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Running Fox Books: Publishing independently, together

Posted: October 10, 2013 - 12:05am

In the United States, some 330,000 new books get published every year — nearly 1,000 a day.

“Obviously, not all these books deal with Alaska, but still,” says Deb Vanasse, founder of fledgling Alaska-inspired publishing cooperative Running Fox Books. “With the sheer number of titles, how do you find one you’ll love?”

That’s where Running Fox comes in. Dedicated to “high-quality books that inspire, engage, and transform,” Running Fox serves as a collective for Alaskan authors, promoting work with (hopefully) commercial literary appeal for old and young readers alike, both in-state and “Outside.”

“Our books are written by spirited, independent-minded writers who care about language and the pleasure of a good book,” Vanasse said.

Thus far, Running Fox offers 11 independently-published books by six different authors, running the gamut from science-fiction to actual science and straight fiction, in addition to a “Writing & Journalism” category. Its roster of authors includes, among others, an explorer/naturalist, a literary agent turned novelist and a former editor of the Anchorage Daily News.

But Running Fox is not a publishing house, per se. Vanasse describes it as a “low-key, no-cost” collective that seeks to forward independent and hybrid authors — those who work in both the traditional and “indie” publishing worlds -- by combining their individual marketing efforts.

“More and more, authors — not publishers, editors or agents — are responsible for marketing and publicizing their books,” Vanasse said, and she should know. She’s published 12 books of her own, fiction, travel and children’s literature. Her novel “Out of the Wilderness” is one of Running Fox’s first titles.

“Running Fox makes the process of selling books more efficient and, hopefully, more effective. These are things our authors and I would be doing anyway,” she said. “I figure, why not do it together?”

In fact, the original idea for Running Fox sprang from Vanasse’s own experiences earlier this year trying to re-release two of her out-of-print books in digital format. At the same time, she was also beginning to send queries through the traditional publishing pipeline for a recently completed literary novel. Though Vanasse enjoyed the decided advantage of a resume listing multiple traditional publishing credits -- and met with enthusiastic initial responses to the novel -- for one reason or another, no agent would pen a deal with her.

“I took a good hard look at the publishing industry, and there’s a revolution going on,” she says. “Independent publishing is losing its stigma; eBooks are everywhere. More than ever, readers make best-sellers happen. I came across many authors -- high profile, successful authors whose work I admired -- no longer pursuing traditional publishing, totally going indie.”

For Vanasse, who also co-founded (with Andromeda Romano-Lax) the Alaska-based writers’ organization 49 Writers in 2009, Running Fox is a direct response to changes that are still taking place in publishing. It also seems a natural fit for Alaska, specifically.

First, she explains, the traditional publishing world, centered in New York City, can feel extremely distant for Alaska writers.

“It’s a far-flung state, but we’ve got plenty of high-caliber writers here,” she says.

On the other side of that equation, New York publishing houses don’t exactly focus on Alaska readers.

“To them, Alaska’s a very small market, but to people who live here -- writers and readers alike -- it’s huge. Running Fox is small enough and local enough to really take into account our readers’ point of view.”

What’s more, Running Fox’s approach taps into Alaska’s trademark Do-It-Yourself spirit, as well as the prevalent practice of working together and “helping your neighbor.”

To that end, Vanasse enlisted substantial guidance from Fairbanks author David Marusek, whose approach to marketing she characterizes as “among the most expedient, simplest and productive she’s encountered “in Alaska or anywhere.”

Perhaps most importantly, Vanasse sees in Running Fox a profound opportunity.

“There’s a literary Renaissance happening in Alaska right now,” she says. “Writers are developing regional literature with impact on the entire literary world. We want to be at the forefront of that movement.”

For a complete list of Running Fox authors, books and other information, visit www.runningfoxbooks.com. As for prospective authors, Running Fox is not currently accepting submissions through any type of formalized process.

“At this point, we’re looking more at the person than the project -- what that author brings to the marketplace,” Vanasse says. “But if a writer wants to partner, we’d love to hear from them.”

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