One of the biggest facets of getting a book published is, well, publishers! While many authors self-publish these days, the furry community is lucky to have several publishers and imprints focused on publishing anthropomorphic fiction.
Today we’re sharing an interview with FuzzWolf, an FWG member and the current owner of FurPlanet. We discuss many aspects of furry publishing, what drives book sales, and how to promote yourself as an author. Without further ado, let’s get to the interview!
FWG: For those that might not know you, please tell our readers a bit about yourself.
FuzzWolf: Hi. Well, my name’s FuzzWolf. Most people just call me Fuzz. I’ve been a furry since 1998. I’m originally from Scotland, but my family moved to the US when I was 8 so I don’t have the accent anymore.
In 2005 I moved to Dallas, TX to live with my boyfriend. It’s 15 years later and now we’re married and have a house so I’d say that worked out.
FWG: What do you think makes a good story?
FuzzWolf: Lots of different things, it depends. Characters you care about is the main one. You don’t always have to like them, but they have to be interesting and the reader has to be invested in whether they succeed or fail in what they’re trying to do.
There should be a clear goal, something the main character wants to do, and then there are obstacles in their way preventing them from that goal.
Another thing I enjoy in a good story is a degree of worldbuilding. It depends on the story whether the worldbuilding is very present, and the world itself is a character of sorts, or whether it’s more subtle worldbuilding where the story is more about the characters.
FWG: You work in publishing in the furry scene, so let’s dive into that! What got you into the publishing side of the fandom?
FuzzWolf: I had taken a “desktop publishing” class in college in the early 90s so there was some level of interest there long before I got into fandom publishing.
Like most publishers in the fandom, I started off as a writer. I was published in FurNation Magazine. FurNation was based here in Dallas so I picked up one of my contributor copies in person, and the owner showed me around the equipment he used to make the magazines. I was fascinated by it, and I started helping out. I volunteered with FN for a bit, doing layouts and making magazines and comics by hand.
After I was laid off in 2007, I decided I wanted to start my own publishing business. By the way, this is the exact opposite of what all the “start your own business” guides will tell you to do. Don’t start a business because you’re done with corporate America after getting laid off. You have few resources to work with and you’re not in the right headspace. I got a new job later that year, but the passion for publishing was still there so I moved forward.
Eventually, I ended up acquiring FurPlanet from its former owner and officially took over in March 2008.
FWG: What kind of unique challenges do you face as a publisher of what might be considered niche literature?
FuzzWolf: There are probably as many benefits as there are challenges. I suppose the biggest one is audience size. As with the rest of society, only a small percentage of people read books, and you cut that number down even more when working within a small niche like furry. So, a furry company is likely to hit a growth ceiling sooner because there are only so many furries out there.
However, like a lot of niche interests, the people who are into furry are really into furry. And the furries who buy books are super supportive of their publishers.
I wouldn’t call this a challenge so much as it is a difference between mainstream and furry publishers. For mainstream publishers, the majority of their book sales are going to be sold online at that big river dot com company, and maybe some through traditional bookstores. A minority of our sales are through those avenues. We sell almost all of our books directly to consumers without an intermediary, either via our website or face to face at conventions. That means more work for us, either packing and shipping online orders, or all the work that goes into dealing at a convention, but it means we interact with our customers directly and I think that’s a positive thing.
FWG: FurPlanet puts out several anthologies a year, but also several novels. Do you get a lot of pitches for novels? If so, do you publish many of them?
FuzzWolf: We have it on our website that we’re not officially open for novel submissions so we don’t get that many. Most of the novels we publish are new books from authors we have already been working with. I would like to open up to additional authors at some point. It’s just a matter of time being available to do so.
FWG: Going back to anthologies for a moment, how do these compare in sales to novels themselves?
FuzzWolf: A couple of years ago, I went through our sales data back to 2006 to answer that question. I found that in general, anthologies sell only about 1/3 what novels and novellas do.
FWG: There’s plenty of furry writers who focus on getting stories into anthologies. With those numbers, would you suggest writers consider focusing on getting their own novel out there to help increase their prestige or name recognition?
FuzzWolf: I enjoy short stories, and I think they serve an important function for writers. They give authors a chance to work with an editor and go through that process of having someone from outside their friend group review their work, and work with them to make it the best story it can be. Anthologies also give experience in writing and revising to a deadline and writing towards a specific theme. Submit stories to enough anthologies and you’ll get to write about a lot of different things. Broadening your writing beyond your preferred genre is a critical step in a writer’s development.
They also get your name in front of a publisher. I know I’ve personally advised authors I’ve seen write amazing short stories that I want to see their novel when they finish it.
Also, in both mainstream and furry writing, short stories are how a lot of authors build an audience and get their name out there. You can also repurpose the stories after their exclusivity period has expired, depending on the particular contract. This gives you content for your various galleries (FA, SF, etc), and if a market is open to reprints and you happen to have a previously-published story which fits then you can get paid twice for it.
Even if you’re not submitting to anthologies, I still think writing short stories and posting online is good for building your skills and growing an audience. Even writing to a weekly prompt achieves some of that diversity of stories.
I’d recommend submitting short stories and posting them online while also working on a longer-term project, like having a novel idea brewing in your head.
FWG: FurPlanet puts out ROAR and FANG annually. Are there any challenges getting an anthology series out yearly? Differences between these anthologies and one-off anthologies?
FuzzWolf: There are definitely challenges with keeping a regular title going, especially if you’re trying to keep them releasing at the same time each year. We aim to release FANG and ROAR at Anthrocon every year, but this year we missed that mark due to COVID 19 throwing the world into chaos.
With a one-off anthology there is less of an issue if you have to postpone a release since there isn’t a second volume that has to come out in 12 months that may also be affected.
There is also the matter of editors. With our regular series, we have the advantage of working with an editor for several volumes over a period of time, and they improve their skill with each volume and learn our expectations. There can be a few bumps in the road early on in a working relationship so the one-off anthologies have that. We take a chance when we do a one-off because it doesn’t have name recognition going back years like our regular anthologies do. We just have to hope that the theme resonates with readers.
FWG:A lot of furries say you have to write or draw sex to be successful in the fandom. You’re in a unique position to know about this directly. Do adult novels sell better than those for general audiences?
FuzzWolf: Speaking very broadly, our adult books do sell better than our general audience books. However, there are a ton of caveats to that.
For one thing, in the mainstream book trade Adult Fiction simply means books for grownups, as opposed to Young Adult or children’s book categories. In the fandom, we label books as adult in part due to how conventions define them. If a book has a couple of explicit scenes, even if the sex is not the point of the book, we have to label that adult. But in an actual bookstore, they don’t have a big warning sticker plastered on American Gods, for example.
I’ve seen books with a lot of sex sell moderately, and books we marketed as YA sell extremely well. You can be a non-adult writer and have successful books. You just have to tell a good story and find your audience.
FWG: How important is cover art to selling a furry novel? Do you think employing well-known artists in a fandom that tends to be visually focused helps sell books?
FuzzWolf: I cannot overstate how important cover art is to selling books, any books. The audience for each genre has certain expectations when it comes to covers. This is where things like minimalist typographic covers for science fiction and literary fiction, shirtless men in kilts in romance, and painted castles in fantasy come from.
In general, furry readers want to see a furry on the cover. Don’t go abstract, even if it’s beautiful. If you are trying to sell primarily to furries, you have to have furries on your book cover.
A well-known artist will help with sales. Not only for their highly developed skill, but because they will often assist with promoting the book. Here’s a tip, always credit your illustrators. Do so in the book, and also in your marketing material. If you tweet the cover of your book, include your artist’s Twitter handle. They will often retweet it, and very often their following will be bigger than yours.
I’ve heard writers complain sometimes about furry being such a visual community, but I’d like to stress that artists should be your friends when it comes to selling your book. Artists and writers can and should work together.
I’ll also add that you don’t have to go with the most popular artists if that is out of your budget. You can find a lot of skilled artists who are not that well known, and a book cover commission can offer less well-known artists access to a new audience.
To summarize my feelings on covers, they say you should never go cheap on a mattress or a pair of shoes. When it comes to books, put your budget into your cover. It will help.
FWG: What about books having interior pictures? Is this worth doing for most releases?
FuzzWolf: This has been a point of discussion among some of us before. I think what it comes down to is if you want interior illustrations because they’re cool, or you really want to see your characters illustrated then it can’t hurt.
In my experience, it doesn’t help sales though. If you have a set budget and are weighing between interior illustrations or a better cover then I’d put the money into the cover, another editor pass, or another type of marketing.
FWG: Can you give any insights on the process of getting artwork for books for our readers who might be curious or self publish?
FuzzWolf: Look at the books which have covers you really like or that drew you to the book. You can hire that same artist or someone with a style that appeals in the same way.
An important thing to remember is that a great piece of art and a great book cover are not the same things. Sometimes a piece will work as a standalone illustration, but won’t be appropriate for a book cover.
Another point to ask is if your artist has any experience with typography and design. Are they sending you a cover with your title and name on it already? Or are they just doing the art? If it’s the latter, you’ll want to find a graphic designer to work on the actual layout for you.
On that note, I’d also advise hiring a typographer for your interior layout. There are subtle nuances to typography that can affect the visual appeal and readability of your book. It seems easy, but a lot of time goes into it, and I consider a worthwhile investment.
FWG: What would you say is the one thing you wish all writers knew about publishers and publishing books?
FuzzWolf: While a deep love of books is usually what drives someone to publishing, you’ll have to deal with a lot of less fun things too. Contracts, accounting, taxes, printers, marketing. If you can accept that challenge, you’ll be in a better position to be successful.
FWG: Do you have any last thing you’d like to tell our readers?
FuzzWolf: Please continue to order books and comics from all the furry publishers and our community’s independent sellers. You can support furry-owned businesses and the post office at the same time!
We would like to thank FuzzWolf once again for answering all of our questions! FurPlanet will be having an online book launch for Kyell Gold’s final volume of Love Match. The book releases August 25th and the book launch will take place this coming weekend. You can read about the book and pre-order it on their website and find details on the book launch here.
We hope this insight into furry publishing was informative to all of our readers. If you have ideas or suggestions on what kinds of interviews we should feature next, please contact our Social Media Manager. Until next time, may your words flow like water.