We at Fuze Publishing have plenty of reason to celebrate our third anniversary! As an independent press with a cutting-edge business model, Fuze has achieved remarkable success in a world dominated until recently by traditional publishing paradigms. We have released six books, with five more in the editing pipeline, and we have grown from two founders, to a team of five employees and two interns! This week, Karetta Hubbard and Molly Tinsley, Fuze co-founders, discuss their unusual journey and their vision for the future.
Five years ago, two grandmothers—one, a seasoned writer and former college professor, the other a successful businesswoman—decided, on a whim, to write a thriller. Both recall the excitement and challenge of collaborating on Satan’s Chamber. But when it came time to get the book published, the economy had tanked, and publishing companies all but suspended acquisitions.
After aggressively marketing Satan’s Chamber according to traditional protocol, a light bulb went off for Hubbard–why not start their own publishing company? Tinsley agreed, and Fuze Publishing was born.
The two mavericks originally intended to sell their own thriller, and its sequels. But as Hubbard remembers, “Other writers with similar frustrations came to us, asking can you publish my book?” Soon they had crafted a business model, with a little start-up capital, and a requirement that authors participate in the growth of the company in return for substantial royalties.
Over the course of the last three years, Fuze has made a successful venture out of violating conventional business sense, by supporting unknown authors, and emphasizing a mission: to publish stories that bridge diverse cultures and enlighten at the same time that they captivate readers.
“Each month we measure incremental financial gains,” says Hubbard, “which means our stories are reaching wider audiences. In the publishing world, the caliber of the titles, plus the number of titles equals more respect, and after three years we’re gaining our footing.”
Tinsley believes Fuze has accomplished an important mission. “We’ve enabled writers who were on the verge of giving up, and we have published books that deserve to be out there.”
Fuze doesn’t have any trouble finding manuscripts. In fact, “our authors have mostly come to us via word of mouth,” says Hubbard. Since Fuze remains a relatively small operation, however, she says “we have little time to work with manuscripts that are not Publish Ready.” That said, Hubbard admits, “When a powerful story crosses our path, begging to be told, it is difficult for us to resist putting the time and effort into making it a publishable work.”
When asked about the most important lesson she’s learned so far, Hubbard says, “It involves working with authors to get their manuscripts in ‘prime time’ shape. All writers tend to see their work as finished and immutable. In many cases they have already put a lot of work into rewriting, though publication still eludes them. To motivate them to engage in more editing, and sometimes rewriting, is a challenge: to read their work as a potential reader might and reshape the story accordingly.”
Tinsley has learned a lot about the internet. “Cyberspace was foreign territory for us, but today’s business world requires a familiarity.” Having netted some younger team members–her daughter Meg Tinsley, to create the newsletter and connect the company to the blogsphere, and Mary Lee, Fuze’s long-term intern, to annex Twitter and Facebook, they are on the right track!
Both co-founders express the tension that their business endeavor has caused in their own creative pursuits. “The reason I collaborated with Molly on Satan’s Chamber in the first place,” Hubbard says, was “to learn from the master. Now that I have discovered the art of story-telling through the written word, I would like to be able to keep writing and improve my skills. But the demands of the business make this impossible at this time.” Yet as she goes on to say, “Even so, I would repeat our experience, if only because of the joy we have brought to the authors, whose books might never have seen the light of day, and to the readers who experience these stories. Ultimately, it’s fun to be able to get out of bed and do something worthwhile.”
“My aha moment,” Tinsley says, “has to do with learning my limits, and realizing that I can’t let go of my own writing or I’ll go nuts. I have to write my own stories and plays.” Yet she also admits, “It’s really hard to strike a balance, because I want to publish or at least help every writer. I want them to keep on writing. Creativity is drying up in our culture; we are not creating, we are just consuming. I don’t want the voices of the world to go quiet even though I can’t give everyone a megaphone.”
Looking toward the future, both founders expressed a desire to grow Fuze, incrementally, by developing more infrastructure: editors to free up personal creative pursuits, a marketing arm, and more quality controls. “Mostly we’d like to keep doing what we’re already doing, but do it better,” says Hubbard.
Tinsley admits they’d “love a big success, mostly so we can launch further successes for everyone else. I’d like more attention from the reading world, so that getting our titles noticed would be less of an uphill fight!” Each of our books has the potential to be a blockbuster. The Fuze team is hard at work to make this happen.