Furry Book Month Publisher Q&A: Thurston Howl Publications

Today we speak to Cedric G! Bacon of Thurston Howl Publications. As always, the publishers of the furry writing community are able to provide a different perspective compared to the authors. We hope you’ll give this all a read to discover what Cedric thinks of the community.

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

My name is Cedric G! Bacon, in some fandom circles I go by “Batced”. I’ve been writing for many years but maybe for the fandom I’ve been writing for just a little over five years, first appearing in the anthology Furry Trash. The publisher I represent is Thurston Howl Publications as the chief or head publisher in charge of things yonder there.

What is your favourite thing about the furry fandom?

I think it’s the communal aspect of the furry fandom, where everybody helps each other out in terms of creating fan-driven works. Its sort of like how I imagine the early science fiction scenes in the 1930s first developed and worked towards making that a much larger fandom than it was at the very beginning. And I feel like that with the combination of the different writers, artists, fursuit makers, musicians, and everything else I’m probably blanking on, they all do like the Beatles and come together and make this beautiful, loving thing that entertains others and inspires others.

I’ve been one of those writers who loved getting my words in a book and even getting a contributor copy was well enough for me. I looked at it as great practice because everyone involved in publishing might not have been professionals per se, but everyone involved were veterans who knows what they’re doing and I figured if I was ever going to send something in out of the fandom and into the mainstream to be looked at, I felt more comfortable getting that practice and learning the mechanics and getting the confidence and I feel like the fandom publishers have been very good for that.

Making money is great and all but I think I prefer making sure I’m good enough to get to that next step as a professional writer and can put my mouth behind those words instead of making demands. And the fandom presses are very good for that, because everyone I’ve ever worked with since coming into this have kicked my butt every step of the way, making sure those words would be good enough and there are times when either the editor or the publisher personally said to me to make changes because sometimes I would write something extreme, I took it as advice that would help me. The small nature of the fandom is very good at sharpening some great creators and that’s something I wouldn’t change for the world.

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

I sort of fell into it. I wanted to always help out Thurston Howl since I was typically in contact with them and wanted to help get books out there and released. But in truth I always wanted to be involved in some way with publishing, always hoping to one day get on up to be employed by DC Comics or Marvel, or even Tokyopop or Viz Media.

None of those came to pass so even with helping out with a small press publisher in the furry writing scene, it was still important and I felt like I was able to learn about organizing, how to commission covers, working with writers, editing especially, and even learning how to work with others and be on that end of creating good things.

This last I was always so nervous about because I’d be the first to say that I am always pretty nervous when even talking with close friends and having to be the bearer of bad news. Occasionally it has been to my detriment and as I discovered there’s no easy way of balancing it, but at the end of it I just realize the best I can do is my best.

What do you believe makes a good story?

Solid characters and something resembling a storyline if that thing we call “plot” is absent. It is possible to tell a tale without following the standard procedure of a plot, especially if you’re weaving something that has events happening to the characters. One of my favorites that did this was a story from Alice “Huskyteer” Dryden entitled “Little Sun” that appeared in Werewolves Versus Space. While the “plot” is all about the discovery that a little stray dog is more than she appears, there are exterior forces that happen to every character that changes the force of the story across each turn (this story I ridiculously love and encourage everyone to seek it out) without hitting the reader over the head with details.

Another one is Kyell Gold’s “Don’t Blink”, which I suppose is part of his Forester universe (since the League of Canids first appeared in Waterways but please feel free to correct me on this anyone!) which has a small plot but the focus is all about young superhero Blink Coyote and his relationships and worries that he’s a lot less than he really is, and its just a really lovely story that showcases low stakes, but important events to the characters that will change and shape them by story’s end.

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

Perhaps the struggle I’ve discovered is finding a way to generate interest, hold vested interest, and reach newer readers. Sometimes that means looking out beyond the niche market and dipping a toe into the scary realm of the mainstream, and with some of our THP titles there’s a fair few that I think would provide some interest to readers outside the bubble. But I think there is also the risk of explaining what furry is to those who only know about it because of what they saw on CSI or Aqua Teen Hunger Force some fifteen, twenty years ago, and that’s the perception they have whenever anyone mentions the word “furry” in a conversation meant to be taken seriously.

And I have to spotlight a lot of hard work from those like Mary E. Lowd (publisher of Zooscape magazine) and my predecessor at THP, founder Thurston Howl (who shepherded and edited the Furries Among Us trilogy of essays that feature conversations about the fandom and topics that involve the fandom) for making furry far less of a joke and something that can be spoken of when breaking out into different markets.

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

As much as I spoke about that fear of hurting friends’ feelings when it comes to publishing, the part that I do enjoy is that creation process. That’s showing them what all has been happening on the production end, getting feedback, working with them on shaping the book, finding out ways of reaching potential new readers, and even working with them in terms of the marketing. But I think it’s the satisfaction of seeing them happy and satisfied at the end of it when the book is realized and released, and they are happy. That makes me happy and makes all the stress, anxiety, insomnia, and worry worth it at the end.

What is the ideal writer to work with like?

Truthfully, any writer that is like a tag partner with the editor or publisher, working with them each step of the way and offering up ideas they may have is ideal for me. I always look at it as a team project, a saga…a journey even that we all have to take together and it just makes it harder if there isn’t wide communication, understanding, compassion, and patience because none of this can get done in a day, but it goes faster when we’re all working and doing what needs to be done.

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

Probably novels, which is ironic for me because I’ve cut my teeth (to use the old, esoteric phrase) doing anthologies but novels, being a linear expression of a singular author’s idea and voice, allows me to explore things to really bring the best out of the work. In terms of sales, there’s no easy way of saying what sells better or worse, as there are a lot of outlying factors like genres, specific authors connected to the book, and even times of the season. One book could inconceivably sell better than the one that is expected to be a huge hit, and there’s usually no logic to why. But the bottom line for me is I always go in hoping for the best with each title, putting in 110% in production and believing each one is going to be a hit with readers, and even when they aren’t, if one person really likes it and it speaks to them, that is a hit to me.

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

The big one I’ve encountered makes me think of the old saying “All hat and no cattle”. It means talking boastfully as if they are some Waldo P. Emerson Jones (reference to an old song from the cartoon band the Archies) and engaging in no action whatsoever, and it pertains to those who believe that publishers in the furry fandom are just like the big type publishers and command and pull-down huge amounts of money annually off the backs of writers. And to that I say its quite easy for them to say all that sitting on the sidelines but for those who are actually on the field getting tackled every day with many issues they encounter with things such as production, formatting, time, help, and printing. All of which is coming more out of the publisher’s pocket than those who criticize tend to realize, calling it all “vanity presses”. It’d be vanity presses if, say, publishers were well-off like John D. Rockefeller and could just throw money at everything.

There was one particularly vocal critic who was trying to whip up static by claiming fandom publishers were “predators” for paying writers less than their worth and making it sound like writers needed to charging more for their value and time, which I feel like any publisher in this fandom badly wishes could happen and there are many efforts to make it so, but the individual did not seem to want to be sympathetic, as calling everyone involved in publishing a “predator” and just generally being insulting to folks who ran presses for many years that did have to give it all up made me wonder if this critic had ever interacted with or even worked on that business end to really know the stresses and how difficult it is monetarily on anyone.

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?

Very! I truly have the hardest time imagining what would be the most appealing to the eye and sometimes I ask the writer what they imagine. I know personally I judge many covers and then flip over to the back for the synopsis, which also to come across very well to make me make that final leap to the checkout lane and bringing a new book home.

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

I’m a big fan of superheroes so I would love to see more of that. Hopepunk (which I discovered recently, which is all about keep going no matter what!) is another that I more writers discover and write about.

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

Change In The Midnight Rain by Kageichi Kagi (illustrations by Jiroh Kinoshita) because it ticked off a bunch of things I always liked: anime/manga, light comedy, romance, historical fiction, and there was a good carrythrough throughout the novel about it not being who or what your family is, as long as there is love there because at the end of it, like the Beatles said, all you need is love.

We hope you’ll check out Thurston Howl Publications, and the great books they publish. (Or their Bound Tales imprint). They have a great range of books with a particular focus towards erotica and horror.

Tomorrow we speak to one of the most successful furry writers. We hope you’ll come back and see what he has to say.


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