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Announcing: The Contributors to “He Bears the Cape of Stars” and “She Wears the Midnight Crown”!

36 remarkable authors—18 for He Bears the Cape of Stars, 18 for She Wears the Midnight Crown—have come together for this project. These authors have been toiling away on their stories since February 1st, 2022, and we’re currently work with them on edits to get them publication-ready. We’re delighted to share their work with you!

Contributors to He Bears the Cape of Stars:

Contributors to She Wears the Midnight Crown:

You can read about them—in their own words!—see select author portraits, and more, by clicking this link:

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The “And Seek (Not) to Alter Me” Kickstarter is Now Finished!

Duck Prints Press LLC is thrilled to share that our second crowdfunding campaign, aimed at raising $12,000 to enable us to publish And Seek (Not) to Alter Me: Queer Fanworks Inspired by William Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing” has come to a successful conclusion! Over 30 days, 242 backers contributed to support us for a total of $14,914 US.

Backing the campaign was the only way to get a print copy of this gorgeous anthology, but it’s not your only purchase opportunity! We expect that the e-book version (in ePub, Mobi, and PDF formats) will go up for sale on our website sometime in July; if we have any extra merchandise, we’ll likely offer that for sale at that time, too. So keep your eyes peeled (and make sure you follow us on social media!) and you can be among the first to hear!

Whether you backed this campaign or not, always remember that you can support us, and the fan-creators-transitioning-to-original-creation with whom we work, by backing us on Patreon. Alternatively, if you prefer Ko-fi, we don’t yet offer a subscription model on Ko-fi but we will soon (we expect to set it up in the next week or two! We’ll likely also open a merchandise store there) so consider following us there, and you’ll get a notification when we open up monthly subscription options there! And, of course, you can buy our books and merchandise anytime through our webstore!

Wondering what’s next for Duck Prints Press?

We’re so glad you asked, because the answer is: a lot!

  1. Our next two anthology, She Wears the Midnight Crown and He Bears the Cape of Stars, are in-process. These two anthologies feature stories involving masquerades – in all kinds of settings, and with a very loose definition of what counts as a masquerade! She Wears the Midnight Crown focuses on wlw stories. He Bears the Cape of Stars focuses on mlm stories. Both include a huge variety of settings, types of characters, relationship models; we’ve got lots of genderqueerness and poly, too. Authors’ final check in is today; based on the editors’ reviews of work submitted at Check In 1 and Check In 2, trust us, you are not gonna want to miss these two books! We’ve also recently (technically, today!) contracted an artist for the two front covers – more on that in the coming days!
  2. The crowdfunding campaign for these two anthologies has a planned June 15th launch date, but! As promised in January when we were recruiting authors, we will not be continuing our relationship with Kickstarter. Instead, we will be working with Seed & Spark, an independent crowdfunding platform that focuses on projects that tell stories; they primarily work with film media, but we’ve had a lovely e-mail chat with the folks there – they’re happy to have us, and we’re delighted to be an early (but not the first!) book publishing project launching there. We’ve got a member profile there already set up – so, if you have an account there, we encourage you to give us a “follow,” and if you don’t have one yet, now might be a great time to make one! We’ll also share a followable version of our project at least a couple weeks before launch – we’ll make an announcement when the time comes, so be on the look out.
  3. With the help of our Patrons, we’ve officially decided on the theme for our fifth anthology! The project is still in its early planning phases – we have a theme but no title or schedule – but at our management meeting this week, we’ll be discussing a tentative timeline for production which amounts to, “hopefully formally announced/opened for recruitment in June, with an anticipated crowdfunding campaign in the fall or early winter.” Expect an announcement sometime in late spring or early summer.
  4. We’re also in the very early planning stages of an erotica anthology and our next “Queer Fanworks Inspired By…” anthology. Both would have 2023 crowdfunding releases.
  5. Now that we’re almost caught up, work-wise, on the backlog of editing that resulted from my health issues, we’re also looking to other “next projects,” especially working on publishing more novels. We expect to build on our existing relationships with A. L. Heard and Tris Lawrence, by publishing a re-edit of Hockey Bois and editing and helping crowdfund further books in Lawrence’s “Welcome to PHU” ‘verse. We’re hoping to have Hockey Bois our sometime this summer and a crowdfunding launch for “Missed Fortunes” and “Into the Split” (books 2 and 3 of the “Twinned” trilogy) sometime in Quarter 4. In addition to these known projects, we’ll be opening the floor to authors who’ve previously worked with us, likely in late summer or early fall, to discuss projects they may have in mind or in progress that they’d be interested in pursuing and potentially publishing with us. We’re tentatively hoping to publish 3 – 4 anthologies in 2023 and up to 4 novels. And, as always, you bet your bottom dollar everything is gonna be hella queer!
  6. As you may be aware, Patrons at the $10 and $25 level on our Patreon get access to one erotica story per month, written just for them – but, what you may not realize is that after 6 months, the rights for those stories revert to our authors in full, and they can do what they wish with those stories – including publishing them with us! One of our authors has opted to do so, and we’re hoping to have the story published on our website by the end of April (more information on this soon)! We’ve been hard at work tweaking our website and shop configuration in preparation for this, and Alessa Riel has developed an awesome variation on our standard Dux logo, for all your citrus-scale needs…

We’ll share more on the erotica label soon!

And none of this includes our ongoing projects – our regular blogging on writing, publishing, and prompting (we’ve been expanding our stable of blog post authors!); events like #drabbledaysaturday on Twitter and May Trope Mayhem (coming in 2 weeks!); our monthly Patreon short stories and erotica stories; and more!

As you can see, there’s a lot in the pipeline, and there’ll continue to be more to come. The success of both of our first crowdfunding campaigns has been a huge boost for us, helping us build a profile, grow our relationships, develop more reliable streams, and more. Thank you all for your support, your reads, your signal boosts, your backing, and your interest. There’s loads more work to do, of course…but the result of that work is going to be a growing catalog of amazing queer works by queer authors and artists, and honestly? We couldn’t be more excited about what tomorrow will bring!

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Today’s the Day!

January 31st has come! We’ve gone through all the new submissions and returner pitches for She Wears the Midnight Crown and He Bears the Cape of Stars.

The authors who have previously worked with Duck Prints Press and who applied to be part of these anthologies have already been informed of our decisions. Because the pitches were relatively short, and there weren’t that many returner applications (28 applications for 16 slots – 8 slots per anthology), we tackled rating them first. All the returner pitches were phenomenal; choosing was really, really hard, but still far more quickly done than going through the new applications.

Going through the 76 applications we received from people who haven’t written with us previously was a much more involved, since all told the submissions amounted to approximately 150,000 words of fiction and story pitches to read. We’ve finished, and we can’t wait to contact everyone. However, before that, we wanted to put up a post explaining a little more about the process, to preemptively answer some of the questions we received last time after acceptances and rejection letters were sent out.

How were people rated?

Every story was read by three reviewers, who scored it using the rubric previously shared on our website (here). Each reviewer scored the authors on a scale from 0 (…no one was close to getting a 0) to 29 (…no one was close to a 29, either).

To ensure fairness, all scores were standardized with a simple statistical model. Basically: each reviewer used the rubric differently, and if we just compared “raw” scores, it would be unfair to people who got “harsher” reviewers (those who, on average, scored all their reviewed submissions lower) and over-weight people who got “more lenient” reviewers (those who, on average, scored all their reviewed submissions higher). To account for this, for each individual reviewer, we did the following:

1. Averaged all their rubric scores.

2. Calculated the standard deviation for all their rubric scores.

3. Ran the “standardize” function on each individual score.

What this does is take a raw score (say, 10, or 20) and re-calibrate it to a new standardized number where for any given reviewer, their “average” would have a score of 0. Their highest rated would have an adjusted positive rating based on their standard deviation (most of ours cap out around 2 – so the highest-rated fics have a standardized score around 2), and their lowest rated would have an adjusted negative rating also still based on their standard deviation (most of ours bottom out around -2).

Doing this enables us to compare apples to apples, because now ALL the rubric ratings are scored as if the reviewer’s average was a 0, instead of us dealing with the problem where Reviewer A’s average rating was a 15, Reviewer B’s a 19, Reviewer C’s a 10, etc.

Okay awesome but why are you inundating us with math?

We share the math on the back end because, whether we accepted or rejected you, you are invited and encouraged to request your rubrics from us (though note that not all of us used it the same way, and a lot of us were, uh, fairly casual? in how we wrote our comments). When you get the rubrics, if you compare them with friends who applied, it’s inevitable that someone is gonna notice that it looks like people with higher or lower scores didn’t end up distributed quite where they’d expect (e.g., someone with a lower raw score notices they were accepted while someone else with a higher raw score was not).

The statistical model above is why this happens. We have two readers who tend to rate fairly high on average (one is me, I’m unforth and if you request your rubrics, I’m Reader 1 for everyone, and I don’t mind sharing that information). We have two readers who tend to rate fairly low on average. We have one who rates fairly middle of the road. So imagine Applicant A got both the generous-with-points reviewers and the middle-of-the-road reviewers . Their rubrics are going to have pretty high point scores. Then, imagine Applicant B got the middle-of-the-road reviewer and the two stingy-with-points reviewers. Theirs is going to look like they did very poorly. But neither of those raw scores reflect reality – the person who got the highest point total on a “stingy reviewer” rubric might look like they did worse just based on the raw scores, but when statistically adjusted, the highest score from a “stingy” reviewer is worth the same amount as the highest score from a “generous” reviewer! So the highest score from a stingy reader might be a 15, and the highest score from a generous reader might be a 25; the standardization looks at the average these reviewers gave across all their rubrics, and enables us to “recognize” that that 15 and that 25 should be worth the same, and once the scores are standardized, both will be about the same.

Does that make sense?

I know it can be weird and confusing but trust me, it’s statistically sound. Or, don’t trust me – trust various statistical experts who say it’s the right way to handle this – for example, this one, or this one, or Wikipedia.

I’ll do my best to add standardized scores to the rubrics if you request them, so that any author can see both their raw score and the adjusted score we used for making our decisions. We are committed to transparency in our processes, so it’s important to us that people understand what we did, why we did it, why it was most fair, and how it impacted our selection.

How DID it impact your selection?

It’s pretty straight forward, really. Once scores were standardized, we averaged the three final scores, and then sorted the list from highest to lowest average. We accepted the people with the top ten average standardized scores for each anthology. Our final decision is entirely based on the numbers. We think this is most fair. Note, though, that “most fair” doesn’t equal “most objective.” There’s absolutely still subjective opinion involved – if you’ve looked at the linked rubric, subjective opinion is in fact hard-wired into our rubric, one of the ratings is “reader’s subjective reaction to the submission.” But, we use this method to help keep things fair and balanced and transparent, and we hope that it helps y’all to understand that you didn’t submit into a black box that takes in applications and spits out acceptance and rejection letters; we are always prepared to share the nuts-and-bolts of what’s inside the application “box.” It’s a transparent box, not a black one. 😀

Cool, got it. How will people be contacted?

As soon as this post is done and cross-posted, I’ll be sending out acceptance and rejection letters by e-mail from the duckprintspress at gmail dot com account.

1. Acceptance letters! We’ve selected 20 authors (ten per anthology) whose work really wowed us, and who received the highest average statistically standardized score on their rubrics.

2. Rejection letters! It’s a sad reality that we simply cannot accept everyone. We got almost 80 applications for 20 spots, so only 1 in 4 people can actually “make the cut.” Competition was fierce, and every single reviewer can point at a personal “fave” that didn’t end up making it. For both anthologies, the difference between 10th and 11th was only a few hundreths of a point. We saw a lot that really, really impressed us, and (as you’ll see in your letters) we strongly encourage everyone to continuing honing their skills and consider reapplying in the future.

Note that we’ve also decided to invite about a quarter of the people we rejected to our Discord server. These invites are issued based on a number of factors, and are entirely subjective – basically, once we’d gone through and knew who’d been accepted, we looked at who didn’t make it and used our editorial judgement to determine who we felt should be brought in. We’re sorry we can’t invite everyone, but…we can’t. We share that we’re inviting some, but not all, because, again – transparency.

I have a question that wasn’t addressed in this post, or I don’t understand something you said, or I want more information about point x, or…

Drop us an ask, DM us, leave a comment or e-mail us at duckprintspress at gmail dot com! We’ll do our best to explain.

*

Thank you all for applying. Reading your submissions was a delight. There was so much here that just blew our socks off, and we can’t wait to get to know folks better, whether they were accepted or not, invited to Discord or not.

Always remember that, at our core, Duck Prints Press is committed to the principal that we want to work with people who want to work with us. So, even if you didn’t make it this time – keep at it, apply again, and we would love to be able to invite you next time!!

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Business Update

It occurs to me that I haven’t spoken much on our business Tumblr about certain things going on in the background of running this Press. Usually, on Sundays, we try to post an informational post about writing, a prompt list, or some other significant content, but that’s been noticeably absent the last few weeks, and here’s why.

Hi, I’m unforth/Claire/Nina Waters, any pronouns (I don’t care if people default to she/her, which most do), and I own this Press. I’m 39, enby, aroace, mother of two, and queer platonic married to ramblingandpie. And I’ve had problems with my back on and off for almost 15 years. In the last 4 years that’s very much been more “on” than “off,” and in the last year it’s been continually “on.” Over the summer, it lingered at a constant 2-or-so on a ten scale where 9 is “giving birth without painkillers,” which I have done. Twice. Over the early fall, it was bad enough that I started getting help lifting and moving things. In November, it went into precipitous decline, and I started to get alarmed.

Early December, my doctor said “give it six weeks, see if it goes away on it’s own.” Spoilers, it didn’t. I saw a specialist, finally, on December 30th, and they immediately sent me for an MRI (I’d been trying to get my PCP to send me for an MRI for 4 goddamn years). A week and a half ago I saw the specialist again, and we reviewed the MRI results, and basically, one of my discs is bulging and pinching my spinal cord (less basically, the disc between my L4 and L5 vertebrae is herniated and causing spinal stenosis and radiating sciatic pain down my right leg). At this point, even on massive amounts of painkillers and anti-inflammatory meds, I can’t drive and can hardly walk right now – I get about 5 minutes on my feet before the pain is too excruciating and I have to sit and rest for 5 to 10 minutes before I can do more – and I also can’t sit at my desktop computer at all. And, the meds make me tired and dizzy. The specialist said I should see a surgeon, and while she hedged her bets and suggested there was a chance I wouldn’t surgery, she also considered the case urgent enough that she tried to flag the surgeon down in the hallway and have him see me immediately, and spent the rest of the appointment discussing surgery like it was a foregone conclusion. But I couldn’t make an appointment with the surgeon, because his secretary was out with Covid…and by the time she got back on Monday, the surgeon had also caught Covid, and is out for two weeks, as is another of the 4 total surgeons that the Spine Clinic at the local hospital employs.

I’m seeing one of the ones who DOESN’T have Covid on Wednesday, and again, while there’s a chance I don’t need major back surgery, it’s a very small chance. Based on our research and knowledge and what the pain specialist said (my wife has medical expertise too), we think the only real question on Wednesday will be how soon they’re able to schedule it, considering how bad Omicron is spreading here. The MRI indicates that right now I’m literally continually, potentially, a moment a way from catastrophic nerve damage. Like, if something twinges wrong, I could end up incontinent for the rest of my life, or with permanent leg weakness, or even theoretically paralysis, and I have a list of circumstances under which I’m supposed to go to the ER immediately and have the surgery with the on-call surgeon (who will be one of those same two who don’t have Covid, I feel bad for them they must be SO overworked right now, what a mess). It’d be a huge surprise if I don’t have surgery within the next week or two – we’ve been planning as if it’s a foregone conclusion, and I have a go-bag ready for the ER, because it really is that serious – and once I do, recovery is about 6 weeks of bed rest, followed by months of PT and the slower healing that just takes time.

All that said, post-op success rates on this surgery (I believe it’s a laminectomy?) are very high – if I follow all the medical instructions, I should heal back to 100%, unless I’ve already got nerve damage (which is unfortunately possible but. What can ya do?). Even then, surgery should heal the pain, and I’ll just have leg weakness.

All of which is to say…since early November I’ve been dealing with some pretty damn major health problems. Especially challenging has been my inability to sit at my computer, because that’s where I do most of my writing and all of my graphic work and editing.

I know I’m over-sharing personal things here, and I’m sorry about that – I’ve tried to hold off on sharing it at all, this has been going on for almost 10 weeks, but I think we’ve reached the point where the health issues are major enough, and the impact it has on the business is visible enough, that it’s better for me to simply disclose. I’m not looking for pity; I’m trying to make clear why the business is behind on certain things we’d said are imminent.

Our goal is to have this impact the business as little as possible, but since I’m our only full time employee, and our primary coordinator for major projects, there’s simply a lot we can’t do when my work time is greatly reduced by health issues. The good news is, once it became clear how serious this was, I used basically the business’s entire rainy day fund to buy a nice laptop, so I’m now able to work from the couch (which is about the only place I can sit comfortably). That’s how I’m typing this update – the laptop arrived on Wednesday and I’ve spent the days since getting it set up to do all the things I usually do from desktop, which means I can move forward on some of the things we had to delay.

Specific implications of all the above, as applied to our current projects:

1. The And Seek (Not) to Alter Me Kickstarter is temporarily delayed. We’ll make an announcement (and finally do the cover reveal!!) once we can plan a specific timeline for launch – hopefully, we’ll know that in about a week, after I’ve spoken to the surgeon. In terms of our actual preparedness for launch…I’m behind on my share of the editing, but all the stories have had at least one editing run, and about half are ready for immediate publication. The art is also all ready. We have all the merchandise art ready, and some are in the printing templates. The Kickstarter copy is complete written and edited and has been approved by KS (like, from that standpoint, we could literally launch right now), but only 4 out of the 6 graphics we need are completed; I’m hoping to finish the rest imminently, so that as soon as my health allows and I know I’ll be recovered enough to manage the KS fulfillment (which involves a LOT of box lifting, which is impossible for me right now) we can hit the “launch” button.

2. There are no delays in review of applications for He Bears the Cape of Stars and She Wears the Midnight Crown. We’ve already finished reviewing the applications from “returner” applicants (people who have written with us before on one of our two anthologies or have done a Patreon story with us) and have a preliminary list of accepted authors (no one will be notified until we’re done reviewing all applications). Our team doing the review (myself, A. L. Heard/jhoom, Alessa, P. J. Claremore/Foop, K. B. Vimes, and Lacey Hays/Owlish) are about halfway done with the mlm applications and a quarter through the wlw – I personally am a reader for every applications and I’m finished with the mlm and will be starting the wlw ones today. All of which is to say, we’re making good progress and do not anticipate a delay – we still expect to notify all applicants of their acceptances or rejections by January 31st.

3. The two novels I’m supposed to edit – one by A. L. Heard, the other by Tris Lawrence – I’ve been unable to make progress on, so these are currently delayed, and the authors are in the loop and know.

4. We’re a little behind on Patreon backer rewards, specifically the Patron-exclusive stories. However, we’re working on catching up, and we anticipate that (hopefully) by the end of February, we’ll have published all the backlog and caught up. Other Patreon rewards have not been impacted.

5. There’s a few other things that were in the works when this all started but that we hadn’t publicly announced yet…those are, as would expect, on hold. (As a teaser for anyone dedicated enough to have read this far…this includes our first erotica title and an erotica imprint to go with it, with it’s own logo and sub-website on our main page, and our plans for our fifth anthology, and a call for manuscript submissions, and more!)

As we see it…these are uncertain times for everyone even without “extra” things happen, and something like this health issue couldn’t have been predicted. However, nothing has changed in terms of our commitment to Duck Prints Press and all we set out to do. We truly appreciate your patience and understanding as we, and I especially, get through this. We’re striving to catch up and get back to “normal,” and we can’t wait to share with you all the amazing things that we’ve been working on. And Seek (Not) to Alter Me is a.may.zing, y’all, and the submissions pitches for the two new anthologies are blowing our socks off. Seriously, we’re so excited.

Stay tuned – there’s so, so, SO much more to come!

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Reminder: Applications for Our Next Anthologies are Due By Midnight!

Interested in applying to be a contributor to our new, paired anthologies – She Wears the Midnight Crown and He Bears the Cape of Stars? Well, now is your last chance! Applications will close in roughly 16 hours – once midnight of December 31st has passed in the GMT – 12 timezone. Don’t miss out – we’d love to hear from you!!

Learn more about the projects now!

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What Do We Look For in a Story Pitch?

We received a question on our Discord, seeking guidance on writing a pitch for our newest anthologies, She Wears the Midnight Crown and He Bears the Cape of Midnight. Answering it led us to look through the pitches we received when we put out our first call for applicants earlier this year. At that time, we didn’t include story pitches in the ratings, and we were also more open to authors changing their pitches, since we weren’t rating them. However, we still read them because we were really curious and excited to see what people had in mind, and I (hi, it’s your friendly neighborhood @unforth, owner and usually-the-blogger) highlighted my favorites and shared many of them with our backers on Patreon to whet their appetites.In response to the question on Discord, I shared a few of my favorites, and multiple people expressed that it was helpful to them, so I thought – why not turn it into a blog post, and let everyone see?

A few notes on this:

1. We do not claim this list will be generalizable to other Presses or calls for story pitches. You may find these strategies effective elsewhere, but you may not!

2. The pitches for Add Magic to Taste were restricted to only 200 words; our new call allows up to 400, so if you’re writing a pitch for us you’ll be able to get a bit more in than the examples were provide.

3. If you’re coming to this in the future when we’ve pitched a new anthology that you’d like to apply to, it will still be applicable – just swap in the specifics that make sense to our new project, because the essentials won’t have changed even when the specifics do.

4. If you’ve read our Submission Review Rubric you’ll already know that the only rubric item we have specifically for the Story Pitch is inherently subjective. While yes, we will consider the content, grammar, and technical aspects of your story pitch, that won’t have a huge impact on the ratings for our less subjective categories, and the main place we’ll rate it will be on a 0 to 4 scale from “I’m just not feeling it” through “I NEED 10K OF THIS YESTERDAY.” As such, because it’s subjective, what each reviewer will look for will vary. However, I wouldn’t be writing this post unless I thought the advice in it didn’t have some general applicability – our personal preferences will alter how precisely we rate pitches but in a general sense, a pitch that considers the criteria to follow has a good chance of appealing to all of us, even if it doesn’t end up a personal favorite.

With all that in mind…what should you consider when you write us a pitch? 

Basically: we’re going to want to know who the most important characters are, where those characters are, and what those characters are going to do/how they’re going to interact with each other and/or the world around them

Less basically…how do you do that?

1. Have characters. Don’t pull a “I want to tell a story kinda like a romance, but it takes place in a spaceship, and the ball is for…” without telling us about the people. Be the worldbuilding ever so cool (and don’t get us wrong, we LOVE cool worldbuilding!) we’re looking for people to tell stories about queer romance. So, we need to know who the characters are, not just where they are. All the most successful story pitches we’ve read are character driven. For example, here are some lovely character introductions from our Add Magic to Taste calls:

Ex. 1: Layla was born a witch—specifically, a witch who can make anything she touches taste sweet and delicious, which is a pretty lame magic to be born with. 

Ex. 2: Xee is Asexual, graduated from school a decade back, and works the Tea Shop his parents have owned since they moved there from the Fae realm four or five decades back. 

Ex: 3: Teravilis, a dragon shifter escaped from the government lab where she’s lived her whole life, is already feeling overwhelmed before a towering, beautiful woman sits down on the next couch. 

2. Have a setting. However lovingly your OCs are assembled, if we learn nothing about the type of masquerade you’re portraying or the surroundings, then we won’t be interested. Look again at those three examples of characters: all three not only tell us about the character – they also integrate information about the world that character inhabits. A pitch like “Character A is an engineer who is tall and blonde and very good at what they do; Character B is a sec op who has perfect aim and a give-um-hell attitude” is interesting but…what does Character A actually engineers? Why Character B would need to be a sec op wherever they are? It doesn’t have to be in the exact same sentence, but it needs to be in the pitch somewhere

2a: The setting and the characters must inter-relate. We want these characters to inhabit living, breathing worlds, and we do mean inhabit. If they just seem plastered over the setting – like if we took the characters out and plonked them down somewhere else they’d be completely the same – then that’s a problem. 

Some examples of settings that enhanced people’s pitches for Add Magic to Taste:

Ex. 1: Airmid, an undercover health inspector with a love for busting the dirtiest cooks in the business, stops by her gleaming city’s newest restaurant: The Drakery Bakery. She can’t believe what she sees. The miniature dragons who work as everything from oven flames to waiters can’t be up to code, and no matter how delicious the pastries are she’s certain that a dragon shouldn’t be breathing on crème brûlées to crisp their tops. 

Ex. 2: 35+ hedge witch who runs a bookstore (or similar) keeps magically bambozzling postal workers to deliver to the wrong address so she can talk to the cute owner of the bakery three doors down.

Ex. 3: Kyle hates that he has to put on his human skin every day and work at the coffee shop, but ocean jobs are reserved for those that can’t work on land. 

(and again, note how all three of these could have been easily swapped in as examples for item 1. The setting exists to serve the narrative about the characters, not the other way around, so a strong pitch is likely to integrate the worldbuilding aspects by describing where and how the character(s) fit into the world.)

3. Be specific. It’s okay if you don’t know the character names or haven’t decided on the name of the spaceship where your ball takes place – that level of specificity isn’t necessary – but a pitch that says, “Character A is a spaceship pilot who has snuck into the ball after making a mask out of discarded reactor core parts” is much more appealing than a pitch that says, “Character A works on the spaceship and sneaks into the ball.” We want to see that you’ve thought about who these characters are, and where they are, and what they’re going to do. 

Ex. 1: Then one morning, right in the middle of the dullest lull there ever was, the girl that works at the yarn shop across the street – the girl Merrily has been quietly pining over from afar since the first time she saw her three months ago – makes a dramatic entrance, slaps her hands down on the counter and says, very sternly, “It’s you, isn’t it?”

Ex. 2: Then he meets Nigh, a customer who hates the ocean but smells of kelp and salt and rides a skateboard like he’s underwater. He’s everything Kyle might want if he had time to do something foolish like fall in love.

Ex. 3: This story begins when Shiloh heads to La Vie Café to meet with the Reincarnation Support Group (for women who believe they have been reincarnated) in Philadelphia. She claims that she is the reincarnated version of a man who died 25 years ago. 

4. Introduce the plot…but don’t feel you have to tell us everything. If you really want to summarize your entire story in 400 words, go for it, but it’s not necessary. It’s absolutely okay to leave us wanting more – you can treat this like a back-of-the-book blurb rather than like your cover letter summary. “The problems they face seem insurmountable…what will they do?” is a perfectly okay way to end your pitch, especially if you’ve adhered to our first three points and made it clear through your characters, setting description, and specificity that you do have a plan. Most of the pitches we’ve liked in the past treated the pitch as a teaser rather than as a synopsis or a book report. (Read the full pitches below for an idea what we mean).

5. How you write your pitch is almost as important as the actual story you propose. We want a compelling story, yes, but we also want to see – how do you approach character building? How do you work within a word limit? How do you approach building tension? Your story pitch is about the story you want to tell, but it’s also literally about how you pitch it. The classic AO3 “sorry I suck at summaries” isn’t going to cut it here: you have to take the dive and act like you know your story pitch is the coolest concept ever, and you are out to convince us it’s the coolest also. You love your characters? Tell us enough that we also love your characters and get invested in their fates. You built a lush world for them? Paint that world concisely and accurately with your words. You know that a reader who reads the first 1,000 words of your 6,000 word story will be so intrigued they won’t be able to put it down? Show us that by making the 400-word introduction to the concept so fascinating that we don’t want to put it down either. (Again, instead of excerpts, see the full pitches below.)

6. Don’t neglect your spelling and grammar. Good technical aspects won’t necessarily save a pitch that is flat in other regards, and poor technical aspects won’t necessarily sink a pitch that’s otherwise intriguing, but your attention to detail speaks to your genuine interest in working with us, and if the editing is poor, even if we loved your story submission and your pitch, we’ll worry ‘how much editing will this person really need to bring their story up to professional editing standards?” It’s definitely worth sweating the small stuff and getting your SPAG clean for your pitch as well as for your writing sample submission!

To boil these six points down to a tl:dr – we are looking for story pitches that are character-driven, keep in mind our main theme components (happy ending queer romance at masquerades or in masquerade-esque societies/settings), show that thought has been put into the details, and leave us wanting more!

Here are all the full pitches that we used for the above examples, and some we didn’t pull examples from. All are used with author permission and credited according to author request. If the story ended up in Add Magic to Taste, we make a note of that, but remember that we did not rate these pitches as part of our applicant review for that anthology. Not all of these authors were accepted to our first project, even though we love their pitches, but all of these authors are currently involved in the Press. (Many are in our upcoming anthology And Seek (Not) to Alter Me.)

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Pitch by anonymous:

Sugar and Spice: Layla was born a witch—specifically, a witch who can make anything she touches taste sweet and delicious, which is a pretty lame magic to be born with. Her quest to trade it in for something cooler, or at least to learn some flashier spells, brings her to Sweetheart’s Cakery, a sweet and sugary establishment run by the most powerful necromancer alive. Stephanie Drybones, professionally known as ‘Sweetheart,’ has spent centuries honing her baking skills the hard way and isn’t impressed by Layla’s woes… but she is intrigued by Layla’s determination and acerbic wit. 

The two women make a deal: if Layla can produce a better sweet than Stephanie within a week, Stephanie will teach her some awesome spells to revive the dead in a sanitary manner, leech the warmth from her surroundings, and generally annoy the neighbors. If Layla can’t, however, she must come work at the bakery until she understands the importance of cake as a concept—which, considering how pretty and disarmingly nice Stephanie is, shouldn’t be a chore. Let the bake-off commence.

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Pitch by Lucy K. R. (@/lucywritesbooks on twitter):

Airmid, an undercover health inspector with a love for busting the dirtiest cooks in the business, stops by her gleaming city’s newest restaurant: The Drakery Bakery. She can’t believe what she sees. The miniature dragons who work as everything from oven flames to waiters can’t be up to code, and no matter how delicious the pastries are she’s certain that a dragon shouldn’t be breathing on crème brûlées to crisp their tops. 

But Calida, the dragon mage who owns the place, gives her pause. She doesn’t know what brings her over to Airmid’s table, but she has to confess that she finds her charming. And pretty. And confident, and talented, and… One more visit couldn’t hurt before she calls in the health department, right? 

Airmid finds reason after reason to give one more inspection rather than shutting down The Drakey Bakery, always hoping for one more chance to chat with its enigmatic owner. And as she does so, she finds a new appreciation for dragons, the deliciousness of imperfection, and most importantly for Calida— a woman as irresistible as she is lawless.

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Pitch by Willa Blythe (@/willaablythe on twitter):

Merrily Berkshire finds her quaint, old fashioned town boring and dull, and her shifts at the local coffee shop are the most boring of all. She knows she probably shouldn’t do it, but to keep her busy she has begun practicing her spellwork on unsuspecting patrons: a bit of a brightening charm here, a wakefulness spell there, an enchantment to be more open, an enchantment to be more closed, an intention to draw in funds, a quick-but-unfortunate curse to cause unrelenting hiccups that she feels immediately guilty for… It passes the time, and she’s getting better at it every day. 

Then one morning, right in the middle of the dullest lull there ever was, the girl that works at the yarn shop across the street – the girl Merrily has been quietly pining over from afar since the first time she saw her three months ago – makes a dramatic entrance, slaps her hands down on the counter and says, very sternly, “It’s you, isn’t it?” 

Can Merrily right her wrongs and woo the yarn girl? Get your most beloved mug ready: it’s time for a tale of magic, mistakes, and making your own meaning when nothing feels like it means anything.

(A version of this story pitch is in Add Magic to Taste)

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Pitch by @/theleakypen:

A Chinese fox spirit, a Russian river spirit, and a love story measured in coffee dates. 

Lara Yan spent one hundred years cultivating to human form and she’s not going to waste this opportunity just to tear out men’s hearts to steal more qi. She frequents the Chashka Kofe on Morskoy Prospekt, working on her papers for her Master’s in Philology — language, she thinks, is the best thing about having a human mouth. 

Alisa Rusakova just wants a cup of coffee before another long day diving for a sunken barge in the River Ob. She spends her days in the water, hiding her rusalka nature in plain sight. Gone are the days when she and her sisters drowned or tickled men to death and haunted mortal women for their combs. 

When they run into each other — literally — on the way to the coffee counter, they have no idea that they’ve finally met someone who understands what it is to straddle the world of the human and the monstrous, someone they don’t have to hide from.

(A version of this story pitch is in Add Magic to Taste)

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Pitch by @/arialerendeair:

In a world where the Fae, the Magical, and the slightly-more than normal live side-by-side with humans as a part of their daily lives, I would love to tell the story of Xilmys (he goes by ‘Xee’) and Areon. Xee is Asexual, graduated from school a decade back, and works the Tea Shop his parents have owned since they moved there from the Fae realm four or five decades back. Areon, he, well, they, but that’s rather new, has lived in the city since they were a kid, and they have been getting tea (both literal and metaphorical) from the Tea Shop for years, always from Xee. 

The only thing larger than their tea addiction is their crush on Xee. Now, if only Areon’s hair didn’t turn bright pink every time they talked to Xee, giving away how embarrassed they were, that would be great! 

One day, though, Aeron walks into the Tea Shop, determined. Their hair is purple, and they manage to do what had been impossible. Ask Xee on a date. Or coffee. But not tea. Definitely not tea. 

Xee agrees, of course, and says that while he loves all of Areon’s colors – purple is his new favorite.

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Pitch by Shea Sullivan:

Kyle hates that he has to put on his human skin every day and work at the coffee shop, but ocean jobs are reserved for those that can’t work on land. The bipeds assume he’s one of them. His friends at home don’t have the recessive gene that would give them skins. 

He really is a fish—octopus—out of water. 

Then he meets Nigh, a customer who hates the ocean but smells of kelp and salt and rides a skateboard like he’s underwater. He’s everything Kyle might want if he had time to do something foolish like fall in love.

(A version of this story pitch is in Add Magic to Taste)

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Pitch by A. A. Weston:

35+ hedge witch who runs a bookstore (or similar) keeps magically bambozzling postal workers to deliver to the wrong address so she can talk to the cute owner of the bakery three doors down. Tooth rottingly sweet (pun intended) disaster gay/bi shenanigans.

(note on this one and the next that detailed, appealing, and plotty doesn’t have to mean long – it’s possible to get the entire idea across very succinctly and still have it be appealing!)

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Pitch by G. Hendrickson:

A wlw bakery run by a witch and her familiar. A new customer has become a regular and the witch is besotted. Her familiar tries to get them together, even though she also loves her witch. Love triangle shenanigans are ended when the witch reveals she didn’t want to pursue her familiar because of the power imbalance. The new regular reveals they don’t want to choose between the two because they thought the familiar was just the messenger for both. The solution is a happy, bubbling bakery run by that cute poly-triad.

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Pitch by Adrian Harley:

Maria Birch, former child star, ducks into Genre Blends Tea Shop on a summer afternoon to escape the prying eyes of paparazzi and be left alone for a few precious moments. She strategically picks one of the couches closest to the back exit and hopes her new seatmate won’t recognize her behind her sunglasses and floppy hat. But when her new seatmate burns her mouth on her tea and tears up staring at a crossword, Maria breaks her own isolation to see if she can help. 

Teravilis, a dragon shifter escaped from the government lab where she’s lived her whole life, is already feeling overwhelmed before a towering, beautiful woman sits down on the next couch. The wider world has too many people, too many pastry options, and too many crossword clues that make no sense. When Maria reaches out, though, Teravilis learns that some things outside a lab-controlled environment can still be simple. 

Will disgruntled paparazzi and furtive government agents interrupt this blissful afternoon? Not if a mild-mannered, glasses-wearing barista has anything to say about it.

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Pitch by T. S. Knight:

This story begins when Shiloh heads to La Vie Café to meet with the Reincarnation Support Group (for women who believe they have been reincarnated) in Philadelphia. She claims that she is the reincarnated version of a man who died 25 years ago. Convinced that she is (or was) this person, Shiloh has discovered that her widowed wife is still alive and working nearby. Shiloh hopes that the support group will help her decide if and how she might talk to beautiful Aline. While the group of fabulous and predominately queer women are glad to chat, Shiloh quickly realizes that none of them actually believe in reincarnation and instead see the group as an opportunity to spend time together. Though these are kind and lovely women, socializing isn’t going to solve her frighteningly real reincarnation problem, but at least there are pastries and coffee and new friends.

(A version of this story pitch is in Add Magic to Taste; note that T. S. Knight requested and was granted permission to slightly edit this pitch from the original submitted one, as there were things in it that didn’t end up in the published version that they hope to use in a future story)

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The Masquerade Commences on January 31st, 2022

Welcome to Duck Prints Press LLC’s newest project: a pair of anthologies which share the same theme, but feature different kinds of relationships. For these anthologies, we seek pitches for stories featuring masquerades – the more unusual, the better! 

She Wears the Midnight Crown and He Bears the Cape of Stars will each be collections of eighteen 6,000-word stories. She Wears the Midnight Crown will feature wlw relationships; He Bears the Cape of Stars will feature mlm relationships. Genderqueerness and polyamory welcome! Where do you come in? You tell us! We want to know how you think those relationships unfold at an unusual or trope-subverting masquerade.

For these projects, we’re seeking 20 fanfiction authors who have not published their work with the Press before and who are interested in making the transition to publishing their original work! (The 16 remaining spots are reserved for authors who have previously worked with us.) New applicants must have published fanfiction, and must want to write an original story, aligned with our theme, of up to 6,000 words in length, at a minimum pay of 1 cent US per word – and with a maximum earning potential of up to 8 cents per word, depending on how our crowd funding goes. And, in case you didn’t know…our first crowd-sourced project, Add Magic to Taste? Successfully funded and earned enough to pay authors the maximum. This is a great opportunity for fanfiction writers who aspire to transition to writing professionally to get some experience, build a resume, and see their work in print!

This post is not a call for story submissions. Like a fandom zine, we’re asking prospective authors to submit writing samples and brief story pitches. We’ll select authors based on these samples and pitches. You must write and post fanfiction to apply to these anthologies, but all stories in She Wears the Midnight Crown and He Bears the Cape of Stars will be 100% original!

Want to be one of the selected authors? Now is your chance! Learn more about this project:

Applications open right now, December 15th, 2021, and will remain open until December 31st, 2021 – or until we get 150 qualified applicants, so don’t wait until the last minute! Review the rules, ask us any questions you have, prepare your submission story and story pitch, and then…

APPLY NOW!

photograph: taken for Duck Prints Press by Alessa Riel.

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Do you – yes, YOU! – want a say in what the theme of our next anthology will be?

With the Kickstarter for “Add Magic to Taste” now finished, and the Kickstarter for our second anthology, “And Seek (Not) to Alter Me,” gearing up to launch in the mid to late fall, we at Duck Prints Press are starting to look forward to what our next big project will be!

Some decisions, we’ve already made:

  • We’ll be launching anthologies 3 and 4 simultaneously, with a projected Kickstarter campaign in May or June of 2022. The two anthologies will each have the same theme; the difference is – one will be ONLY wlw stories, the other ONLY mlm stories (both will include any genderqueer folk who would consider themselves as falling under the umbrella of wlw or mlm; both will include poly).
  • We’ll be opening applications likely in October or November (our first call for applicants since last winter!) We will, as always, be open to applicants who are fanfiction authors interested in publishing their original work.
  • Every story, regardless of our theme, must have a “happily ever after” or “happily for now” ending. (HEA/HFN guaranteed!)

Some decisions, we’ve not yet made:

  • How many authors will be in each anthology
  • How long each story will be
  • How we’ll handle returning authors/authors who’ve already worked with us and want to do so again
  • Probably plenty of other stuff we haven’t thought of.

But ONE BIG DECISION, YOU CAN HELP US MAKE!

Which decision is that, did I hear you ask?

What will the theme of our next anthologies be?

Our Management team has brainstormed for the last two weeks and settled on a list of seven potential themes!

Those themes are:

  • Solarpunk in modern, utopian, and science fiction settings
  • Hurt/comfort in science fiction settings
  • Robot uprisings in any setting
  • Masquerades in any setting
  • Love in the public eye (as in, celebrities, politicians, athletes, etc.) in any setting
  • Love across time (as in, time travel, dimension hopping, etc.) in any setting
  • Trapped together in science fiction settings

Do you want to help us pick between these seven themes, and have a say in what mlm and wlw stories are written in our next collections?

Well, you can! How?

Back our Patreon!

Kickstarter support enables us to publish books, but Patreon support enables us to continue operation long term. Money from our Patreon pays for monthly fees on software we use, hourly rates on consultants we hire, legal advice, and more. The more we’re able to raise through our Patreon, the more we’re able to pay to authors, artists, and other contributing creators when we do Kickstarters – because our overhead is getting covered by the Patreon support! We offer four backer levels – $3 per month, $5 per month, $10 per month, and $25 per month. All our Patrons get awesome extras – the higher your backing, the more you get:

  • exclusive stories!
  • bonus merchandise!
  • access to our Discord!
  • free books!
  • voting rights on surveys to determine our anthology themes!
  • and more!

So, if you want to help Duck Prints Press, and you want to get more involved, and you want to nudge us toward making the kinds of books you most want to read?

Become a Duck Prints Press Patron, and help us publish amazing (and amazingly queer!) books!