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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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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!