inPublishing: Fuze Publishing
Boutique publisher, Fuze Publishing, was founded in 2009 in MacLean, Va and has very quickly grown from being home to one book to being home to many. I had the opportunity to correspond with Fuze founders Karetta Hubbard and Molly Best Tinsley about their publishing company’s growth and expansion.
Just when did you decide to publish your manuscript yourselves?
We finished Satan’s Chamber in September 2008. Thanks to the recession and the upheaval in publishing caused by the rise of the ebook, mainstream publishers had put most acquisitions on hold. Even so, we sent the manuscript to a number of agents as well as one editor at a Big Six New York publishing house. We had no takers from our first round of tries, and we discovered that many of the specific people we had contacted had been laid off, or had left the industry to find other work. Karetta has a business background so it occurred to us that if we wanted Satan’s Chamber to be published in our lifetimes, we would have to do it ourselves! We founded our small press, Fuze, thereby joining the mounting wave of writers who have turned their backs on the archaic models of traditional publishing in order to control the process of bringing out their work successfully.
How did you come up with the name for your company?
The decline of the large houses gave us the opportunity to forge our own path to publishing success. We feel our name captures our double mission perfectly:
1) to explore new business models that include authors in the company process, therebyexploding the old ways of publishing; and 2) to seek stories that juxtapose different cultures and illuminating the potential for connection through understanding and acceptance. One of the two settings of Satan’s Chamber, a spy-thriller, is the war-torn, marginal nation of Sudan. While the story will keep you turning pages, you can count on the accuracy of its geography, history, and politics.
How long did you keep your “day jobs” (or do you still have them)?
Karetta has her day job, but is about to sell her company and devote full time to managing Fuze. Molly describes herself as being hyper-retired: though she resigned from the English faculty at U. S. Naval Academy some years ago, her various writing, teaching, and editing gigs produce the workload of two full-time jobs!
You’ve recently added more staff–in what areas did you need more support?
We began 2012 with five books, and during the latter part of the year we added five more titles. To manage this large an operation, and to free us [Molly and Karetta] for manuscript reading for acquisitions, we needed to expand our shipping and marketing departments.
In an introductory video you mention forming a marketing department that needed to ‘wrestle with the Blogosphere.’ What lessons did you learn as you started to market your books online?
Taming the blogosphere is indeed a challenge because the Internet is endless in its opportunities to market authors and books. The difficulty is keeping up with its continuous evolution. Blogs come in all shapes and sizes. They provide opportunities for “virtual book tours,” which requires finding the right blog to fit the book content, and often acclimating the authors to this new way of speaking about their work. We have even discovered “blog hops,” centered on memoir, which allows authors to converse with authors and readers across the globe by hopping from blog to blog. By clicking on The Fuze blog which is a constant work in progress, readers can join the conversation. We’d love the blog to become a space that will invite dialogue with readers.
About how many manuscripts do you get a month? How do you choose the books your will publish?
Currently we review unsolicited manuscripts, and our average is about ten a month. Our selection process in rigorous. As we mentioned, we look for stories with propulsion (page-turners) that also venture into different cultures. As in Satan’s Chamber this doesn’t necessarily mean a tour of Sudan. Our mystery Black Wings exposes the ongoing tension between gender cultures in both the U. S. Naval Academy and the Navy. Our suspenseful Leaving Tuscaloosa springs from racial tensions in the South. However, most of the stories that come to us still need editing or structural improvements. So our first and most important criterion is that the manuscript be in nearly publish ready form; we simply haven’t the resources to handle developmental editing.
How many books do you publish per year?
Our goal is to publish five books per year.
You proudly mention that your company was founded by two grandmothers. What do your children and grandchildren think of your endeavor?
Our grandchildren brag to their classmates about our company. We are fortunate in that all of our grandchildren love reading and writing. Several of our grandchildren have been inspired to write short stories or poems, now that they realize that publication isn’t something that happens mysteriously and remotely, but could actually happen for them. Molly is currently working on a book with her twelve- year-old twin grandsons that we expect to publish.
Our picture book, The Pepperoni Palm Tree, written by a father and son team, has received such rave reviews that we are discussing an imprint of Fuze that would be Books Written by Kids for Kids.
Will the two of you collaborate on another book?
In our rare moments of free time, we’re crafting the sequel to Satan’s Chamber entitled Hotel Limbo. The same protagonist and supporting characters are driving the story, which takes place this time in Ukraine. We hope to publish this book in early fall. Stay tuned!