Furry Book Month Publisher Q&A: Sofawolf

Sofawolf Press is one of the furry fandom’s oldest publishers, and have been responsible for producing some of our most beloved books. Jeff Eddy was kind enough to answer some of our questions about their history and what furry publishing means to the community.

Tell us a little bit about yourself, and the publisher you are representing.

My name is Jeff Eddy, and I am the President and co-founder of Sofawolf Press, Inc. The company was founded in 1999 and we have produced nearly 100 novels, anthologies, periodicals, and graphic novels. We have four people on the board of directors and have had up to ten individuals managing and editing specific projects, but the majority of the day to day work is done by two or three people.

What is your favourite thing about the furry fandom?

I love that, as a fandom without a source material and really without a specific genre, people are free to create anything they want. As long as it has some kind of animalistic anthropomorphism in it, it’s “furry”.

The fandom is also great about embracing creators who are furries, even if the things they create may not ultimately be furry in nature. That’s pretty awesome.

What made you decide to get involved with the furry publishing scene?

In 1999 there were not a lot of publications open to the kind of stories we wanted to see told. We felt there were a lot of people capable of writing serious, quality fiction that was neither aggressively sexual nor emphatically general audience. We wanted to explore the vast middle ground (though obviously we expanded our catalogue into the other areas eventually).

What do you believe makes a good story?

There is no one answer to this. You have to balance giving the reader what they expect with giving the reader something new and different; but too many people get hung up on the “new and different” part and forget about giving people what they expect. Obviously, whatever you do it needs to be sufficient quality to keep from pulling the reader out of the story to puzzle over words or structure or logistics. And finally, everything is character-heavy these days, so you have to make sure your characters live and breathe and grow.

What are some of the biggest challenges with publishing in a relatively niche market?

One of our biggest challenges was striving for variety. The fandom is still pretty small, and despite our best efforts we never managed to get much quality from the general writing community. So, it was a significant effort to try to keep introducing new names in our anthologies.

What are some of the best parts of publishing furry books?

When I talk to other publishers, the one thing they always bring up is how easy it is for us to find great artists to work with. Not only in terms of quality, but in terms of enthusiasm for the material they are creating. As a publisher, I can select an artist whose natural style works particularly well for the material, and usually have multiple options to choose from.

What is the ideal writer to work with like?

The ideal writer understands that our job is to help them make their work enjoyable to the greatest number of readers possible. In this, we are often in the position of telling them vastly different things than they have been hearing from the peer editing process they have been going through while creating their final draft.

Novels vs Anthologies. Which do you prefer working on, and how do they compare in terms of sales?

Anthologies require a lot of project management because you are dealing with multiple authors and potentially multiple artists as well. There are a lot of balls to juggle, and a lot more opportunities for things to go wrong. The flat licensing payments make upfront costs a lot higher, and with rare exceptions the sales tend to be lower. So, it takes a lot longer to recover the initial investment on the title.

Novels usually take a lot longer to edit and produce, but most of the time you are dealing with a single author and a single artist, which makes things a lot easier. Unless it is part of an established series by a well-known author, there is always a risk that a new title will fail to sell particularly well. But, since most novels pay the author in annual royalty payments rather than upfront flat payments, it helps smooth out the costs.

What do you believe is the biggest misconception about the process of publishing, either specific to furry publishing or generally?

Oh, that would be the misconception that small publishers are big, evil corporations that make huge quantities of money off the hard work of the writers and artists that we publish. The profit margins on publishing are very slim, and the only way the big publishers make money is by producing at scale and maximum diversification of their catalogue.

This is a labour of love, and no one on the Sofawolf Press staff has ever been paid for their work.

It’s always said “don’t judge a book by its cover”, but just how important is cover art to the success of a book?

This depends a lot on who the potential reader is. People who are picking up a book because they are familiar with the author, or who have had the title recommended by a friend, are less likely to pay a lot of attention to the cover artwork. A nice cover is still important, but not as important as it is to the casual browser.

For the casual browser you often have only two opportunities to make a sale: the front cover and the back cover. The front cover is what makes them pick the book up. The back cover blurb convinces them to read it.

Is there anything you would like to see more of in furry fiction?

This is one of the hardest questions in this list, because creators in this fandom do such a good job with the usual problem areas: inclusivity, sensitivity, elevating marginalized voices, etc… There is always room for improvement, but we’re so far ahead of the curve there.

I think I would love to see more creators exploring Young Adult themes. Some authors have, and have done it well, but there is room for a lot more.

What has been your favourite book to work on recently? Why?

Summer in Orcus by T. Kingfisher (aka: Ursula Vernon) was a special joy for me. Not only was it a terrific story that had resonated with a lot of people at a very difficult time in our recent history, but Lauren Henderson (aka: Louvelex) was absolutely the perfect artist to have agreed to work on the illustrations for it.

The fact that we got to run it as a Kickstarter, allowing us to do some nice reward goodies and produce an excellent cloth-bound hardback limited edition, was just icing on the cake. And having both author and artist named in the Hugo Award Nomination was even better.

Tomorrow, we have an interview that will be a little bit different from the earlier ones, as the focus is not on writing or publishing. Instead, we interviewed a reviewer. We hope you’ll come back tomorrow to see what they have to say about furry writing!

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