Category Archives: Aunty Fox

Everybody’s Reading

On Thursday 6th October at 5:30pm in Leicester at Bru Gelato, Fox Spirit are doing a special edition of Fox Bites, hosted by the incomparable Ishi Khan-Jackson and with refreshments provided (yes that includes cake) free of charge.4

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It’s all part of Leicester’s Everybody’s Reading Festival so please come along and support, or let me know if you would like to read (5 minute slots, any genre).

It’s going to be awesome!

Lined up to read so far Sarah Davies, Marianne Whiting, Mayapee Chowdhury, Penny Jones, Let me know if you would like to read, otherwise just come along and enjoy the refreshments.

Waxing Lyrical : Accept no Substitutes

Accept no Substitutes.

by Adele Wearing

Please see the Waxing Lyrical category for more information on being part of this series. 

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A little while ago there was a lot of excitement over an openly gay character appearing in an established science fiction universe. The author was a straight white man. There is a lot of this going on, with writers recognising (at last) that people like to have the option of reading about characters more like them. The rise of the #weneeddiversebooks campaign, targeting mainly the young adult arena, certainly drives this point home.

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In itself, this greater representation seems like a good thing. We do need diverse books, we need to see the real variety the world provides represented in our reading, so on the one hand, yes we should all be pleased people are writing more diverse characters. For one thing, it makes books a bit more interesting. For another it’s important that everyone recognises the need for diversity and engages with it the best they can. I just want to take a moment here to stress; no one is saying that anyone else shouldn’t write more diverse characters. Not here anyway.

Of course this apparent progress has given rise to its own issues. How valuable is diversity that is only page deep? What is it people really want? Do we want straight white cis men to be representing everyone? Is that actually diversity or is it just the old guard hanging on to their dominance of genre fiction by telling other people’s stories for them instead of letting them tell their own.

In awards terms this year; The Hugo’s have shown that women and writers of colour are more than capable of writing their own stories and representing themselves, so perhaps the industry needs to open up more space for that and let them. As a side note, the Clarke award demonstrated that it is still ok to be white and male in science fiction, it turns out you just have to write really great books (therein may lie the actual problem for many of the writers crying SJW).

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It’s an insidious issue, because it’s easy to claim the mantle of ‘ally’ by writing diverse characters and it’s very difficult to challenge reasonably. After all it’s not generally that LGBT writers don’t want straight writers having LGBT characters, it’s just, they want a chance to write their own books, their own characters and tell their own stories their way. It’s a near perfect soap box, it’s hard to tell a man who is trying to be an ally to women that he’s not helping, especially as the intentions may be entirely genuine, but if women can’t be heard, can’t be seen due to the sheer number of men selling feminism, then isn’t that at risk of silencing women just as effectively as the people who openly tell them to sit down and be quiet? Effectively you are talking over them, drowning their voices out and you might as well order off the menu for them while you are at it.

It amounts to this for me. If you really want to be an ally draw gay writers into your discussions about gay characters, help them to share some of your platform and be heard.  Readers, if you really want to support diversity you need to read diverse books and that means you need to seek out diverse authors: Nnedi Okorafor, James Bennett, Tade Thompson, and Zen Cho are a few good starting points. You may have to look a little further but when it comes to diverse reading accept no substitutes.

In the Fox Den

We are trying something new at Fox Spirit. Aunty Fox vlogs from the Fox Den.

In this episode I talk about some books I am excited by, in the first episode I talked about Neil Adams MBE’s autobiography. I will be covering a range of topics and they will all be viewable on our youtube channel along with the book promo’s and other video action from Fox Spirit Books.

Please message me @FoxSpiritBooks if you have subjects you would like Aunty Fox to discuss in the Fox Den.

Sisyphus and The Long Tail

Another small press closes its doors. One that has been run sensibly, with a good business head and great books. One that hasn’t madly over reached or got itself into trouble in anyway. So why has it closed?

Well I guess it’s time to speak frankly about the realities of running a small press.

We have over 50 titles out. One has made a profit. A non fiction one. Two others have come close to covering their costs. Then Nun & Dragon counts as profitable because it was done on pure profit share right at the start. It has probably paid for the first couple of years of the URL.

Creating and producing books costs money. In the case of FS, we’re working with people who are willing to take mates’ rates and token payments, but that’s still money. More if it’s an anthology, or has extra artwork. Add to that the costs of author copies and postage, my gods the postage The books are print on demand for us, so that’s printing and shipping in the US to the UK, around £60+ to get the books here, then I post them all on.

So a paperback, of which we sell more, takes roughly £1.00 per copy sold. 70p to the author in most cases. 30p to us. So, to cover costs of the average anthology we need to sell around 1,350 copies. Of each book. And again, these are at the greatly reduced rates for work that we’ve negotiated with friends and people who want us to do well!

This is before we look at the costs of going to events, web hosting, marketing materials, launch events – even an accountant because we are a Ltd company now so we need to do formal business accounts. The annual return to Companies house. It all adds up. We don’t offer many hard copies for review because of the cost. We don’t submit to many awards because, even if you only have to send copies, it’s a cost. Every time we try an advert somewhere new… it’s a cost and a massive risk.

all of the books indie table at Nine Worlds

all of the books indie table at Nine Worlds

The funds come mostly from what the accountant charmingly calls ‘director loans’. Those come out of our day job wages. If we can’t afford to go a friend’s birthday it’s because the money is sunk into getting a book out.

And none of the accounting includes the time myself and my business partner and Mr Fox put in. There is neither the time nor the money for holidays, and much of my time is spent on the verge of burnout. If I seem to nap a lot it’s because I haven’t slept well since Nun & Dragon came out.

Running a small press occupies most of my free time and most of my disposable income. It’s a labour of love and boundless hope and optimism and waking up at 3am worrying about the costs of the latest thing and the lack of sales for my authors and whether the last book went out with typos we’d missed and a million other small things.

If I am saying NO a lot more often it’s because it’s the only way we can survive. I still need to get better at it.

More presses are looking to Patreon to help keep them going, or Kickstarter so books are effectively no or low risk. Many people running small presses have other jobs which either subsidise the press or subsidise the bill paying or both.  Some small presses are folding, it just doesn’t pay. Brexit and the uncertainty and additional costs it brought with it – another nail in the small press shaped coffin.

Thing is, as a business, few small independent presses really make sense. We don’t. Oh, we believe we can get there but it’s a long way and we tell ourselves that we have to survive that little bit longer to start to see that upswing.

BUT…

In a time when large publishers are tightening belts and taking fewer chances on those quirky projects and cross genre works, small press is a life line for a lot of writers. Authors who don’t want to do it all alone, who want editing support, professional cover art, and the business aspect managed by a trusted partner. It’s a lifeline for readers who want something a little different, a way of discovering new voices and new stories, of trying something that fills a peculiar niche or appetite.

If you want to help, if you want to keep your favourite presses open, if you want those unusual little projects to be published… the simple truth is they need more sales. You don’t have to buy all the books yourself – there are other ways you can help. Tell people about them! Review the books! 50 is a magic number on amazon, but 10 is the minimum for any kind of impact, or to even be considered for a lot of marketing systems. Share posts and retweet. Help build word of mouth. Come to their events and their tables and enthuse because honestly just seeing people there and hearing that we are loved can help get through the next month of bleak sales. Put them forward for fan awards, many of us are too dignified to sneakily do this ourselves, but those nominations and long lists mean the world, they mean someone is paying attention. Tweet nice things to the authors because when they get their sales figures and meagre royalties your words help them believe it’s still worth it (like Tinkerbell and the clapping thing).

Moments like this, keep us going.

Moments like this, keep us going.

Small presses may not always be as professional and business-like as larger ones. They may not always go into it knowing everything they should. But the hard truth of it is, if it weren’t for our naïve passion, most of us wouldn’t exist at all.

A little publishing joy

Today on twitter I have been sharing some of the things I love about publishing, because let’s face it, this is a tough industry. Every sale feels hard won, and every finished publication has been a labour of love. I wanted to celebrate the joyous things.

Check out #publishingjoys as other people joined in!

Here are some things I love about publishing.

When you read a story that blows you away and you get to be the one to share it with the world!
‘Discovering’ someone who has never been published before.
Working with incredible creative people who are passionate about what they do!
Getting to hold a book that I was part of creating!
Publishing diverse books and #diversewriters and #womeninSFFnow because I want more of these to read!!
Seeing new writers develop and gain confidence.
When writers come together in your table of contents and build friendships and start new projects.
When one of our authors gets picked up for bigger things. We must be doing something right.
When someone else loves a book you believe in!
Being at events and mingling with your writers and their fans.
Being able to encourage people to submit for the first time!
Being part of something that matters! Story telling is important to us as a species.
Giving more established writers somewhere to do something different.
When you get to publish someone you have read and admired.
Discovering the wealth of amazing talent in places you would never find if you just browse shelves!

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Congratulations Leicester City

Well, I have never been much of a football fan, but I am Lestah born and aside from a brief education based sojourn to Newcastle I’ve lived in the ‘shire all my life. So it is that I can’t help but feel some pride in the Foxes achievement and enjoy the holiday mood in the City.

Congratulations Leicester City Football Club on a job well done, from one skulk to another.

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Diary Dates

Reminders about some Fox Spirit Appearances coming up.

This Thursday 11th Feb we are getting together with DMU Bookshop in Leicester for a Fox Bites event with local author readings.

unromantic tales poster

confirmed readers are: Penny Jones, Leah Osbourne, Marianne Whiting, Margaret Penfold, Mayapee Chowdhury, Daniel Ribot and Cathi Rae

On the 20th February Aunty Fox is a bit further north at the Sheffield Sci Fi Social Club for an evening of talking about books! Hurrah!

On the 3rd March we have our big exciting launch at Forbidden Planet London and we hope to see lots of you there to meet some of the people behind African Monsters and eat cookies. Margret will give a very brief introduction to the concept behind the series and then it’s just chat, enjoy, nibble cookies and get lovely books signed.

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Please join us wherever you can!

Video killed the radio star

In the last couple of weeks Hannah Kate has interviewed both Aunty Fox and Kate Laity on Hannah’s Bookshelf.

The shows are a couple of hours and the interviews cover a wide range of bookish stuff including the Library at the End of Days.

Check out Aunty Fox talking genre, small press publishing and the Art of War.

Hannah’s Bookshelf with special guest Adele Wearing – 30/01/2016 by Hannah’s Bookshelf on Mixcloud

You can also listen to Kate Laity talking books, managing identities and more here.

 

Hannah’s Bookshelf with special guest K. A. Laity – 23/01/2016 by Hannah’s Bookshelf on Mixcloud

African Monsters Launch & Other News

We are delighted to announce that an official launch party for African Monsters will be taking place on 3rd March at London Forbidden Planet, after which we will head off to the pub for more celebrating.

A number of the authors and artists will be attending along with Aunty Fox and both editors of the book. We will have badges identifying us just in case you haven’t met us before.

https://forbiddenplanet.com/events/2016/03/03/african-monsters-forbidden-planet/

The format will be relaxed and casual with a quick introduction then mingling and signing of books. If you would like to ensure a book is waiting for you in the signing area they are available to pre order on the Forbidden Planet website.

We hope to see lots of you there. It’s our first London launch and we are all very excited.

african monsters - small

 

In other news we are co hosting another Fox Bites with DMU Bookshop Leicester. At ‘Unromantic Tales’ on 11th Feb local writers will be reading short stories and excerpts that have nothing at all to do with romance and Valentines day. There may be something of a horror leaning. These are totally free events with drinks and nibbles, so do come along, enjoy some readings and support a local bookstore if you can.

For more information on this and other Fox Bites mini reading events please join the facebook group.

The last bit of news for now is that Fox Spirit are the Creative Leicestershire featured business this month. Creative Leicestershire are a local organisation supporting small creative businesses and helping bring them together. If you are in the region and are building a business in a creative industry it’s worth checking them out for opportunities for support and advice.

 

FantasyCon 2015

Books and Fox Field Bag packed we headed off to Nottingham and the East Midlands Conference Centre for another FantasyCon.

The Event

I arrived on the Saturday morning just as the Friday nighters were emerging for breakfast and in good time to drop some books off with Pendragon Press who I owe a huge thanks to for hosting homeless books, along with Alchemy for taking some copies of Wicked Women, which two of their editors had done under FS. I then headed to my first panel Monster Mash Up with Carrie Buchanan, Cassandra Khaw, Tim Lebbon, Will Macmillan Jones and Moderated by Jon Oliver who had karaoke throat. There was an examination of popular monsters, consideration as to whether there is anything new or we are just looking now to the very old, whether the real monsters are modern politicians, serial killers or every day scumbags and some thoughtful comments on the need for sensitivity when delving into other cultures for exciting new monsters.

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In the afternoon I moderated a panel on Marketing ‘Turn up the volume’ with Sophie Calder, Jo Fletcher, Matt Shaw, Graeme Reynolds and Danie Ware, which started with a fire alarm. Sadly we lost 15 minutes of what was a really interesting panel which meant I only asked about half my questions and the audience were cut a little short to. There were some excellent insights about how publishing has changed in terms of online presence and also in store behaviour, the need for authors to be willing to do a lot themselves and what publishers can offer in terms of guidance and support. In the audience questions we touched on where writers can go for support and advice, some of the well established writing groups that can offer advice, regional writing communities or organisations that offer courses and advice. Many courses run by Creative Leicestershire are completely free.

I thoroughly enjoyed participating in both and I hope everyone else enjoyed them too. A warning to future panel planners, if you put Carrie and I together again and please do, we may continue to riff on the most tasteless news items we can find. 😉

After that I was free to attend some panels which I did and I have to say the standard this year was excellent. Well done to Richard Webb for a huge amount of work and thought!

The Non Humans panels was entertaining and interested and I particularly enjoyed Ren going super dark about AI and people and love and Adrian and Ren discussing ethics and science. Some interesting thoughts generally on what makes something human and writing the alien from all the panel members which included Janet Edwards and Deborah Install and some very nice one liners from Gareth Powell.

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The screenwriting panel proved fascinating even as a non screen writer Stephen Volk, Jason Arnopp, Ellen Gallagher, Stephen Gallagher and Gavin Williams were lead through a fascinating discussion by Catherine Hill. Ellen’s passion and knowledge were a stand out for me in that panel.

On Sunday I attended the Audio panel lead by the incomparable Alasdair Stuart and featuring Chris Barnes, James Goss and Emma Newman who covered getting into it in the first place (various kinds of accident seem to feature heavily), what it involves, why they love it and numerous other things including a number of wonderful resources that had us all scribbling or typing away. A very funny, insightful and smart panel and perfect for the more general audience.

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It sounds as though readings, launches and other things all went well, several of our writers were involved over the weekend and I was glad to hear Jo Thomas had a good and well attended panel, Ruth Booth’s readings, including her Winter Tales poem were well recieved, Chloe rocked the Poetry Slam, Steve Poore had a good launch with his title for Kristell Ink and I hope everything went well for the everyone else. While we were there we got some stock signed and even sold a few books.

Of course one of the great joys of any convention is seeing old friends, making new ones, finally meeting people you’ve known online for ages, talking to people who actually understand what you are saying and get the references and are all excited about the same things! Learning new things, having better brains than yours to pick for advice and being around so many incredible inspiring people. The collective levels of creativity at FantasyCon are mind blowing.

The whole event was well organised, ran smoothly and the teams behind it and running it all on the ground did an amazing job. The panelists were wonderful and I heard good things from everyone who attended panels. A huge thanks to the FantasyCon team and good luck to the 2016 FCon the T’sea team!

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The Awards

We were on three shortlists Best Short Story for Gaie Sebold’s story in Wicked Women, Best Fantasy Novel with Breed by K.T. Davies and Best Indie Press for the second year running. I thought in spite of very stiff competition Breed was in with a chance so was pretty nervous.

Juliet McKenna did a sterling job, noting the loss of Graham Joyce which got a strong and emotional response from the community and neatly rounding up the sad puppies saga and moving on from it very nicely indeed. There was a standing ovation when Juliet was very deservingly awarded the Karl Edward Wagner Award.

It seemed to be a night for people being caught off guard and speechless. Literally, most of the winners had prepared nothing! Those that had sometimes did so on the back of a menu as a just in case. I think it was all the lovelier for it. I thoroughly enjoyed the delighted and flabberghasted responses of people unused to accepting awards, of which somehow I found myself one!

Breed lost to the marvellous Frances Harding who is a worthy winner so huge congratulations to Francis. Best Short went to Emma Newman which again is a great winner and I am delighted! But Fox Spirit Books did get Best Indie Press and I was shaking so much with shock of it I had to hold the podium with both hands while I stumbled out something about the skulk being an amazing group to wok with and a wonderful community and a shout out to Alasdair Stuart for being integral in conning me into it in the first place. Also thanks to the judges for ploughing through a stack of material on usb sticks (we published 18 titles in 2014, I don’t know how).

If you will all indulge me I will now go on to repeat my sentiments a little more coherently:

Fox Spirit is barely over three years old, we have over 30 titles out and have worked with a huge number of incredible writers and artists in that time. I am deeply proud of everything we have done both in terms of books and the community the Skulk have built for themselves through shared TOC’s and events like Fcon. It is an honour to help these stories get out there and to watch you all support and encourage each other.

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I want to say as well that behind the scenes Daz (our copy editor), Gav (our formatter) and Vince who picks up a lot of layouts and things last minute, do a tremendous amount to help make FS work. I would be lost, utterly without their hard work and support. There are many others who help at various times in various ways and I am utterly grateful to them too.

Alasdair Stuart, Kate Laity and Steven Savile were all instrumental in the great small press con job, for which I love them all the more.

In the last year my business partner and also Mr Fox have provided a huge amount of support in a variety of ways to help keep FS going strong.

Our readers, reviewers, retweeters, likers, sharers etc are amazing and we value you all and everyone in the BFS who nominated, voted, judged on any award (I’ve done it, it’s hard!) you are all hugely important to us and thank you.

So 2016 is another busy year and this one isn’t over, so I better get back to work but this lovely wooden thing is truly a credit to the whole skulk!

IMG_1624A full list of the Winners for this year can be found here. A wonderful crowd I am honoured to have been part of!