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A Brief(ish) History of Duck Prints Press

For this week’s blog feature, I thought I’d talk a little about how Duck Prints Press came about. (hi, it’s @unforth​!)

In 2012, an old friend of mine – @fireun​, now Burdock, they/them – got in touch to suggest that I submit a story to an anthology for which they would be the anthologist. That project became Fight Like a Girl, a successfully Kickstarted anthology with over 20 contributors. Having gotten a taste for anthologizing (is that a word? it is now…) fireun proposed a second anthology – What Follows – to which I also contributed, and they made an attempt at a third which never got off the ground. fireun’s dream was to work with new, young authors – many of whom we had met while attending World Fantasy Convention over the years – to help them get their first writing credentials, pay them a market rate, and springboard them into further writing careers. However, by the third anthology it became clear there was a challenge to: new authors didn’t have the clout to successfully launch Kickstarters. fireun couldn’t raise the funds to pay authors what they deserved.

Around when the second anthology came out in 2014, I also finished the first draft of a novel that eventually became A Glimmer of Hope, and I began to post fanfiction (having been a lurking reader for several years). As I joined fanfiction author communities, I realized there was a vast untapped pool of writing talent – individuals who, for a multitude of reasons, weren’t interested in pursuing traditional publishing but might still want to get their original work out into the world. Furthermore, unlike the new authors that fireun invited to their anthologies, the fic authors had a following which could potentially help raise the funds necessary to pay for a project.

(read more…)

These two ideas combined over the summer of 2015. We got to talking – could we work with both these audiences? Could we make this into a company? What would that company to look like and how would it be structured? What kinds of works would we want to publish? I especially sank my teeth into the project, doing a lot of research – on competitors (ask me about Big Bang Press sometime…), on similar models, on pay scales and legalities and many other aspects of starting a business. We planned to meet in June, then it got pushed back to July…and then I found out I was pregnant, and fireun was trying to leave a bad relationship, and the whole project derailed – shelved, but not forgotten.

Several times, I tried to revive fireun’s interest, but they increasingly were moving in a different direction with their life (nothing wrong with that, they’re much happier now, and we’re still friends). Thus, I forged forward alone.

Based on the research I’d done in 2015 (and which I re-did periodically to make sure it was current), I had a basic idea of what I wanted to create: a Limited Liability Corporation, owned by me but with a team to help since it’s way more than one person can do alone. I’d looked into Book View Cafe, a cooperative publisher that works with established authors to put out works they want to do but for whatever reason don’t want to go a traditional root with, and I loved the idea of a co-op (that remains our ultimate goal). By reducing initial outlay costs on editing, graphic design, and other “basics,” and doing a lot of the production work on a barter basis, we could minimize expenses and maximize the amount we pay authors. I started quietly sending out feelers, to see what other fanfiction authors might be interested in joining something like this, and found a lot of support that helped me think the core idea would be viable.

But could we make money? I need to prove that, to myself and in a way demonstrable to others, before I could proceed.

Despite having a rough pregnancy, and then an infant, I edited and preparing A Glimmer of Hope for self-publishing (I also have my own reasons I’m not interested in pursuing traditional publishing). In fall, 2016, drawing on the support of people who enjoyed my fanfiction, I successfully funded a Kickstarter for A Glimmer of Hope, which convinced me that my core idea from the previous summer was sound: working with fanfiction authors who wanted to publish original work could produce enough support to pay for putting out books, especially if those books catered to fanfiction reader’s taste.

If I could do one book by myself and turn a profit, surely many authors working together to produce works of different lengths and anthologies could do even better! Validated, and having found the Kickstarter surprisingly easy to put together, I continued to form my plans.

As I putting together the final draft of A Glimmer of Hope, I wanted a publisher imprint to put on the spine and title page, and after a lot of pondering, I settled on Duck Prints Press. This was an homage to fireun and our time in college as roommates, when we pranked each other in increasingly absurd ways that always involved ducks (my favorite was when I propped a bucket of stuffed ducks over their door such that it fell out on their head when they opened the door…another excellent one was when fireun used all the ceiling light drawstrings in our house to hang rubber ducks threateningly around…it all stemmed for a ridiculous AIM conversation, circa 2001, where we swore vengeance on each other over some absurdity but we could only use ducks, Gackt music, and library books to exact our revenge). Ducks were near and dear to my heart because of all this, and strongly associated with my relationship with fireun, so of course I wanted to immortalize that in our name. I also developed the initial version of our duck print logo, with the intention that someday, I’d make the press a fully-realized reality, and not merely an imprint on a single self-published book.

Since I sent those books out in 2016, it’s taken more than 4 years to convert those nascent plans into the reality of Duck Prints Press LLC. I made a push in 2019, and that’s when jhoom, formidablepassion, alessariel and adaille signed on to help. We did a lot of planning then, but fall of 2019 was busy for us and we had to put things on hold, and then 2020 happened (need I say more?).

As the last difficult year came to a close, I reached out to the others and we agreed: 2021 would be our year.

So, here we are, and we’re excited to finally be sharing the dream that started as mine and fireuns, and then was mine alone, and now belongs to many people – and more all the time. We’ll be announcing author recruitment for our first anthology imminently (…probably tomorrow!) and we’re hoping that, just as once fireun hoped to help launch new authors with anthologies, the five of us who run Duck Prints Press will be able to recruit a core team of authors interested in publishing original work with us in the future. We’re very excited – to publish new works, to bring in new readers, to support authors, and to publish original fiction that brings all the joy that our favorite fanfiction elicits.

We couldn’t be more thrilled to be writing books about your new OTPs.

Thanks, everyone, for joining us at the start of this journey. We can’t wait to see what the future holds for all of us!