Thank you to everyone who remembered our publishing birthday yesterday. We posted our very first post on June 2nd 2012, which I think makes us six. SIX! I had no idea we would make it this far.
It’s been an incredible journey, working with any artists, hundreds of writers, our team of editors, formatters and the wonderful readers who keep coming back and supporting us.
We hope to continue it for many years to come. This years titles will start pouring out soon, in the mean time we have around 70 already out there for your enjoyment, SFF, a little crime and horror, books for kids and young adults, anthologies that are tightly drawn on theme and tone, others that meander through genres on a word, we have #ownvoices, new voices, experienced voices, the well known and the intrepid adventurers, all are fearless genre warriors! We have fencing manuals, and essays, we have illustrations and incredible cover art, we are more a militia than a cult. We have cookies.
If you are new to us, welcome to the Skulk! If you have travelled some of all of these first years with us, thank you for all your support. Strap in, there is much more to come. And plenty of pamphlets.
When I started Fox Spirit I gave up book blogging formally, and only occasionally post about the books I am reading. I thought the run up to Christmas is a good time to share some of my recent reads though. I don’t gt as much time as I used to but these were all especially enjoyable.
Under the Pendulum Sun by Jeanette Ng
I fangirled at poor Jeanette at Sledge lit because I loved this book. It is not an action packed book of fae adventures and magic, it is more a thoughtful look at religion and self through the attempt to convert the fae. Although not a great deal happens in terms of outward adventuring the main characters are forced to re examine everything they believe about themselves and the meaning of their own souls. The book never feels slow, part of its magic I suppose is that it feels as though there is a great deal going on even when it is all in the subtext, but this is what I imagine dealing with the fae would be like. A genuinely delightful and thought provoking read.
Raising Fire by James Bennett
This is the second in James’ trilogy, although it you want to dive straight into all action you could pick it up here. I think you would be missing out because Chasing Embers is fantastic and full of gorgeous world building. Once again Ben Garston, the only dragon left awake by the accords, spends much of his time fighting for his life and trying to work out who to trust. This book blend myths and fairytales from various parts of the world with a little history, building into James’ glorious version of reality. full of adventure and dragons. Read it.
The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding by Alexandra Bracken
I picked this up because of the hardback cover. It’s a young adult, maybe middle grade read and it deals in demons and possession. It’s good fun. Not as complex as the Bartimaeus books which are my gold standard for this sort of story, but the characters are interesting and it’s a quick entertaining read. I particularly enjoyed the developing relationship between Prosper and his unwelcome passenger. Family dynamics are never as simple as they seem, so perhaps this is a good choice for Christmas.
The Girl from Everywhere by Heidi Heilig
I don’t buy books because people advertise them on social media, but occasionally someone I follow (a lot fo them are writers) will say something that will make me go and google their work. I downloaded Heidi’s book on Kindle for a look as it was on offer, then 3 chapters in, bought the paperback and the sequel. It’s a simple enough concept, using maps to Navigate through time as well as place, but it’s brilliantly executed and thought out and the element of time travel makes everything a little more complex. I enjoy the lead Nix and her relationships with the crew and her father. Really entertaining novel asking the question, what would you do for love and how far is too far?
You may have noticed we have been doing some work on the website. Well we are mostly done now and all the big changes are complete.
If you link to any of our books or authors you may find the links have changed so please do check.
Additionally with all the changes it’s possible we broke something and missed it, so if you find a broken link please let me know.
But what’s new?
Well, under ‘About Fox Spirit’ you will find ‘publication dates’ and ‘forthcoming titles’. The first is dates we released titles, for quick and easy checking, forthcoming titles is, as you would expect, the books we have committed to, getting added as things get firmed up, and the year we intend to release them.
You may also have noticed we have made it easier for you to keep up with what’s going on over here at the blog by included recent posts on the front page.
Authors are now found under the main page, with anthology breakdowns on the sub page ‘anthology authors’. You will also find the long list, our list of regulars ‘Often Found Skulking’ and the gallery on the main Author pages.
We have given up trying to define books by genre, it’s never been a perfect solution for us, so they are now defined by being novels or collections etc, or part of a special line. Click the main books page to see everything, presented easily by cover and with filters.
The book pages are all getting a button that takes you direct to the purchasing information on the ‘Buy Links’ page, which has also been made easier to use.
We will continue to update and tinker with individual pages, but please have a look around. We may have shifted the furniture around but the coffee, cake and hospitality are the same as ever.
It’s only just over a week away now, so we wanted to remind you we will be having a launch at this years Sledge.Lit.
The book officially being brought out in style is Tracy Fahey’s ‘The Girl in the Fort’, but we will also be bringing copies of some of this years other new titles, fantasy novels Hobgoblin’s Herald and Into the Blight along with our Halloween release Got Ghosts, will all be making their event debut in Derby.
We are pleased to say that in addition to the traditional wine and nibbles there will also be Fox cookies made by the fabulous Motherfudger.
Please come along and say hi, even if you don’t buy.
So, the mad months of Summer are over and Autumn is sneaking in with it’s misty mornings and unpredictable weather. Here at Kettutalo we have started the process of putting the bees to bed for Winter. We have released some great titles over the Summer, the fantastic Skytown, full of pirates and airships and cover to cover adventure, Hobgoblin’s Herald, an awesome fantasy novel that sees a girl pairing up with a monster for mutual survival.
The not cursed anthology Tales of the Mouse and Minotaur was finally released completing the Bushy Tales, and lots of other books well worth checking out, including Starfang, the first volume of J. Chng’s werewolves in space series. Of course it never stops at Fox Spirit and the Autumn and Winter line up are incredible.
Pseudopod 2 is on it’s way, our second volume of non fiction by Alasdair Stuart, Into the Blight a novel by Jonathan Ward, novella Got Ghosts will be bringing a little Halloween humour from Fiona Glass and Jan Siegel is taking a break from SFF novels to bring us Multiverse, a collection of poetry including some incredible guests.
We will also have volume four of the FS books of Monsters, Pacific Monsters coming this November with some fantastic writers included in this next volume.
In our other lines Vulpes released the Docciolini and has a treatise by Alfieri coming up in the next few weeks.
Fennec, our line for pre teen kits released it’s first title Ghoulsome Graveyard and there will be a second title coming out Girl in the Fort by Tracy Fahey.
I have been asked about books. Not the ones we publish, but what I buy outside of Fox Spirit and specifically what other small presses I look to for my reading material.
I went for quite a long time since starting FS without reading much outside of it, then I changed jobs. Just over six months ago I found myself with a commute by train and it has been heaven. So let’s start with a list of books I have read and enjoyed since August and the reasons I read them.
A note before I start, every one of these books was excellent and I would recommend them all so assume high stars all round. I am bad at reading books that don’t draw me in quickly.
13 Minutes by Sarah Pinborough – I know Sarah a little and have read her work before, so was happy to buy and read her recent releases, confident I would enjoy them. The Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho – Zen did a story for us which was superb. I like to support writers who have supported us with their stories by buying their books, add to which, I really like reading all the writers we work with so it’s a low risk strategy. Burning Embers by James Bennett – James is a friend, a Fox Spirit writer and a fantastic story teller. No brainer. Sparrow Falling by Gaie Sebold – I loved Gaie’s earlier novels, I nearly died of squee when she did a story for us so obviously I had to have this. The Tiger and the Wolf by Adrian Tchaikovsky – Adrian is a fantastic writer and again, has worked with FS. Alice by Christina Henry – The original Alice always struck me as darker than people think, I was intrigued. I was also looking for interesting novels by women. Lost Girl by Adam Nevill – Apt 16 terrified me, Adam is a great writer and a lovely man, we must try and weedle a story from him one day. Wolf in the Attic by Paul Kearney – this one just looked interesting and Paul’s name is one of those where I am always a bit, have we met? Or have I just come across his name so many times I think we have met? How to be Dull by Basil Morley Esq – Basil Morely is actually K.A. Laity who writes and edits for FS among others and never fails to entertain me. The Red Tree By Caitlin Kearnan – Picked this up years ago because it looked interesting, and it languished on the shelf. I thought I would give it a try as part of my bid to make my reading more diverse and I was rewarded richly. Geekerella by Ashley Poston – recommended and indeed supplied by a publicist friend who knows what I like Escapology by Ren Warom – Ren is amazing, which I know because we published her novella so obviously I had to read this. How to be a Woman by Caitlin Moran – Rare occasion where I actually got around to the book group choice but a fantastic book that has set me off collecting up more feminist non fic. Killer of Enemies by Joseph Bruchac – Part of my personal challenge to be more diverse in my reading. Joseph is a Native American writer and I loved the sound of this particular book. It’s great btw. Nemesis by Agatha Christie – I love Christie, I love this story, charity shop comfort read. Clockwork Heart by Dru Paliassotti – Bought this forever ago, and it appealed when I did a shelf search. Miss Peregrine’s home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Briggs– enjoyed the film but was curious as a friend who loves the books was very cross about the changes. Love across a Broken Map by The Whole Kahini – A friend was involved in editing and producing this and so I had great confidence in it being excellent. It was. Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough – see previous Pinborough. Also one of the main characters is called Adele, how could I resist? The Red Queen by Christina Henry – Sequel to Alice which I loved. The Ocean at the end of the Lane by Neil Gaiman – again it’s been on the shelf a while, but I have read a number of Gaiman’s books over the years and had no doubt I would enjoy it. The Stars and Legion by Kameron Hurley – Read God’s War as a BFS judge, loved it, read the next one, love Kameron’s fiction and will just keep buying and reading them.
Books I am dipping into
They do the Same things Differently Here by Rob Shearman – Shearman is an incredible short story writer and possibly the loveliest man alive. Nasty Women by various – Saw a lot about this and with the world as it is it felt like a must read. Frazzled by Ruby Wax – Because I am basically. The Good Immigrant edited by Nikesh Shukla – Part of my efforts to challenge my reading habits. Enjoying this greatly.
So you will start to see a pattern.
I like to support writers I know, especially ones I have worked with or who I enjoy chatting with on online of F2F, which is helped by the fact that I am confident I will enjoy their work.
I buy from small presses and indie authors a lot at events, it’s not well represented here but I have a stack of books I have read or want to read from the likes of Grimbold, Kristell ink, Newcon and others both past and present. Things I look for in small presses tend to be that people running them I know share some of my tastes or values, or writers in common as that is a good sign I will enjoy the stuff they put out. Some of the presses I love, like Boo and Jurassic sadly closed, which I talk about at length in the Sisyphus post, so I won’t go back over it here. Not all indie presses are so small of course, Angry Robot and Titan, along with Abaddon and Solaris often make their way onto my shelves, I recently discovered Quirk and will be going back there again. Then there are specialists, like 404Ink and Dhalia who offer something more specific but from time to time overlap with my genre preferences or just hit my needs in the moment and who are doing high quality work. There are lots I haven’t mentioned but browse the dealer room at any genre con and you are surrounded by people I would buy from.
At bookstores I have a system. Check for new books by people I know/like already either F2F or from reading their work. Then browse for writers that expand my reading, so at the moment looking for books by non white writers is a big part of my store search technique for or openly LGBTQIA writers, writers of colour or non fiction books. Finally, anything that just looks interesting or a bit different (harder than it sounds tbh). I have been known to purchase books for their covers, or indeed because of the cover artist.
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
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.
Please see the Waxing Lyrical category for more information on being part of this series.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.