The final Q&A for the month comes from Andrew Rabbitt of Rabbit Valley Comics. Andrew has a long history in the furry publishing and writing community, and has plenty of insight to share. Note that this interview was done before the recent news that Fenris Publishing has acquired Rabbit Valley Comics.
Tell us a little bit about yourself, and the publisher you are representing.
Hello, Andrew Rabbitt here representing Rabbit Valley® Comics.
Since 1997, Rabbit Valley Comics – then known as Another Rabco Disaster – has been serving the furry community through the distribution and publication of artwork, books, comics, magazines, novels, and more. Our Vast Catalog of Other Good Stuff™ has been available online and in print since the late 1990s. Rabbit Valley Comics started out as a distribution company focusing on the comic Associated Student Bodies by Lance Rund and Chris McKinley. ASB has been available for sale in many formats over the years including individual comic issues, a hardcover collection, a digital download, and most recently a softcover collection. In the early 2000s Rabbit Valley Comics started publishing works including Circles and Spooo Presents; both of these titles are still available to this day. At Rabbit Valley Comics, we’re focused on bringing the best in anthropomorphic literature to market.
Personally, I joined the team as a helper in 2000 and became a full partner in 2004. If you’ve placed an order from Rabbit Valley after 2000, chances are I picked, packed, and shipped it. Outside of the store I enjoy camping, cooking, and cleaning.
What is your favourite thing about the furry fandom?
My favorite thing about the furry fandom is the diversity and creativity. On any given day there are thousands of images shared on social media and video streaming sites as well as furry owned and operated image boards and other media platforms.
Our community excels in creativity. If you can think it, a furry is making it – for the community. A short list of things created for furries by furries would include:
- Shirts, Sweatshirts, and other outerwear
- Adult Novelty Toys
- Adult Diapers
The list goes on and on…
In every major industry you will find furries. Doctors, lawyers, dishwashers, and truck drives…furries can be found in all walks of life and at all socioeconomic levels.
The Furry Fandom transcends politics, religion, race, and gender.
The Furry Fandom is a cultural melting pot where all are free to express their ideas, creativity, and desire to belong.
All this and more is why I love the fandom. Picking a favourite aspect would be impossible.
What made you decide to get involved with the furry publishing scene?
Back in the late 1990s and early 2000s there wasn’t many options for a comic artist or writer to distribute their works to the fandom. There were three publishers all still getting their feet wet – so to speak. The fandom was smaller then and 1000 people at a convention was a big deal. I got into publishing to help creators get their work into the paws of adoring fans.
It’s been a very satisfying twenty+ years.
What do you believe makes a good story?
What makes a good story? That’s a good question. I guess, for me, a good story can be boiled down to relatability. Can the reader relate to what is going on in the work? I personally find that if I can relate to a work, then I can safely call the work good. Sure, spelling, grammar, firm plot, resolved/unresolved conflict, character development, scene setting, etc… are important in story crafting, but that doesn’t mean the work is good – to me.
One can have a perfectly literature rule-following story that just falls flat on its face because it’s not relatable to the reader. Again, to me, a story has to be relatable in order for it to be good.
I don’t need perfect grammar or spelling to decide if something is good. I don’t need consistent subject verb agreement or exacting prose to make a story work. ALL that can be fixed in editing.
What are some of the biggest challenges with publishing in a relatively niche market?
Over the years I’d say the biggest challenge has been in content curation. There are many, many works out in the furry fandom that are ripe for publication and distribution.
From a business standpoint the challenges we consider are saleability, quality, audience, market share, price, and time investment. Of these I’d say that, from my point of view, saleability is the most critical.
One can pour a lot of time and pay a premium price to make a work the best that it can be, one can use marketing to promote the work, but if it isn’t saleable – the is no market for it – then all that effort is wasted. This doesn’t mean that the work is bad, just not right for our market.
Over the years we’ve had a few works fall flat due to not resonating with our customer base. We’ve learned to review works based on what our customers want. This has help us avoid investing heavily in works that are better suited for another market.
What are some of the best parts of publishing furry books?
The best part of publishing furry works for others is helping creators get their works into the paws of readers.
We spend a lot of time and resources making each piece the best that it can be – helping authors with their writing process, artist with anatomy, pointing out flaws and ways to correct them…we invest in our contributors so that they can grow in their craft. To me, that’s the best part of being a publisher.
The other side of the coin is that we’re also distributors. The best part of being a distributor is having a vast catalogue to pick from when a customer asks for a recommendation. Connecting contributors with content is a perk of the job.
What is the ideal writer to work with like?
I’ve never worked with an ideal writer. I enjoy working with writers and editors who accept feedback and work it into their process. As long as an author is willing to see beyond what they’ve written and accept that there is always room for improvement, we’ll have no issues.
Novels vs Anthologies. Which do you prefer working on, and how do they compare in terms of sales?
Novels. It’s much easier to work with a single contributor than a group.
That said, anthologies sell better.
What do you believe is the biggest misconception about the process of publishing, either specific to furry publishing or generally?
Biggest misconception in the whole publishing process is that us publishers are out to take money from creators. We’re not. Many of the furry publishers are doing this as a labour of love. We’re not getting rich on the backs of our content creators.
Rabbit Valley® Comics has always been a passion project to help put content into the paws of readers. Back in the late 90s when Associated Student Bodies had no distribution network, we stepped up and partnered with the creators to get their comics into the hands of gay critters the world over. After ASB ended we jumped into publishing to fill the void left behind with Circles. We then started publishing novels, anthologies, and other series. Following that we launched the first furry digital book store in March of 2013…
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?
Cover art looks good on a webpage, looks good on a table display. It’s what piques the curiosity of the reader. It’s important.
Back when I was in school most of the books didn’t have decent cover art. My copy of The Hobbit is hardcover, leather bound, and only has the words “The Hobbit” on the cover. Nothing else…
Here, in 2021, I think cover art is more important in showing the reader what’s inside than back when I was in school.
I never liked the phrase. Cover art is important.
Is there anything you would like to see more of in furry fiction?
I’d like to see more works from under-represented groups.
This is the last of the spotlights for Furry Book Month 2021. We hope you have enjoyed these insights into the furry writing community. Perhaps you have found a new favourite story or authors amongst all of these. Perhaps you have learned something new about the writing process, or found that spark to write again!
Thank you for reading these and for supporting the furry writing community.