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Answered Ask: Catering to Fanfic writers vs. Other Writers

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.)

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Book Publishers Day

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?

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How to Navigate the Duck Prints Press Trello

Did you know we use a Trello for task management and it is completely transparent and publicly accessible?

Well, now you know!

The Duck Prints Press Trello is here.

When we first released it, we got an ask about how to use it; below is a Trello tutorial for those unfamiliar with how to use it, focused specifically on our boards and how they’re organized!

While we’re still hammering out the details on how best to organize the Trello for utility both for us as we organize things and to the public – in particular, I’ll need to tweak how it’s set up if we’re going to effectively use the built-in calendar functionality – here’s how it’s set up now.

Note: all screen caps were taken on September 17th, 2022, and do not reflect the exact current organization or the current project status of the items shown in the captures.

LISTS:

The highest level of organization on a Trello Board is the lists. We’ve currently got a whole bunch of different lists.

At a Glance: this is the “overview” lists. It includes all of our current projects, and all of our regular/general management. Those are organized on Cards – more on that next.

Task Implementation Check Lists: we were having trouble sometimes remembering everything that needed to be done for certain “big” tasks we do regularly (such as publishing a story on our website) so we’ve begun to create guide lists to help us remember every process step that needs to be done. This also helps as we grow and more tasks are delegated.

Merchandise: lists all the merchandise we’ve currently got in production/in process, and what their current status is. (it does NOT include merch produced for past campaigns/activities)

After those two, we have a whole bunch of lists that all serve the same function: they indicate what stage of editing we’ve completed for each of a number of stories we’re currently working on.

  • Developmental – Writing in Progress: first draft isn’t done
  • Developmental – Draft Completed: first draft is done, waiting for an editor
  • Concept Editing – First Pass Completed: a concept-edit run has been returned to the author and is pending their review
  • Concept Editing – Second Pass Completed: a second concept-edit run has been returned to the author and is pending their review.
  • Copy – First Edits Completed: a SPAG edit run has been returned to the author and is pending their review.
  • Copy – Second Pass Completed: a second SPAG edit run has been returned to the author and is pending their review.
  • Copy – Final Edits Completed: a final/clean-up SPAG edit run has been returned to the author and is pending their review.
  • Final Edits Approved, Contract Sent and Pending Signature: the author has approved the final edit run and has been sent their contract.
  • Story Completed, Contract Signed, Author Paid, Preliminary Formatting Done: what it says on the tin
  • Typesetting – First Pass: the typesetter has done the first run on formatting the story for print.
  • Typesetting Completed: what it says on the tin.

Not every story needs every one of these steps, and sometimes stories need more concept or SPAG runs than this, but we thought this division reflected the process stories go through most often. All task cards feature the author’s chosen pen name and the current working title of the story, if it has one.

Completed Project Lists: the next lists feature information on our completed projects, and can function as a (difficult to navigate and poorly organized but existent!) list of what’s available in our shop. It’s divided into four categories, reflecting the four places where our projects usually “end up” when they’re completed. (A fifth end point is “in an anthology,” and then that anthology, rather than the individual title, will be on this list when it’s completed).

  • Main Imprint: Available For Purchase on Our Website – stories published under the Duck Prints Press imprint that are currently listed in our webstore.
  • Erotica Imprint: Available For Purchase on Our Website – stories published under the Duxxx Prints Press imprint that are currently listed in our webstore.
  • Merchandise for Sale on Our Website – what it says on the tin. 😀
  • Monthly Backer Reward Stories – completed stories that have been posted for our Patreon and ko-fi backers.

Long-Term Ideas, Lists, Information We May Need Someday: the last of our lists is what it says on the tin. We keep track of ideas for future anthologies, potential merch, things we’ve thought of and gone “we can’t do that now but maybe someday…” etc., and we just toss it all there so that the ideas don’t get lost.

CARDS:

Every List is composed of Cards. Each Card reflects one category of “thing that needs to be done.” There are a lot of ways to actually set up lists and cards (and we may change ours in the future) but currently, we’ve chosen the following approach:

Cards for all our main projects/overarching “areas” in which we’re working. These are on the At a Glance List.

Cards for all currently in-progress Merchandise, on the Merchandise list.

Cards for all stories we have in-progress at the moment, on the appropriate Lists for their current status.

Cards for some over-arching categories of “things for not now,” on the Long-Term Ideas list.

All the Cards on At a Glance have the same basic structure. If you click on the Card, you’ll be able to see sub-tasks/checklists related to the items on that list. For example, here’s the Recurring Tasks Card:

This is one of the most complex of the Cards, as it includes all the activities we engage in daily, weekly, monthly, and annually to keep the business running smoothly. Other “management” related Cards on this list include two related to our weekly management meetings and monthly all-server meetings, and the General Task Card, which lists a whole slew of background activities that we’ve been working on and/or intend to do (divided into separate checklists for each category, cause there are just so many).

Then, below the the general Cards the cards for specific projects. Here’s the one for He Bears the Cape of Stars and She Wears the Midnight Crown.

This, and the other specific project Cards, list all the tasks we currently know of/have thought of that need to be done for the given project. The checklists give a quick idea of what the task is, and indicates the current status of that task. A few also have dates attached to them, though not most cause we don’t tend to treat deadlines as that “hard” internally – we prefer to maintain flexibility considering how many people are involved in these projects and how complex all our lives are and how the world just, ya know, is right now.

As we complete tasks, we move them into the Comments section at the bottom of the Card. Because we only recently implemented this public system (previously, we worked from a private Trello that looked a lot like this but was just a bit messier and not designed to be viewed by outsiders, like, we used a lot of shorthand, that kind of thing) it doesn’t include tasks completed before we implemented this system, but we’ve been doing our best to keep on top of it since we opened the public Trello. For example, here’s the completed tasks for our upcoming anthology that we expect to open recruitment for on October 1st:

So, I think that’s the basic?

If there’s something more specific that anyone trying to use the Trello is finding confusing, I’m happy to expand this tutorial – I tend to figure that if one person has a question and actually tells me they have a question, there are at least a half-dozen other people who had the same question and decided for whatever reason not to ask. We’re committed to transparency, and the Trello is one of the biggest facets of that, so ensuring it’s navigable for newcomers is really important to us. It’s hard to create a public-facing system that maintains a certain degree of confidentiality and still serves our needs for managing the business, and also just – we’ve got a lot going on basically all the time (and more and more as we grow), so there’s a lot that has to go on there, which means by necessity it’s complicated. I do worry that if it’s really complex, it’ll serve to create obscurity instead of transparency, but…well, we’re doing our best, and we’ll keep doing our best, and we hope that when questions/issues/concerns/delays/etc. do arise, people will continue to be as patient with us as they have been! <3


Want to know more?

  • You can see our up-to-date (and used daily!) Trello here.
  • You can learn more about the Press in general, where we started, and where we’re going, here.
  • All our completed projects are available in our webstore.
  • Anyone who wants more information about “behind the scenes,” your best bet is to back us on Patreon or ko-fi – that’s where we post all the juicy details as we work every day to bring more amazing stories to y’all!
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The Duck Prints Press Style Guide

Do you love the nuts and bolts of writing? Have you always been confused by the difference between a hyphen, an en dash, and an em dash? Do you want an easy-to-use, free resource to help you improve your technical skills related to spelling and grammar?

We are here to help!

After months of work, we’ve polished the Duck Prints Press style guide until it shone and shared it publicly on our website!

This valuable resource includes a ton of information, and we’re expanding it regularly. While it’s especially relevant to people working with us (especially our growing editor staff!), it can also be of general use to the authorly public. That said, though, always make sure that when you submit to a publisher you focus on their style guide, because no two publishers are going to resolve these issues in exactly the same way. And when we say “issues,” we mean “all those areas where the major style guides (we use the Chicago Manual of Style 17th Edition) don’t offer unambiguous answers,” such as:

  • Oxford commas (we use them)
  • How to handle capitalization around certain punctuation choices, especially in dialogue (…it depends on the circumstance)
  • Which interrobang to use (?! or !?)
  • When to spell out numbers versus when to use numerals (…it’s complicated)
  • Incorporating words that use accents and/or special characters (we always use special characters unless the author suggests we not)
  • Spacing around ellipses and em dashes (…again, it’s complicated)

…and many other incredibly tiny, fiddly editor things that 9 out of 10 readers won’t notice but that that tenth reader has very strong opinions about.

Ultimately, putting a clean, professional-looking manuscript out to the reading public requires that an editorial staff make decisions on all these kinds of issues and many others. It doesn’t so much matter which direction the staff goes (there’s not a huge difference between putting regular spaces versus thin spaces versus hair spaces around em dashes); what matters is that whatever choices are made, they’re implemented consistently. To ensure that consistency, we’ve written and now use this internal, Press-specific style guide.

And now, if you want, you can use that style guide too!

Happy writing, and feel free to let us know if you’ve got questions we haven’t addressed in the guide. Fiddly editory spelling and grammar is our jam!


Want to learn more? Some related posts!


Have a question? Drop us an ask on Tumblr!

Love what we do? Become a monthly backer of our Patreon and ko-fi to get lots of behind-the-scenes content, exclusive access, bonus extras, free stories, and more!

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Do You Tiktok?

Well, now we do too! We’ve actually had the account for ages, and we’ve batted around a lot of ideas for how to use it without implementing any of them, but now we’ve posted our first video there. Long-term, we hope to post there regularly; at the moment, if you use Tiktok and want to give us a follow, expect intermittent posts: unboxings, asks answered, slice-of-life, book gushing, readings, and of course ducks (always ducks!), that kind of thing.

Our account is here!

And our first video? Why, here of course! It’s a video of me (Nina Waters, the Press owner!) unboxing the patches for the crowdfunding campaign for She Wears the Midnight Crown and He Bears the Cape of Stars. The merch was produced by Alchemy, featuring artwork by Reship KMN (Tumblr | Twitter).

@duckprintspress

Duck Prints Press Unboxes: Patches for “He Bears the Cape of Stars” and “She Wears the Midnight Crown.” Art by Reshipkmn, Manufactured by Alchemy.

♬ original sound – duckprintspress

Have something you’d like to see a member of the Press talk about in a video? Let us know and we’ll see what we can do to make it happen!

We’ll also be cross-posting videos on Instagram and YouTube, so even if you don’t have Tiktok, don’t worry – you’ve got options to make sure you don’t miss out!

Oh, and here’s a pic of the patches – they’re so beautiful and sturdy! I can’t wait to send them out to everyone.

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Current Projects and Their Statuses

We received the following ask on Tumblr:

Hi, Friendly anon here! I was wondering if y’all had any updates on your projects? I found a reference to a Trello taskboard thing that looked like it might have some but I got waaaaay confused trying to understand it. How goes everything?

And, our answer!

Hey anon!

Yeah, we’ve publicly shared our Trello here but for someone who’s not familiar with how Trello boards are set up I can absolutely see how it could be confusing. So I’m figuring I can answer this Ask two-fold: first with what we’re actually up to right now, and second with a quick how-to that’d hopefully help with understanding the Trello in the future.

Current Projects and Their Statuses:

And Seek (Not) to Alter Me: Kickstarter fulfillment is complete except for people who haven’t done their backer surveys. We are planning to release the e-book and some surplus merch on our website on October 1st, so we’ve been doing work related to that: taking pictures, preparing shop listings, working on our controlled vocabulary, etc.

He Bears the Cape of Stars and She Wears the Midnight Crown: we’ve got virtually all the merchandise here and ready to go with a few exceptions; the bath bombs still need to be repackaged, the patches are currently shipping and are slated to arrive on Wednesday, and chocolates we won’t get until it’s time to ship, so they won’t spoil while sitting around waiting. We’re still hard at work on the books themselves and the stories. There are a total of 36 stories in the two collections; as of right now, 19 stories are completely done/edited/ready to go, and 7 more are close (at the final step before completion). The rest are in various stages of editing. We’ve ended up behind our originally (intentionally optimistic) projected schedule for a variety of reasons, but we’re well within the range of our more “pessimistic” projections, which had us fulfilling in March or so. As it is, we expect to be able to complete fulfillment/ship people’s purchases in early November.

Our Next Anthology: we’ve been hard at work on the planning for our second Queer Fanworks Inspired By… anthology. We’ve hammered out all the details, figured out a schedule, got a title, drafted and edited the websites and surveys that include the rules, guidelines, recruitment stuff, etc., and we anticipate launching recruitment (which will mostly be internal) on October 1st.

An Enamel Pin Campaign: we originally intended to launch a campaign featuring only enamel pins in September. We’re still planning to launch it, but we had so many ideas that we’ve struggled to narrow them down, and so odds are we’ll be launching this in October instead. Right now, we’ve narrowed it to a specific theme and right now we’re voting on which specific pins we want within that theme.

General Business Tasks: as we’re getting closer to finishing the stories for He Bears the Cape of Stars and She Wears the Midnight Crown we’ve been tackling a back-log of more general tasks. For example, we’ve opened up opportunities for authors we’ve worked with to publish their solo original works (as in, personal projects by our authors instead of themed anthologies) and we’re in the process of reviewing the interest checks people sent in, gathering more information from the authors, and getting the ball rolling on having more stand-alone/solo projects coming down the pipes. This is an essential step in widening the scope of what we publish, and we are aiming to start getting out roughly a novel a quarter starting this winter. Also, starting in October, we expect to publish a short story per week on our website, though we’re still getting the ducks in a row to make that a reality so consider that tentative, not official. We’ve also also been expanding the resources part of our website, preparing a style guide, an e-book formatting guide, a fandom lexicon, and more. Our resource-related posts have tended to be well-received, and also because the resources are free we consider providing them an important part of our mission of helping fanfiction author publish their works: even someone who never works with DPP can benefit from a public, free, thorough, professional-level guide that helps them format their story for e-book publication without needing any special/expensive software, for example.

That’s…all the basics I think? there’s also a continuous background buzz of Things That We Do – regular blogging, daily monitoring/upkeep on our social media, maintaining our Patreon and ko-fi accounts, accounting, end-of-month and beginning-of-month fiscal activities, etc. – all the day-to-day activities that keep a business (even a business as small and new as this one) running.

How to Navigate the Trello

So, while we’re still hammering out the details on how best to organize the Trello for utility both for us as we organize things and to the public – in particular, I’m going to need to tweak how it’s set up if we’re going to effectively use the built-in calendar functionality – here’s how it’s set up now.

LISTS:

Image

The highest level of organization on a Trello Board is the lists. We’ve currently got a whole bunch of different lists.

At a Glance: this is the “overview” lists. It includes all of our current projects, and all of our regular/general management. Those are organized on Cards – more on that next.

Merchandise: lists all the merchandise we’ve currently got in production/in process, and what their current status is. (it does NOT include merch produced for past campaigns/activities)

After those two, we have a whole bunch of lists that all serve the same function: they indicate what stage of editing we’ve completed for each of a number of stories we’re currently working on.

  • Developmental – Writing in Progress: first draft isn’t done
  • Developmental – Draft Completed: first draft is done, waiting for an editor
  • Concept Editing – First Pass Completed: a concept-edit run has been returned to the author and is pending their review
  • Concept Editing – Second Pass Completed: a second concept-edit run has been returned to the author and is pending their review.
  • Copy – First Edits Completed: a SPAG edit run has been returned to the author and is pending their review.
  • Copy – Second Pass Completed: a second SPAG edit run has been returned to the author and is pending their review.
  • Copy – Final Edits Completed: a final/clean-up SPAG edit run has been returned to the author and is pending their review.
  • Final Edits Approved, Contract Sent and Pending Signature: the author has approved the final edit run and has been sent their contract.
  • Story Completed, Contract Signed, Author Paid, Preliminary Formatting Done: what it says on the tin
  • Typesetting – First Pass: the typesetter has done the first run on formatting the story for print.
  • Typesetting Completed: what it says on the tin.

Not every single story ends up needing every single one of these, and sometimes stories need more concept or SPAG runs than this, but we thought this division reflected the process stories go through most often. We’ve given the stories basic anonymizing so that no author feels “called out,” though more often than not it’s the editing team that’s behind, not the authors.

Long-Term Ideas, Lists, Information We May Need Someday: the last of our lists is what it says on the tin. We keep track of ideas for future anthologies, potential merch, things we’ve thought of and went “we can’t do that now but maybe someday…” etc., and we just toss it all there so that the ideas don’t get lost.

CARDS:

Every List is composed of Cards. Each Card reflects one category of “thing that needs to be done.” There are a lot of ways to actually set up lists and cards (and we may change ours in the future) but currently, we have:

Cards for all our main projects/overarching “areas” in which we’re working. These are on the At a Glance List.

Cards for all currently in-progress Merchandise, on the Merchandise list.

Cards for all stories we have in-progress at the moment, on the appropriate Lists for their current status.

Cards for some over-arching categories of “things for not now,” on the Long-Term Ideas list.

All the Cards on At a Glance have the same basic structure. If you click on the Card, you’ll be able to see sub-tasks/checklists related to the items on that list. For example, here’s the Recurring Tasks Card:

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This is one of the most complex of the Cards, as it includes all the activities we engage in daily, weekly, monthly, and annually to keep the business running smoothly. Other “management” related Cards on this list include two related to our weekly management meetings and monthly all-server meetings, and the General Task Card, which lists a whole slew of background activities that we’ve been working on and/or intend to do (divided into separate checklists for each category, cause there are just so many).

Then, below the the general Cards the cards for specific projects. Here’s the one for He Bears the Cape of Stars and She Wears the Midnight Crown.

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This, and the other specific project Cards, list all the tasks we currently know of/have thought of that need to be done for the given project. The checklists give a quick idea of what the task is, and indicates the current status of that task. A few also have dates attached to them, though not most cause we don’t tend to treat deadlines as that “hard” internally – we prefer to maintain flexibility considering how many people are involved in these projects and how complex all our lives are and how the world just, ya know, is right now.

As we complete tasks, we move them into the Comments section at the bottom of the Card. Because we only recently implemented this public system (previously, we worked from a private Trello that looked a lot like this but was just a bit messier and not designed to be viewed by outsiders, like, we used a lot of shorthand, that kind of thing) it doesn’t include tasks completed before we implemented this system, but we’ve been doing our best to keep on top of it since we opened the public Trello a couple weeks ago. For example, here’s the completed tasks for our upcoming anthology that we expect to open recruitment for on October 1st:

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So, I think that’s the basic?

Because we want to use the Calendar more, we may end up breaking out more of the individual tasks currently listed on checklists on Cards into their own Cards, since the Calendar mostly functions at the Card-level, not at the checklist-item level. If we do that, we’ll likely make additional Lists for our main active projects, with cards for each task that is currently a checklist item. However, that’s not going to happen immediately just cause there are higher priority things to be done.

If there’s something more specific that you’re finding confusing, I’m happy to put together a tutorial – I tend to figure that if one person has a question and actually tells me they have a question, there are at least a half-dozen other people who had the same question and decided for whatever reason not to ask, and as you likely know, anon and everyone else reading this, we’re committed to transparency, and the Trello is one of the biggest, newest facets of that, so ensuring it’s navigable for new comers is really important to us. It’s hard to create a public-facing system that maintains a certain degree of confidentiality and still serves our needs for managing the business, and also just – we’ve got a lot going on basically all the time (and more and more as we grow), so there’s a lot that has to go on there, which means by necessity it’s kinda complicated. I do worry that if it’s really complex, it’ll serve to create obscurity instead of transparency, but…well, we’re doing our best, and we’ll keep doing our best, and we hope that when questions/issues/concerns/delays/etc. do arise, people will continue to be as patient with us as they have been! <3

Hope that helps, and thanks for sending an ask!! We’re always here to help. <3

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Wondering What We’re Working On?

Well, wonder no more!

A week ago (Sunday, August 28th, 2022) we held our second-ever all-server meeting – a now-monthly event inaugurated in July, where everyone involved with Duck Prints Press (authors, artists, designers, ko-fi/Patreon monthly backers, etc.) is invited to jump into a channel on our Discord, listen to some updates on our current projects and upcoming plans, and ask questions, comment, make suggestions, and generally get more involved! At the meeting, many people indicated that they wanted a better idea of what the Press staff are actually doing, on a day-to-day basis, and @hermit-writes (WordPress) suggested it would be easy for us to set up a public-facing Trello board, especially because we already use Trello to do most of our behind-the-scenes task organization/management. We opened that up to a general vote and the response was overwhelming, YES WE WANT TO KNOW! So, with Hermit’s help, the thing is now done – and y’all can see too!

As part of Duck Prints Press’s ongoing commitment to transparency, we present you: a Trello board listing what we’re working on and project status, available for everyone to see!

This Trello board includes all of our current projects and short-term plans (roughly the next quarter-or-so), and the status of individual tasks associated with the project. You do not need a Trello account to view it. We expect to add a calendar component to it too (transferring our existing, rather bare-bones, Google Calendar into the Trello so that everything is in one place). We encourage you to take a peek and keep an eye on what we’re up to and how we’re progressing!

As always, we’re here to provide information to our contributors, staff, readership, curious public, really everyone involved in the Press in anyway – so always feel free to let us know if you have questions, comments, feedback, etc.

(and – want to support what we do? we heart our monthly supporters on ko-fi and Patreon, and we’d love to have you, yes YOU, on board too!)

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FAQ: Does Duck Prints Press use #OwnVoices?

Long time no post – I (Nina Waters, the Press owner) have been away for a couple of weeks, and despite my hopes to keep things active, I wasn’t able to do so. But, I’m back now, and ready to catch up on things I did before or during my trip, and/or things that crop up now!

For starters – right before my departure I received a question in my e-mail. The below is paraphrased from the original ask, and my answer is slightly edited for readability.

Question: What is Duck Prints Press’s stance on the #ownvoices tag?

We don’t use #ownvoices, ever, because what was created as a tag to help highlight creators speaking on their own experiences became a bludgeon to bully people and force them to out themselves. We say publicly that we primarily aim to work with LGBTQIA+ authors to publish LGBTQIA+ stories, but we don’t actually require that our creators be any form of queer, nor do their stories/artwork/creations have to feature LGBTQIA+ characters or themes. No one ever has to disclose more about their identity than they wish to, nor does anyone have to use a real name (outside of contracts, which are of course not shared), link any social media accounts, etc. – since we only share the info our creators explicitly want shared, they can publicize as much or as little as they’d like to about themselves – then can go “full public” and use their actual name to write, share all their social media, etc., or they can deny the public access to them beyond a pen name, or anything in between. We use this approach to protect creators and make sure no one will be forced to out themselves, and while the Press is primarily aimed at LGBTQIA+ themes, we’ll of course apply the same approach to other aspects of author identity – race, ethnicity, religion, etc. In all respects, the creators themselves choose how much to disclose, and we will never share anything beyond what they’ve authorized.

Our views on the #ownvoices tag were primarily formed based on this blog post from We Need Diverse Books.

All that said, since we’re so explicitly a queer-focused Press, there’s always a danger that people will assume our creators are some flavor of queer whether they are or not, but we really can’t help what other people assume, and we never explicitly say that creators MUST be queer (nor do we require it privately – we have worked with creators who aren’t queer). If you’re ever wondering about a specific creator, we encourage you to check out our various author biography pages for our anthologies and the Press as a whole, and see what the creators have, and have not, chosen to share!

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Merchandise Spotlight: Campaign Bookmarks and Pins!

The Seed&Spark campaign for He Bears the Cape of Stars and She Wears the Midnight Crown includes a lot of gorgeous merchandise options. Today, we’re taking a look at two of them!

Bookmarks

Our Bookmarks, one aligned with She Wears the Midnight Crown, the other with He Bears the Cape of Stars, feature the lovely artwork of Pippin Peacock.

Bookmark for She Wears the Midnight Crown.
Bookmark for He Bears the Cape of Stars.

With printing by UPrinting, who have also printed the campaign bookmarks for Add Magic to Taste and And Seek (Not) to Alter Me, our first two anthologies, we know that this merch will be gorgeous in high-gloss on quality, thick cardstock. The back of the She Wears the Midnight Crown bookmark will feature the signatures of the authors who contributed to that book; likewise, contributors to He Bears the Cape of Stars provided their signatures so we could share them on the back of that bookmark!

The bookmarks are each 2 in x 7.25 in (5 cm x 18.5 cm) and will have rounded corners, a 3/16 in hole at the top center, and gold tassels!

Enamel Pins

We’ve once again contracted Miss Aceriee to create artwork for our enamel pins, and the results are simply stunning. (In fact, Miss Aceriee produced so many lovely ideas that we had trouble picking – more on that later!). Miss Aceriee took our inspiration and ran with it, creating a design for two pins that are each lovely as stand-alone pieces, and even more amazing when paired!

Enamel pin designs aligned with She Wears the Midnight Crown (left) and He Bears the Cape of Stars (right).

For manufacturing purposes, we will be working with Alchemy for the third time – the pins they made for each of our previous campaigns have turned out fantastically. These pins will each be approximately 2 in x 1 in (5 cm x 2.5 cm), with two back-prongs to help ensure they attach securely. The metalwork is gold, with matching butterfly pin backers. The enamel work will be soft enamel with a clear epoxy coating, and one color (the dark green-blue) on each will have glitter to make it extra sparkly.

Bonus: Backer-Exclusive Reward!

We had so much trouble deciding which of Miss Aceriee’s designs to use as the campaign pins that we decided, first, to have a third/fourth pin offered as a stretch goal (if we hit $26,000 in funding, everyone who backed the campaign at level 5+ will receive one or both pins as extras!), and second, that we’d make the same design we chose for that into a die-cut sticker for some of our monthly backers. People who back Duck Prints Press monthly on Patreon or ko-fi at the $10 or $25 level, AND who back our crowdfunding campaigns, always get an exclusive extra. This time, it’ll be this design in one of these four colorways:

Want to know which of the four will become the sticker? So do we! Our backers can vote on their favorite for the next week, and their wish will be our command – and, if we reach the $26,000 stretch goal, the colors of their choice will also be made into two pins – the sun/crown mask and the star/beard mask, lovely as stand-alone, amazing as an interlocking pair!

So, if you’re a backer, go vote, and if you’re not a backer yet – no time like the present to become one!

You, yes YOU, can support us on Patreon or ko-fi!

And you can back the He Bears the Cape of Stars and She Wears the Midnight Crown Campaign HERE!

(Also, just sayin’ – it’s also the last 24 hours to have a say in the theme of our next Queer Fanworks Inspired By… anthology on Patreon or ko-fi – that poll is open to ALL our backers; the sticker poll is only open to backers at the $10 and $25 levels, since they’re the only folks who receive the exclusive campaign extra.)

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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!!