succeed ultimately, we need that kind of attention on us, and so every time it happens, it feels like a small victory because I figure – I think I read somewhere, and this might be total nonsense, that you need to, like, see a word at least 20 times before you actually know it. Like, before you can remember it, spell it, use it correctly in context, blah blah blah. And so I tend to perhaps inappropriately use that as my metric for, like, what it takes to succeed. Which is to say that, any given person is going to need to see Duck Prints Press and know we exist at least 20 times before that actually means something to them and they maybe think of us when they go, “Hey what am I going to read next? What book should I buy?” So, you know, that those – when those big people see us, that’s a lot of people’s one time finding out that we exist, so that means a lot. And somehow this has ended up the longest video. Funny how that works out.
What are the core ideas behind Duck Prints Press?
Transcription: Hey hey! Unforth here yet again with another of our Q&A questions from Small Press Month. We asked people on our Discord if they had questions about running a small press that would work well for videos during Small Press Month and these were the results. And I’m sorry I keep swiveling my chair, I’m trying to find an angle where the snow falling outside doesn’t reflect horribly off of my glasses. That’s why this keeps happening. Anyway, the next question is: “What are the core ideas behind Duck Prints Press?” The core idea behind Duck Prints Press is to work with people in fandom communities – fan authors, fan artists, etc. – to help them to bring their original work from concept to fruition. You know – we love it when those people publish with us, but we do actually offer consulting, so if those people don’t want to publish with us, they can just have us edit and then publish it someplace else, and that would be fine too. The core of it is helping people create, encouraging people to create, and helping all – helping individuals succeed by helping all of us succeed. Because many of us have individual followings for our fan works, and I think that if we – I really believe, and it’s one of the core tenants of the press – that if we pool all of that together, we can help all of us to get to where we want to be in terms of – as writers, as artists, as creators, you know, as published people. So, yeah, that’s the core idea. That comes with a heavy queer/LGBTQIA+ flavor. Nobody has to be queer, no story has to be queer, but the general gist is all very, very not straight or cis, or you know any combination thereof. We’re not that picky. We’re not outing anybody “own voices” style here. Helping fan creators to get more attention for their original work and lifting all – lifting each other up to do it. That’s our core idea.
What would you do differently if you had to start over?
Transcription: Unforth from Duck Prints Press here again answering questions for Small Press Week – Small Press Month. I keep making that mistake. Small Press Month about Duck Prints Press, the fan-oriented small press that works to help fan creators publish their original works. And our next question is: “What would you do differently if you had to start all over?” That is a really good question. Because if I’m honest, I don’t think we screwed anything up all that bad. And the things that got most messed up were kind of outside of our control to some extent. Like a lot of our year-2 plans just got delayed and put on hiatus because I ended up needing back surgery. I would do that differently. I would not try to run a business that was only 7 or 8 months old while suffering from increasingly severe spinal stenosis. That sucked. Don’t do that. In terms of things that I could control… I don’t know if it would have gone better because it’s really impossible to say, but doing a model where we had a lot more starting capital would have been very different and potentially could have gone a lot better. I think of Big Bang Press, which tried to do something very similar to us. They launched with a Kickstarter that raised $55,000, and what happened after that is best left to various fan wank webpages. But when I think about, sort of, what I could have done differently if we had started with $55,000, that would have been really different and I think potentially really helpful. We could have gotten a lot more input from professional than we’ve been able to really afford so far – like, by that I mean a CPA, a lawyer. Like, obviously we’ve spoken to those people, but I have to always try to keep it brief and do as much myself as possible because there’s just not enough money to go around. But if I’d had – if we’d gone a direction where instead of , sort of, shoestringing it from the beginning and trying to build from small to big, if we’d instead gone a “let’s collect investors and make this work from the – you know – build everything at once with a big starting investment” – I wonder how sustainable that would have been once the initial investment ran out? But it certainly would have made a lot of things different early on, and a lot of those things could have been easier. So, yeah, I know the reasons I didn’t do it that way, so I can’t actually say for sure I would do it differently or do it that way if I had to start over. But I do think that it’s a very different approach that could have had a very different outcome and might be interesting if we had a multiverse that we could test hypotheses in.
Where do you see Duck Prints Press in 5 years?
Transcription: Unforth here! I also go by Claire, which is my real name, and Nina, which is my pen name – Nina Waters. And I am the owner of Duck Prints Press, and I am here answering questions from our Discord…Discord members, that’s a good word…Discord members about the press as part of a celebration for Small Press Month. And our next question is, “Where do you see Duck Prints Press in 5 years?” And I’ll own, I actually usually don’t project out quite that far. By the time I go to 5 years, it feels a little too pipe-dreamy and I tend to look at more like one to two years as more like my goal. Like, I’m in planning for 2024 right now in March of 2023. But I would say, 5 years, I’d love to see us breaking even consistently and making enough of a profit. I’d love to see our Patreon bringing in about a thousand dollars a month, which would be a bit – a little over double what we’ve got now, we’re about $400. And when I say Patreon, and I mean Patreon and ko-fi combined, I always short-hand it. I’d love to us having a really steady stream of novels coming out, like, maybe 10 novels a year, as well as 4 anthologies and all the short stories, novellas, and novelettes. I would definitely like to see our books on some bookshelves. I think that that’s achievable and probably – I mean, honestly, I think all of this is achievable, or most of this is achievable in a shorter time frame than five years. Like, I think I can probably have books on bookshelves sometime in 2024 – bookstore bookshelves, I mean. And I also – I think I’d love to see a pretty solid cadre of artists and authors who are working with us consistently. I’d love to be doing several major art projects a year, so like – tarot decks, art books, card books – I feel like there’s a lot of other really obviously stuff and my brain is just totally blank right now. But you get the idea. So not just author projects, but also projects that are sort of the artist equivalent of a novel as it were. And…yeah. I’d just really like to see us keep growing and keep doing what we’re doing. I think we’re on a good track.
How do small presses in general (and Duck Prints Press specifically) differ from tradpub?
Transcription: Unforth here again from Duck Prints Press, answering questions about the press for Small Press Month. I’m going to try filming this one with my right hand holding the camera, which for some reason seems much harder. And this is our last question for small press – Small Press Month. How is one 3-word phrase something bumbling in so many of these videos? The world will never know. “How do small presses in general, or Duck Prints Press in particular, differ from traditional public – tradpub – traditional publication presses?” I mean, certainly size. I mean, those places that have entire departments to do things that I do all of myself or do all of, do most of with the support or 2 or 3 other people. I mean, we’re almost up to having an editing department. We’ve got 12 or 13 people now helping with editing. But, I mean, we still only have on lead editor, like for things like anthologies, it’s still – I’m still the last say. Nobody else has yet been able to step up and be a lead editor, though I’m looking forward to that as something we might do maybe next year. Things like, I mean, selection process, transparency, I mean obviously we’re not a public company, we’re not traded. We don’t have investors. We don’t have stockholders. Things like that. So, yeah, I mean, it’s honestly it’s so different that it’s hard to say how different all of it is. I would say this is not about presses in general, I think we’re pretty atypical in how we handle these things even among presses – small presses, I should say. I’m not trying to exceptionalize us, like, I’m sure there are other places doing things similar to what we’re doing. But I certainly don’t know what they are, so I can’t like shout them out like “hey that place does what we’re doing!” Yeah, it’s sort of different on every level. In ways, like, we don’t work through agents at all. We don’t take unsolicited manuscripts ever. Our recruitment strategies are totally different. Our marketing strategies are totally different. You know, we’re – we really came at this as fans, first, and we looked at kind of what – what makes a fan thing succeed, whether that this is a new fanwork, or a zine, or a pay-for-production campaign, whatever it is. What are the things we’ve seen and been involved in that have worked that have done that. We tried to emulate that because we’re fans and we expect our audience to be fans, so we decided to take an approach using methods that are tried-and-true in fandom, and applying them to our original work. And, yeah, from bottom to top, that is just totally different than what trad pub does.
Transcription: Hey hey, so one last time here with unforth. That’s me. My real name is Claire, my pen name is Nina Waters. I am the owner and founder of Duck Prints Press, which is a small press that works with fan authors and fan artists and fan creators to publish and share our original work. We’ve been celebrating Small Press Month all through March, answering a whole mess of questions that we got from our Discord members. We hope that you’ve found these interviews interesting. I’ve honestly never done anything like this before. I have no idea if I’m doing a good job. But I hope you’ve enjoyed them. They’ve been interesting questions to think about and to answer, and I look forward to sort of opening up dialogues about any of these topics. If you’ve seen anything, heard anything, read anything in any of our posts on this topic that got you thinking, we would love to hear more about that. So, probably you know – I expect I’m gonna use this last video in a master post that links to all the others, check them out! We answered a bunch of questions about why we exists, what we do, who we work with, how we’re different, and we’d love you to get more involved. So don’t be a stranger, okay? And yeah, that’s again, I’m Claire/unforth, this has been all about Duck Prints Press, duckprintspress.com, in case that wasn’t really obvious, and um. Yeah. I hope you have a great day. And in conclusion, you guys – you guys want to see the snow? It’s been snowing the whole time I did this. It’s really pretty outside, take a look. Hopefully you’re not just seeing, like, tons of bug wire right now cause I can’t really see how good a view you’re getting, but yeah it’s really snowy outside of my office right now. Hopefully that wasn’t just, like, 10 seconds of just like glaring white light. If it was, I’m really sorry. Have a good one, everyone. Bye!
Anywhere you go on the Duck Prints Press website, you’ll see our lovable mascot. But just seeing them doesn’t give you the low-down on this very important member of the Duck Prints Press community. Read on and learn all about them!
All Duck Prints Press ducks are called Dux. They use they/them pronouns and are non-binary or have no gender (they haven’t made which clear yet).
Dux came to be when, early in the development of the Duck Prints Press logo, we faced the important question: who had left those rainbow duck prints? Thus, Dux was born. They have been delighting us with their fabulous presence, their kindness, their mischief, and their joy in life ever since.
Whether our mascot is one Dux who likes to dress up in different ways, or many different Dux who all have a different schtick, is an open question. We don’t questions Dux’s self-presentation, and we assume Dux will tell us if and when they’re ready to do so.
The feathers of the Dux come in all colors, as do their beaks and eyes. They are a creative species who love to express themselves in many different ways, by trying out all kinds of hobbies and by dressing up.
DPP’s mascot Dux is named Darcy Paige Paddlesworth III. Their name was selected by our Patreons as part of an event we ran after reaching an early milestone. All other Dux have so far remained anonymous, though we have descriptions we use to differentiate them.
Dux dresses up for all of our anthology crowdfunding campaigns, and is often featured on extras we make for our monthly backers on Patreon and ko-fi, too! Take a minute and get to know all the Dux now!
Desire!Dux. Mascot for Duxxx Prints Press, our erotica imprint.
Barista!Dux, one of two Dux developed for the release of our anthology Add Magic to Taste. Originally released as part of an early fund-raising campaign during which people could pre-order barista!Dux stickers.
Barista!Dux and Mage!Dux share pride of place on this mug.
Bard!Dux, one of the two Dux developed for the release of our anthology And Seek (Not) to Alter Me: Queer Fanworks Inspired by Shakepeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing.” They are the And Seek (Not) to Alter Me campaign mascot.
Artist!Dux, one of the two Dux developed for the release of our anthology And Seek (Not) to Alter Me: Queer Fanworks Inspired by Shakepeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing.” They were ultimately used to make a monthly-backer-exclusive sticker.
Stars!Dux, one of the two Dux developed for the release of our paired anthologies He Bears the Cape of Stars and She Wears the Midnight Crown. They are the mascot for He Bears the Cape of Stars.
We’ll be listing a Stars!Dux stickers for sale on our website on March 15th, 2023.
Midnight!Dux, one of the two Dux developed for the release of our paired anthologies He Bears the Cape of Stars and She Wears the Midnight Crown. They are the mascot for She Wears the Midnight Crown.
We’ll be listing a Midnight!Dux stickers for sale on our website on March 15th, 2023.
Bowtie!Dux. They look very dapper in their bowtie. A sticker of them was made for the Add Magic to Taste campaign.
Pride!Dux. We haven’t used this Dux yet for anything, but sometimes a Dux has just gotta spread their wings and show some Pride.
Devil!Dux. Look, sometimes, Dux just needs to get their evil on.
Heart Eyes!Dux. This is an emoji on our Discord servers, a perfect way to show our Duxy excitement. We have a number of other Dux emojis, but if you want to see those, you’ll need to get in on one of our servers.
We love Dux, and we hope you do to! We look forward to sharing more Dux with y’all in the future!
Who we are: Duck Prints Press LLC is an independent publisher based in New York State. Our founding vision is to help fanfiction authors navigate the complex process of bringing their original works from first draft to print, culminating in publishing their work under our imprint. We are particularly dedicated to working with queer authors and publishing stories featuring characters from across the LGBTQIA+ spectrum.Love what we do? Want to make sure you don’t miss the announcement for future giveaways? Sign up for our monthly newsletter and get previews, behind-the-scenes information, coupons, and more!
Want to support the Press, read about us behind-the-scenes, learn about what’s coming down the pipeline, get exclusive teasers, and claim free stories? Back us on Patreon or ko-fi monthly!
On Book Publishers Day (Monday, January 16th), we asked our followers across all our platforms if they had any questions for us as book publishers, and we got one anonymous ask on Tumblr! This week’s blog feature is our response to that question.
What’s the difference between catering to fanfic writers and to other kinds of writers? Or is there not much of a difference? Happy Book Publishers Day BTW.
Ah, I’m so excited that you decided to send in a question for Book Publishers Day! I delayed answering for a few days so I could really think about the answer, and now here we are. 😀
Tentatively, I’d say that there’s not a huge difference between catering to fanfic writers and catering to other kinds of writers, but there are a few. I’d say the biggest differences aren’t specifically in “how we cater to authors” so much as “how we’ve envisioned and structured the whole Press differently because of our collective roots in fandom.” Here’s some of the biggest differences that strike us, starting with those that are more narrowly about catering to the different types of writers, then getting a bit more general.
Privacy/safety concerns. While of course everyone worries about their privacy and maintaining data security is critical when dealing with contractors, employees, etc., it’s something we especially emphasize when working with fanfic writers for two primary reasons. First, a lot of fanfic writers don’t want people who know them in meatspace to become aware that they write fanfic, given the stigma against it in some communities. Second, a lot of fanfic writers are queer and they aren’t necessarily out in all their circles. Thus, we put a lot of extra effort into ensuring that people who work with us can keep their “fandom self” separate from their “meatspace self,” if they want to. I’d estimate roughly half of our authors opt to keep their various “selves” completely separate, and we work to be very public about the steps we take to protect our authors and the guarantees we have in place that we won’t “out” anyone in anyway – that we’ll do everything in our power to protect them.
Publishing education. While plenty of the authors we’ve worked with have been interested in publishing for a while, and a noticeable minority have published their original work with other Presses, a lot of our authors have always seen publishing their original stories as more of a “someday” and aren’t familiar with the processes of what happens after the stories are written. So, we put a lot of effort into process-related transparency and answering questions to ensure that writers know what to expect. For example, we make blank versions of all our contracts public so that people who are considering working with us have plenty of time to read them, research standard contracts, and decide for themselves if they think our terms are favorable. We want people to know what they’re getting into and to feel comfortable before they commit, and to feel comfortable walking away if that’s better for them.
Unconventional publishing models. That said, we’re also rather outside the mold for publishers, because only a few of the folks in our upper echelons have a background in more traditional publishing and/or medium/small Press publishing. I, the owner, have flirted at the edges of the more mainstream publishing industry but while I know a lot of people in trad pub and indy pub, I haven’t worked in it myself nor have I been traditionally published. Thus, we definitely have had a learning curve ourselves, and it also a lot of our internal structure and approaches are specifically, explicitly designed around fandom models instead of around more standard Press models. For example, we wholesale adopted a zine approach to anthology production and publishing – we select creators and give them freedom to create within the parameters of the anthology theme, then help them with editing, instead of asking for completed stories that we sift through and pick our favorites. For another example, our approaches to tagging and cataloging stories and our interest in breaking out of industry-standard rigidly defined genres are also deeply rooted in our experiences as fans and fancreators in fandom spaces. Basically, in the same way that we approach writers who are fanwriters first, original writers second, we ourselves were all fandom people first, publishers second. and our methodologies grew out of our experiences as forum moderators, fandom event creators and runners, zine editors, etc.
Community spaces. Again, because we’re looking at more of a fandom-based model transplanted onto a publishing milieu, we’re very oriented on building a community and relationships. Our Discord is quite active, and we talk about our lives, about our projects, help each other out with research and betaing, etc. To be honest, I don’t know if that’s different from other Presses, but I at least strongly suspect it’s well outside what trad pub does.
Transparency. In the end, we view Duck Prints Press as a collaboration, as something we’re growing together with writers, editors, artists, graphic designers, etc., where all of us have been active in fandoms first. Toward that end, general transparency about our decision making, processes, and plans is important to us, and we work hard to make sure that people involved in the Press know what’s going on. We hold monthly meetings to which everyone involved in the Press is invited (our next one is this Tuesday!) where we talk candidly, openly, and honestly about our progress on current projects, any set backs we’ve encountered, and how we’re doing fiscally. In the same way that, if I’m involved in a zine, I’d expect the people running it to talk about the money earned, where profits are going, if there’s been an issue with production, if someone’s life going haywire has introduced delays, etc. That’s the level of openness we aim for.
Education. This is an area where we’re still expanding, but we’ve so far offered two classes to people involved in the Press on grammar and editing stuff. The idea is, a lot of people who write fanfic aren’t “trained” authors, and we often don’t know the rules, just “what sounds right.” And, that’s fine, that’s why we have editors! But if people want to learn more, we’re striving to provide more opportunities for that. Related, we’re extremely, and atypically, transparent about our selection processes for people who apply to anthologies. We are not and will never be a black box where submission stories come in and acceptance and rejection letters go out. Not only do we use a rating rubric that’s available publicly, we also share completed rubrics with authors upon request. We want people who are interested in learning and improving to see our notes and to have the chance to ask questions. We want to support people who are aiming to improve. And, flipside, we don’t automatically send those rubrics out to applicants because we wholeheartedly subscribe to the fandom-standard attitude that concrit is only helpful when it’s asked for. If someone doesn’t want more information, doesn’t want to improve (because improvement NEVER has to be one’s goal as a writer, especially for fanwriters doing fic for fun!), we don’t force that feedback on anyone! So, so many of our structures are based on fandom models, are grounded in fandom ethos.
Relaxed restrictions. All of the people who run the business are queer (I’m aroace genderfluid, myself), and most us are neurodivergent (my diagnoses are ADHD and clinical depression), and some of us are disabled (my wife, for example, is an ambulatory wheelchair user, though she’s not heavily involved in the management team…right now she’s anonymizing the submissions to Aether Beyond the Binary), and many of us are parents (I have two kids, aged almost 5 and almost 7). I’ve been active in online fandoms for more than 20 years, and the people in my fandom circles have overwhelming shared the above characteristics. Most are queer. Most are neurodivergent. Many struggle with health issues and disability. Many are parents, have multiple jobs, are caring for parents, are supporting their partners, are facing a multitude of meatspace challenges that make working in a traditional publication model difficult or impossible. In a lot of publishing, things like really struggling with deadlines, or having to navigate the potential for unexpected health flareups, or juggling multiple jobs, or working around a child’s schedule, would be dealbreakers – the deadline is the deadline, meet it or get out. That’s…so not us. We strive to create an environment with the flexibility to meet people where they are, where having life go sideways (cause let’s be real, life always goes sideways sooner or later) doesn’t disqualify someone from breaking into the industry. As long creators communicate with us about their hurdles, we are very free about giving extensions, making exceptions, tweaking schedules, etc. We don’t want anyone hurting themselves just for a story. Yes, it can make management more challenging at times, but we always look to grant the same grace that we hope to be given when our own lives get complicated. (2022 has been a huge example of this, as my health issues resulted in my needing surgery last February and it completely disrupted all our project timelines for the year – we’ve really only just caught up in the last month or so).
Setting expectations. We aim to set realistic expectations with authors who write with us. My own sense of other models is that most publishers promise success without necessarily delving into things like “but you’ll have to handle all your own marketing” or “this is how many copies you can honestly expect to sell.” Authors can often be in for a rude awakening once they’re in the door and contracted and would be hard-pressed to back out. We’re very small, and we operate on a shoe-string budget (I have been operating Duck Prints Press for just over two years and we’ve never yet earned enough for me to take a paycheck, and we’re in the red for both of our first two years, though our 2022 numbers are a significant improvement over 2021 and we have every reason to hope we’ll keep growing). We can’t afford a lot of advertising, can’t be the only source of marketing, can’t promise that people will sell lots of copies (full disclosure re: what that means, our average short story sells under 10 copies during the first week it’s released). We can’t promise anyone a livable paycheck. What we offer instead is community, support, creative freedom, understanding, and the chance to be part of a fan-run business that is slowly but surely growing, and growing amazingly. No editor will ever say “you have to change xyz so your story will sell.” No editor will ever say, “we just don’t want that story.” We want to publish what our writers want to publish, and we want to work all together to help grow all our audiences. And that means, for people involved right now while we’re this young, we can’t promise much, but we can promise one wonderful thing: that the future looks bright.
This went a bit beyond “working with fanfiction writers versus trad pub writers” and more into “ways we approach things differently than a more mainstream Press,” but I think that does tie into how the approach is different. We’re not viewing the Press as The Owner And Managers Who Are Always Above and the writers as The Content Creators And Cash Cows. All of us in the management team are also fandom people, fanwriters, fanartists, etc. It’s not two distinct groups, it’s one big group of more-or-less equals (yes, there’s still a hierarchy, there has to be some, but it’s not super top-down and there’s lots of opportunities for people to share their skills up the not-really-a-ladder) with the doors thrown wide open to welcome in more folks.
And that, I think, is the crux of the difference of how we cater to fanfic authors compared to what we might do differently if we were working with a more mainstream set of authors. While we do maintain certain editorial standards and we obviously don’t accept everyone who applies, we still try to cast a wide net, to opt for inclusion over exclusion, to try to make allowances, to make space for people at different levels, with different experiences, with different life challenges, etc. In the end, I’d love everyone who ever applies to work with us to end up as part of the Press, because if people want to work with us, we want to work with them! There’s no way to just bring in everyone at once, and some people need to hone their skills more before they’ll be ready to meet the writing standards we aim for, but it’s nothing that can’t be learned. And, if people want to learn it, we want to help them learn it.
We’re a publisher, yes, but we’re also a community of fanwriters who all dream of being published, helping each other to make that dream a reality.
This was probably a ton more answer than was really necessary, but here we are. 😀 Thanks for asking, anon, and I hope you found the answer informative!
(I’m @unforth, by the way, it occurs to me a lot of people may not realize that.)
A lesser known but important celebration, Book Publishers Day is one of our favorite holidays at Duck Prints Press. Join us on the exciting journey of LGBTQIA+ storytelling and pick a new adventure from our store. On this special day we’re happy to share a bit of our secrets, too! What would you like to know about publishing but were always afraid to ask?