Snapshot: Tehani Wessely

Tehani Wessely was a founding member of Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine in 2001 and started her own boutique publishing house, FableCroft Publishing, in 2010. Now firmly entrenched in Australian speculative fiction and independent press, she also judges for several national literary awards and reads far more in one genre than is healthy.

Since 2002, Tehani has edited ASIM #4, #16, #27, #31, #36 (co-edited) and #37, three Best Of ASIM e-anthologies, the Twelfth Planet Press anthology New Ceres Nights and e-mag Shiny, and for FableCroft produced the original anthologies Worlds Next Door, After the Rain, Epilogue, One Small Step, reprint anthologies Australis Imaginarium and Focus 2012. She is currently working on FableCroft’s Insert Title Here anthology, Cranky Ladies of History (with Tansy Rayner Roberts) and several other projects. Tehani also edited To Spin a Darker Stair (a boutique gift book), the original novels Path of Night (Dirk Flinthart), Ink Black Magic (Tansy Rayner Roberts) andGuardian (Jo Anderton), and the award-winning debut collection The Bone Chime Song and Other Stories by Joanne Anderton.

In her spare moments, she works as Head of Library in a Canberra boys’ school and enjoys spending time with her husband and four children. You can find Tehani online as @editormum75 and @fablecroft on Twitter, or at http://fablecroft.com.auhttp://thebooknut.wordpress.com and https://www.facebook.com/FablecroftPublishing

1. You’re currently working on the anthology Cranky Ladies, which was crowdfunded earlier this year. What was it like to crowdfund a project like this? and what’s it like editing this anthology in general, given such an awesome premise? 

Cranky Ladies was my first foray into crowdfunding, and it was a great experience – I think the fact we funded less than halfway through the campaign was a big help with that! The Cranky Ladies concept really seemed to strike a chord with people, and we were fortunate to get a good amount of mainstream media attention for the campaign, which was a huge help. Well, I say fortunate, but really that was partly good management – Tansy realised that March was Women’s History Month, and we pushed up our timeline to fit in with that – super smart move Tansy! This is why it’s important to work with clever people 🙂 It was a heck of a ride, running the campaign and the blog tour, and I don’t think my nerves could handle doing it regularly. That said, it’s a really interesting way to finance a project that has a broad appeal, and when the funding is essentially a pre-order system, and the funding is designed to funnel straight to the authors/artist, I think that helps.

The editing process hasn’t really started yet, although some of our wonderful authors have already sent in stories (which I am resisting, because I’m neck deep in edits for other projects!). It’s very exciting working with new authors though, and particularly international authors I’ve not been privileged to publish before. I’m looking forward to the challenge of balancing the historical and speculative elements that some stories will have, and absolutely cannot wait to see what our writers have come up with. It’s also been a long while since I’ve co-edited with anyone, so I’m really pleased to be doing that again with Tansy, too!

2. Something you’ve done recently is rescue a series of books where the final book hasn’t been published, for some reason. You’ve done this for Tansy Rayner Roberts, publishing Ink Black Magic, and for Joanne Anderton with Guardian. Is this the frustrated reader in you swaying the publisher, and do you anticipate doing more of the same in future? 

Tansy coined the phrase “bibliophile search and rescue” when we launched Jo’s book at Continuum in June, and I’m totally stealing it! It’s an interesting experience, publishing the last book of a trilogy, with some adjustments in thinking required. There are some challenges involved – how do you market to a new audience if it’s been a while between books? Conversely, what if you’re targeting an existing audience, how do you reach them? There were some differences with Guardian and Ink Black Magic, in that we had the rights to reprint the first two Mocklore books for Tansy, but Jo’s are still being sold through Angry Robot, which has some implications for marketing and promotion. Given we were following through on relatively recent releases with Guardian, we really wanted to make sure the cover art looked like it belonged with the series, and that the format of the book itself (and the price point), was as close as we could get to the first books, in order to be appealing to those who already had the first books. One challenge has been in reviewing – third books are often really hard to get reviews for, because many reviewers are reluctant to invest the time in them if they don’t standalone. We like to think that both Guardian and Ink Black Magic DO work as individual books, though of course the experience may be enhanced by reading the others in the series!

I don’t think it’s something I would do without having already loved the first books of the series, which of course I did for both of these, but it certainly is not something I would write off doing again in the future, that’s for sure. In fact, I may have a little something similar already on the boil, but shhhh…

3. You always seem to have a ludicrous number of projects simmering away. Will Fablecroft be branching into new arenas in the future, or do you anticipate strengthening the things you’re already doing well? 

Heh, yes, ludicrous is probably a very GOOD word for it! It’s quite amazing to me how many avenues keep popping up that I’d like to explore. I will continue to produce anthologies regularly, as long as I keep having crazy ideas for them, and I’m keen to look into more original novels as well as the ebook reprint line, such as with Glenda Larke’s Isles of Glory trilogy. That said, FableCroft is definitely branching out – I’m working on several children’s book projects right now, one under the Cranky Ladies banner, and another that involves several works in a shared world series – although given our first book was a children’s anthology, maybe it’s not so much branching out as coming back to our roots! I’m also looking at a new non-fiction range of ebooks that will essentially be “related works” for SF & F. Still working on some details there, so don’t want to say too much yet. Keep an eye on the website or the Facebook/Twitter page for announcements!

4. What Australian works have you loved recently?

Other than books I’ve published myself? Oh, SO MANY! I judged for the CBCA Book of the Year last year, so I can’t really talk too much about the fantastic YA and Children’s books I read as part of that, though I do encourage people to check out the OR category, as there are several speculative books on the list that I highly recommend 🙂 Likewise the Aurealis Awards shortlists – I’ve worked my way through most of those, and really enjoyed them (go AA judges!).

In 2014 work, I was lucky enough to read an advance copy of the Twelfth Planet Press anthology Kaleidoscope a few weeks ago, and I will be terribly surprised if the book and stories from it don’t appear on shortlists all over the world. It’s an amazing collection of diverse YA fantasy and SF, and it’s brilliant. I read Glenda Larke’s new book The Lascar’s Dagger earlier this year and it’s just as good as everything else she’s done – awesome fantasy with great plot and characters. DK Mok’s first novel also crossed my path, which was a really fun but also thought-provoking read. I enjoyed Marianne de Pierres’ Peacemaker, which holds a little piece of my heart because I was lucky enough to republish the original short story the novel grew from in Australis Imaginarium, and I love seeing things like that happen! I’m sneak reading Sean Williams’ next book (nyah nyah, you’re not!) which is excellent, and I have a bunch of Aussie books on my TBR shelf right now that I’m looking forward to – some really new, some that I just haven’t had a chance to get to yet, but I’m looking forward to. My Goodreads page will have them when I get to them!

5. Have recent changes in the publishing industry influenced the way you work? What do you think you will be publishing in five years from now?

It’s a really fascinating time to be a boutique publisher, because we have more opportunities now than ever before to reach a global audience and engage with readers all over the world. Rapid changes in technology have seen us broaden our horizons and our expectations immensely, and this brings with it both challenges and rewards. We’re able to market to an international audience now, in both print and ebook, and we’re really seeing the advantages of this, particularly in the ebook field, which seems to be so much more advanced in the US and UK, so that helps! However, of course we’re competing with the internationals too, but that’s okay, because Australia produces darn fine writers, and I think an international stage can only mean good things for them. We’ve seen some pretty big changes to the major publishers in recent years too, which seems to mean there are a lot more fantastic manuscripts out there that the majors aren’t willing to take a risk on, but that offer great opportunities for boutique publishers.

Self-publishing is becoming more mainstream and accepted, particularly when a lot of self-publishers are putting in the hard yards and finances to professional editing and design. However, the authors are also seeing established small press as a good option over self-publishing, because when it comes down to it, most of them would rather be writing than hustling their books, and marketing and promotion is such a big part of the job! It’s also an area that indie press still does it tough in against the majors, but with our social media connectedness, that too is gradually changing.

I think we’re moving towards a situation where loose conglomerates of publishers of various sizes will really work together to support and promote each other – not necessarily in a proscribed way, but in that really, working together makes so much more sense than competing with each other!

What will FableCroft be publishing in five years? I have NO idea! I daresay our ebook catalogue will continue to grow – I’m excited about bringing awesome books back into “print”, particularly those which didn’t receive the fanfare they deserved when they first appeared, so I’m looking out for that sort of thing. I would love to see Cranky Ladies or similar projects have legs that take them five years into the future. I hope to be publishing more brilliant original novels, and to keep my finger in the anthology pie. But given the changes in the past five years? Well, I think the best thing I can do is be open to ANYTHING, and see what comes.

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This interview was conducted as part of the 2014 Snapshot of Australian Speculative Fiction. We’ll be blogging interviews from 28 July to 10 August and archiving them at SF Signal. You can read interviews at:

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