Thorntree Press, leading poly publisher, takes off
Three years ago I had my doubts when Eve Rickert and Franklin Veaux said they were going to start their own book-publishing company to bring out More Than Two, after dozens of publishers had rejected Franklin's proposal. How often does that work out?
But they've pulled it off big. They set up Thorntree Press, published More Than Two their own way keeping full control, marketed the book vigorously, found a distributor, and learned a lot. In the first a year and a half they sold more than 25,000 copies (in all formats) — amazing for new, self-published authors — and they just ordered a very large new printing.
That was the start. Thorntree Press now has nine books by various authors in publication, most of them poly related. Eve and Franklin have scheduled six more books for 2017; four of these will branch out to other relationship topics. They recently signed a bigger, better distributor to handle their books. Right now they're holed up in the woods sweating out another book of their own: Love More, Be Awesome. It won't be poly-specific; Franklin calls it "a kind of user’s guide for being a human being: tips and ideas for being awesome and living a life of compassion and kindness."
My impression is that Franklin is the mad visionary here and Eve is the pertinacious do-er who makes visions real. Before this venture, she had already been running her own science editing business (Talk Science To Me) on the edges of the book-publishing world.
They were just interviewed by Foreward Reviews magazine:
Polyamorously Yours... and Yours: Thorntree Press Redefines Relationships
By Howard Lovy
...The story of your founding is a familiar one for indie publishers. You sent your ideas to traditional publishers, who told you it couldn’t be done. So far, have the naysayers been right?
The idea for our first book, More Than Two, was shopped around to a large number of publishers and agents – about fifty in all. Many of them sent very similar replies, along the lines of, “We don’t see an interest in polyamory, and we don’t think a how-to book on this subject will sell, but if you’d like to submit a memoir, we’d love to publish that.”
We set up an indie publisher and did both books: the how-to and the memoir. The memoir [The Game Changer] has been modestly successful, but the how-to book has been a runaway hit, selling over 25,000 copies in its first eighteen months. Apparently the naysayers have been the exact opposite of right.
Apparently, millennials have rediscovered polyamory. It’s almost as if the ’60s never happened, though. Is the practice fundamentally different today than in previous generations?
Considerably so. Polyamory bears little resemblance to the “free love” movement of the 1960s.
Free love advocates talked about open sexuality, but often failed to acknowledge the realities: physical intimacy is, for most of us, the gateway to emotional intimacy. They didn’t really consider how to have multiple simultaneous committed romantic relationships.
Over the past couple of decades, the polyamory movement has grappled with exactly that question: Sex aside, what does it look like to have multiple romantic relationships? How is it possible to be in love with, and often be committed to, more than one person at a time? What relationship skills do we need to make it work? How can we relate to multiple romantic partners in ways that are healthy and that support positive, loving, long-lasting relationships? What does it mean to raise children and form families that are non-monogamous? How do the power dynamics work? Who does the laundry?
When we look at modern poly communities, which largely got their start in the early 1990s, we see a process of developing ways of relating and building healthy, dynamic relationships that go way, way beyond sex....
Don’t get us wrong, sex is fun and healthy and great, but you need more than sex to build a life. That’s what polyamory is about — building lives that just happen to involve more than two romantic partners.
Those of us who have been part of the polyamory movement for the past few decades have learned a lot of lessons and made a lot of mistakes. The millennial generation is, I think, the first generation that does not have to fight to try to build a new way of relating: Many of them are growing up in a world where polyamory is one choice among many, and there’s not a default assumption that everyone has to live the same way.
We think that’s amazing. We think the millennials are going to be an awesome generation. They are taking to polyamory naturally, and we they’re really going to show us how to do it well.
Stories From The Polycule is an INDIEFAB finalist. These are stories from real-life polyamorous relationships. What’s the biggest takeaway from this book?
There’s more than one “right” way to have a relationship. Families are different from each other. Different families can be totally different in form and function and the people in them can still be strong, vibrant, happy, and healthy.
Are there any upcoming titles you’re excited about?
We have two amazing books coming out this fall, Ask Me About Polyamory! The Best of Kimchi Cuddles and Purple Prose: Bisexuality in Britain.
Ask Me About Polyamory! is exciting because as a comic, it will be the most accessible introduction to polyamory on the market to date. The creator, Tikva Wolf, has a huge following for her Kimchi Cuddles webcomic, with over 15,000 Facebook followers and 300 supporters on Patreon, and the crowdfunding for her book was fully funded less than 48 hours after it launched. It’s a very different book than More Than Two, but we think it will easily be as successful.
Purple Prose is a big step for us because it’s the first book we’re doing that’s not focused on ethical nonmonogamy. We really want to expand our list to cover other topics in relationships and sexuality — we don’t want to get pigeonholed as only publishing poly books! Purple Prose is a step in that direction. It’s also an important book for us because — like Stories From the Polycule — it showcases many authors who are people of color, disabled, gender nonconforming.
Nontraditional relationships are front-and-center in the news these days. Is this a good time to be Thorntree Press?
When we founded Thorntree Press, we wanted to amplify the voices of people who wanted to examine the polyamory (and more broadly, non-traditional relationship) movement. We seek out people who advocate values like empathy, compassion, communication, and respect, and we’re particularly interested in offering a platform to groups who traditionally have not had one.
This carries into other books beyond poly books. For example, almost no books on bisexuality exist — there isn’t even a BISAC subject category for bisexuality! The bookstore shelves are filled with gay and lesbian books, but there’s almost nothing for people who identify as bisexual — and that’s a lot of people! With Purple Prose, we’re hoping to change that.
The original (May 12, 2016).
Meanwhile, Eve writes us about "a bunch of things going on in Thorntree Press world":
Eli Sheff's book When Someone You Love Is Polyamorous: Understanding Poly People and Relationships was published last month. This is a 48-page, $5 booklet designed to explain polyamory to someone who doesn't know anything about it. The idea is that this is something you can give a friend or family member when coming out to them (or they can buy it for themselves if they're looking for answers).
Our transition to Independent Publishers Group (IPG) is now complete, meaning our books will get much broader access to bookstores, libraries, etc. (This also means that for Canadians, our books are all available at Chapters-Indigo. Finally.)
More Than Two has sold over 25,000 copies in all formats, and we've just ordered a third printing of 10,000 paperbacks (which is basically where your loan went — thank you!). We've sold rights in Korean, German and Italian, and are currently running a crowdfunding campaign for a Spanish edition with the help of some folks from Poliamor Madrid. (IPG is the largest distributor of Spanish-language books in the US, and has a distribution partner in Spain.) We've released some English-language perks for people who want to support the campaign but aren't interested in a Spanish-language edition.
Eli Sheff's Stories From the Polycule is up for two INDIEFAB awards with Foreword Reviews. It was also the first (and so far only) one of our books to get a Publishers Weekly review.
Ask Me About Polyamory: The Best of Kimchi Cuddles is available for pre-order, and Tikva will be signing advance copies at Atlanta Poly Weekend at the beginning of June. Signed copies are also available for pre-order from Malaprops in Asheville, NC.
There's a Goodreads giveaway running right now for When Someone You Love is Polyamorous. It closes May 26.
We have six books scheduled for 2017 — including new books from me & Franklin, Tikva and Louisa. Only two of those six, though, will be about polyamory or nonmonogamy.
I think that's everything. It's been a busy few months!
● Kitty Chambliss has posted a long interview with Franklin on her Loving Without Boundaries podcast: Part 1, Part 2 (May 19 and 25, 2016).
● It's a sign of More Than Two's reputation that people are attributing fake quotes to it to support whatever position they have. Eve is building a collection of false quotes from More Than Two, which should make fun reading. Be warned. . . .