The State of Furry Publishing – Fred Patten gives the inside story of eight groups.
by Patch O'Furr
Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.
Back in February 2015, Dogpatch Press published a two-part “History of Furry Publishing” by me. (Part 1 and Part 2) Patch has asked me to contact the furry specialty publishers for a follow-up to bring it up to date.
The traditional “Big Three” furry specialty publishers are FurPlanet Productions in Dallas, Rabbit Valley Books in Las Vegas, and Sofawolf Press in St. Paul. They were profiled in the earlier article. Here is their current status.
FurPlanet has been doing very well, as evidenced by having 24 new titles at Anthrocon 2016. FurPlanet has had dealer tables during 2016 at Further Confusion in January, Furry Fiesta, Anthrocon, and Rocky Mountain Fur Con, and plans to appear at Mephit FurMeet, Furry Migration, and Midwest FurFest in December. Besides selling books, FurPlanet has established a strong presence and met a lot of great fans, some of whom have been encouraged to become writers in FurPlanet’s anthologies.
FurPlanet prefers to release new titles at the conventions it attends. Further Confusion in San Jose in January and Anthrocon in Pittsburgh in late June or early July are the big release weekends each year, and publications are aimed for those dates. FurPlanet used to have several releases at RainFurrest in Seattle in late September, but with the disappearance of RainFurrest FurPlanet may shift to Midwest FurFest in Chicago in early December. If something becomes ready at a different time, it is released at the first convention it’s ready for.
Some of FurPlanet’s art folios are annuals. Those usually appear at the same convention each year. FurPlanet and its readers can count on two short fiction anthologies edited by Fred Patten at FC and AC, and an annual volume of FANG and ROAR at AC. Other anthologies, single-author collections, comic books, and one-shot art folios appear as they’re ready.
Erotica clearly sells very well. About 70% of FurPlanet’s sales are adult titles versus 30% of “all ages”. Of the 24 new titles at Anthrocon 2016, only 5 were all ages. FurPlanet’s best selling titles are the comics and books with well-written stories featuring adult themes. Rukis’ novels and comics, and the “Cupcake” novella books have been especially popular.
FurPlanet has three tables together at Anthrocon, so it has a much wider display of titles there. At conventions where it has only two or one table, there are about 100 titles, focusing on what is new or still selling well. Titles that are part of ongoing series will stay on the tables much longer.
Convention sales and online catalogue sales are about equal. Sales of FurPlanet’s print books are much greater than of Bad Dog Books’ e-editions. The Bad Dog e-books are not Amazon’s Kindle books. The only difference is that the Kindle books do not have adult illustrations, due to Amazon’s rules on eBooks. The Bad Dog titles are not censored. That is why many of the Bad Dog eBooks do not appear on Amazon.
For conventions relatively near Dallas, FurPlanet drives its stock there and back in its hatchback. For Further Confusion in California and when it was attending RainFurrest in Seattle, FurPlanet shipped its stock there and flew.
FurPlanet regularly displays Rabbit Valley’s and Sofawolf Press’s titles at conventions where those publishers do not have their own tables. There are no arrangements yet with other publishers, but with several new ones appearing, there could be in the future. FurPlanet has stocked a few mainstream books like the American editions of the French Blacksad and Grandville titles, but those are rare exceptions. FurPlanet’s recent carrying of several of Disney’s Zootopia titles has been due to the extreme interest in Zootopia by many furry fans. There are no plans to carry other books related to anthro-animal movies.
FurPlanet Productions is basically a part-time hobbyist mail-order business in Dallas. Everything there is in a large room called the Production Room. FurPlanet’s stock is kept there, orders are packed and shipped from there, and their bookbinding equipment is there. This room is not open to the public, and there are no plans to open a store front.
FurPlanet consists of four people: FuzzWolf and Teiran, the two owners, and their two long-term employees Buck Turner and Zia McCorgi. All four have regular jobs and run FurPlanet in their spare time. All four appear at almost every convention that FurPlanet displays at. They are sometimes joined by their friends Ajax B. Coriander and Andres Cyanni Halden, who have edited anthologies for FurPlanet in the past.
FurPlanet has this to say:
We’d like to thank everyone, our authors, artists, editors, customers, and helpers, especially Buck and Zia, who have made this all possible for the last eight years.
Rabbit Valley Books
Rabbit Valley Books, technically Rabbit Valley Comics, is doing well enough to publish roughly 18 new titles a year; 4 novels, 3 anthologies, 6 comic books, and 5 art collections or folios. Approximately 30% of these are for general readers, 20% for mature readers, and 50% for adult readers. All Rabbit Valley titles are still in print.
Rabbit Valley is the leader among furry specialty publishers with dealer tables at furry conventions. RV had dealer tables at 10 conventions in 2015, and had agreements with other specialty publishers and bookstores to sell RV titles at an additional 14 conventions, making 24 conventions at which fans could shop for RV titles. New conventions are always being added to RV’s schedule. For 2016 it is planning for 38 events, not all of them furry conventions or in North America. These also include travel to cities to visit good customers outside of conventions. For events within 16 hours of driving time from Las Vegas, RV drives its own truck rather than shipping stock. Areas at which RV stock is displayed and sold include North and South America, the U.K., the European Union, and Australia.
RV’s convention tables, in addition to selling its own titles, regularly stocks those of FurPlanet and Sofawolf Press at conventions where they do not have their own tables. RV regularly picks up titles from independent authors and presses including Weasel Press, Thurston Howl Publications, and a host of other trade paperbacks published by CreateSpace.
RV, mainly Andrew and Sean Rabbitt, has a core staff of three principles and another half-dozen assistants. It operates five to six days a week. Orders are picked, packed, and shipped five days a week with an initial pick run in the morning and a second pick run in the afternoon when needed. All orders for in-stock merchandise ship within 48 hours of being placed, unless the core staff is traveling as noted on the website’s convention and events page. Rabbit Valley operates online and at conventions only, though furs visiting Las Vegas are often invited to visit the RV warehouse and make purchases directly, provided they are okay with paying local taxes.
RV has this to say:
Rabbit Valley has been distributing furry literature in the form of art collections, books, comics, DVD media. fanzines, furry games, hardcovers, independent works, movies, novels, novellas, shirts, toys, and much more since the late 90s. We are the only source to purchase titles from a variety of publishers including, but not limited to, 2 the Ranting Gryfon’s comedy DVDs and CDs, Bernard Doove’s Chakat titles, Bucktown Tiger’s and other furry performers’ music CDs, Radio Comix’s and other furry comic book titles, and issues of Tales of the Tai-Pan Universe.
Sofawolf Press, originally founded in 1999 and incorporated in 2010, is run by its four principal owners (Jeff Eddy, Dale Trexel, Tim Susman, and Mark Brown), with the help of many volunteer editors, designers, and assistants. While it is run as a fully-formed small corporation, it is a labor of love undertaken on top of the owners’ professional careers, and rarely ends the year showing a net profit.
While continuing to produce several new titles a year, the company has been producing a decreasing number of total new titles over the last several years and has also been attending fewer and fewer conventions. President Jeff Eddy credited both the increasing costs of doing business and increased demands on the small team as factors in the decline.
“Conventions, as they have moved from ‘the outskirts of town’ to downtown tower hotels and convention centers, cost a lot more to attend. We only see positive returns from the very largest of cons, and… with the costs of shipping rising along with the size of our backlist, it becomes harder and harder to make conventions work as a viable sales venue for us.” He goes on to say that “Online shipping has also become a problem, with many big retailers offering free shipping thanks to economies of scale we can’t begin to approach. Buyers find it hard to swallow the shipping costs we have to charge just to break even.”
The complexity of running a small business with an entirely volunteer staff has also been an increasing challenge. “As we have gotten more complex, the sheer amount of time spent on accounting and tax compliance has also increased. I spend nearly all of my time these days on logistics, contracts, finances, and operations. No one has the time to be as engaged in the creative part of the process as we used to, and would like to. We’re deeply grateful for everyone who has been pitching in and helping us continue to produce the high quality products readers have come to expect, but a lot of the core operations just can’t be done by anyone else.” The company leases a warehouse in Saint Paul, MN which is not open to the public, but serves their product storage and distribution operations.
What does this mean for the future of Sofawolf Press?
“Bottom line is that some of what we are has to change, but we’d like to think it is going to be a good thing. We have been trying to be both a publisher and a distributor, and in a lot of ways the second half of that has been what has been seriously limiting what we can do with the company. All these resource limitations are driving us to re-evaluate that balance and look for new ways to be self-sustaining as a business, without that taking up all our energy. With some time freed up we can get back to doing the creative things that drew us into the business in the first place; and we have lots of ideas we’d like to explore going forward.”
In addition to the Big Three of the furry small presses, Jarlidium Press is still in business, we overlooked one tiny publisher last year, and there are several newer companies today.
Jarlidium Press of Seattle has continued its two-fur operations, hampered by Tibo’s – James Birdsall’s — needing surgery this year. It had a sales table at Biggest Little Fur Con in Reno in May and Rocky Mountain Fur Con in Denver in August. New titles included collections of Aaron Neathery’s popular Internet graphic novel/comic strip Endtown, issues of North American Fur, and several comic books.
Furry Logic Productions
The overlooked furry small press was Gary Akins’ Furry Logic Productions. It was frankly easy to overlook since it only publishes Akins’ own novels; they’re only available online at his website and at a dealer’s table at the annual Mephit FurMeet; and he hasn’t had a new title in years. Still, they do exist, and Akins has talked about adding some other titles not his own.
Thurston Howl Publications
Thurston Howl Publications is a new operation centered around Nashville, Tennessee. Its first book was the anthropomorphic wolf fantasy, Farmost Star I See Tonight, published in March 2013. Its real debut began with the charity anthology Wolf Warriors in October 2014.
It has grown from one person publishing one book to several staff and publications. As it has grown in experience, its overall quality has also increased. Many of its books are furry titles, but THP is not a furry-exclusive publishing house. THP has not had any sales tables at furry conventions, but its titles have been available through Rabbit Valley’s tables in the U.S, and Fusselschwarm’s in Europe.
“Presently, THP has released eleven titles, with about ten more expected for release within the next year and a half. We publish both furry and non-furry books, and that is not expected to change in the near future. We do publish — and are publishing — novels, anthologies, collections, children’s picture books, and general nonfiction. We have not yet explored the comic or art folio market yet, but we are not closed to the possibility.
“Our print market is significantly higher than our e-book market, namely due to book signings and book release events we hold across the United States. Our e-books have only received minor sales, but we are constantly improving our strategies for marketing.
“We have been distributing some of our books through Rabbit Valley Press at some conventions, as well as Fusselschwarm at some of the European conventions. We have plans for our own tables at conventions in the future, but the company still needs to grow considerably before that can become a possibility.
THP’s Thurston Howl has this to say:
“THP presently has a staff of five to ten editors, three proofreaders, a team of beta readers, a cover design team, two copyeditors, a marketing specialist, an accountant, and Howl, the editor-in-chief and founder. We do not have a physical home location yet, though, in the coming years, I hope to see that become a reality. With the growing of our house, we have constantly been working toward quality process with authors. We accept works that inspire emotion, be it fear, love, passion, adventure, or even the basic happiness and sorrow. We define good writing as writing that moves people in the way the author set out to. As a publishing house, we will help make the language as sharp as it can be, but as long as a work is fixable, marketable, and a progenitor of emotion, we will always accept and publish it. Authors have always been surprised with our traditional publishing house process: query, contracts, major edits, proofreading, formatting, cover design and art, beta reading, and publication and marketing. We hope to be the balanced blending of both furry publishing markets and traditional publishing markets, always looking to support the new author without ever sacrificing quality and integrity. As is the motto of our house, ever onward.”
Weasel Press is similar to THP, with an emphasis on beat generation mentality rather than pro-wolf literature. It prefers not to be tied down to a location (but its owner, Weasel Patterson, is in Manvel, Texas, near Houston), communicating through its locationless website. Its first book was a re-release, Ribbon and Leviathan in April 2014. Today it has 11 books of fiction and nonfiction, 18 of poetry, and just 1 of plays; plus 7 under its Red Ferret Press label for erotica. Most are available on Amazon in paper and Kindle editions.
The WP online catalogue has a “Furry” category for 7 of its books including both fiction and poetry, both Weasel Press and Red Ferret Press. Its furry authors include Vixxy Fox, Bill “Greyflank” Kieffer, and editors Stefano “Mando” Zocchi and Laura “Munchkin” Lewis.
WP emphasizes that it is a beat press, not a furry press. That said, it is eager to expand its furry line and actively solicits new submissions.
Weasel Patterson says that Weasel Press is not without turbulence, but overall it’s doing just fine. It publishes 15 to 20 titles a year, about 1 or 2 of them furry. About 3 or 4 of these are anthologies; the rest are novels and poetry collections. Only a few titles have gone out of print. Sales are almost all of paper editions, since readers who prefer e-books can get Amazon’s Kindle editions, usually for free. WP has not had any sales tables at furry conventions so far, although it hopes to in the future, probably starting at Furry Fiesta 2017.
WP’s Weasel Patterson has this to say:
“Weasel Press is a machine that dishes out some fantastic work. We’re a community driven by madness. We unfortunately do not have a retail shop aside from our Store online, but we do hang out at most Houston, TX literary events. We’ve hosted several poetry readings in the area and work with a lot of groups to keep the indie publishing world thriving. Our staff consists of: Weasel (Myself, main dude, operator, whatever), Sendokidu “the fox” Adomi (Finance guy, Proofreader), Emily Ramser (Editor of Poetry, Layout Design, Editor of Vagabonds: Anthology of the Mad Ones), and Mr. Z.M. Wise (Proofreader, Marketing analyst). Several of our authors have come to our aid. Authors like Neil S. Reddy, David E. Cowen, Matthew David Campbell, R.K. Gold, Sarah Frances Moran, and so much more!! We have all pooled together our time and resources to make Weasel Press what it is today, and I really doubt we’d be where we are at without our community to back us up. Folks can see some of the events we have hosted and projects we have taken on through our YouTube Channel.”
Goal Publications is almost entirely Sean Gerace alone in Plainfield, Connecticut. It hasn’t entirely started yet, but as AnthroAquatic, Gerace has edited and published as e-editions three issues of A Glimpse of Anthropomorphic Literature in 2016 — he plans to publish a paper volume of all three issues combined – and he has edited the first volume of the Furry Writers’ Guild’s literary anthology, Tales from the Guild: Music to Your Ears, published in September 2014 by Rabbit Valley.
What Goal Publications has also done so far is to represent Jaffa Books, Australia’s only furry publisher (so far), in the U.S. Jaffa Books has published two furry books in 2016, one edited by AnthroAquatic, and Gerace has made them available in the U.S. on Amazon. Gerace plans to get Goal Publications going with its own books and its own online catalogue soon, which will include Jaffa Books’ titles for American customers. All six – the three issues of A Glimpse of Anthropomorphic Literature, Tales from the Guild, and the two Jaffa Books titles — are for sale on Goal Publications’ website.