10 Questions with Folkways Press Founder Hannah Fields
In this exclusive Q&A, I speak to Hannah Fields, president and founder of Folkways Press Publishing, a brand new company focusing on women and unrepresented voices. Fields talks about her experiences in publishing, her decision to start a publishing company during a pandemic, and her dreams for the future of the industry. Thank you so much, Hannah, for this wonderful chat.
Also, the Folkways Press Kickstarter just began this week! Contribute to it here and help bring this awesome company to life. Its first anthology, We Are Not Shadows, is packed with incredible voices you won't be able to stop reading.
1. Tell me a bit about your journey to starting Folkways Press. Why did you decide to start it? What is its mission? What do you hope to achieve by starting it?
The journey starting Folkways Press has been quite a wild ride. When I decided to start the company in January of 2020, I was not expecting the world to experience a pandemic. That slowed some things down, especially on the legal side (that’s boring so I won’t get into it), but things worked out even if it took longer than I would have liked.
As for the idea for Folkways, it’s been ruminating in the back of my mind since around 2015, though it didn’t have the shape it does now. I remember my mom asking me once why I’d never considered starting my own company because of my love for books. That was really my “ah-ha” moment. From there, I moved to Scotland to pursue a MLitt Degree in Publishing at the University of Stirling. My education through the program really helped mold my purpose for the company, which is to highlight unrepresented voices.
I’d say my ultimate mission is to give a platform to writers who often go unheard. It’s no secret the publishing industry needs more diversity, but it also needs to be more genuine in the way it implements diversity. I don’t want to pigeonhole writers; I want them to have the freedom to speak up and speak loudly; I want them to have a space that amplifies their voice. There are so many fantastic writers out there and I’m so looking forward to reading their words and helping them share those words with the world.
In that same cusp, I also want Folkways to have the ability to give back to communities, especially where writing and the arts is concerned. With each book we publish, it’s my goal to use part of the funds to donate to a relate cause.
2. What has been your background in publishing?
Someone once told me I have the background of a generalist, but I’ve been a career editor for about seven years now, even if that came with learning extra skills (i.e. social media, marketing, design, etc.). I worked in communications before heading to Stirling (and after), but my first real experience with publishing was during my internship with Saraband Books. Instead of just sticking to one role during my internship, Sara Hunt allowed me to gain some experience in editing, publicity, and more. She inspired me even more to become a publisher and I still admire her work.
Since then, I’ve worked with publishers in different capacities, mainly freelance. I worked with the awesome guys at Speculative Books, helping with their open mic poetry nights at Inn Deep in Glasgow, among other projects. I’ve also done some freelance editing and writing for publishers such as Pearson, PowerKids Press, and Lion Hudson.
In addition, I’ve had the opportunity to serve on the 2015 and 2018 Saltire Society Shadow Judging Panel in Poetry, serve as a Social Media Officer on the 2019 Society of Young Publishers Committee – Scotland, and serve as a volunteer at the Edinburgh International Book Festival.
So, generalist? Maybe. Well-rounded? Definitely.
3. What is your day job? Does it involve writing?
Currently, I work as an Assistant Multimedia Specialist in the Texas Tech College of Human Sciences Marketing and Communications Office. It can involve a fair bit of writing, yes. We often write alumni profiles, blog posts, marketing copy, and the like.
4. What types of books do you enjoy reading?
All kinds! If a book sounds interesting, I’ll usually give it a shot. I tend to reach more for fiction, horror, and inspirational/self-help non-fiction books. I also enjoy some fantasy and science fiction. I’d say it’s a good mix.
5. What has been a triumph and trial moment for Folkways Press?
Our biggest triumph has been getting our Kickstarter off the ground and I’m hoping we’ll also triumph in getting it completely funded. I’m feeling a bit nervous about it, but hopeful.
As I mentioned previously, the pandemic has been our biggest trial. Because most banks had their lobbies closed, I wasn’t able to set up a bank account until recently. Our business paperwork was also slow to get approved because so many offices have been behind. I appreciate the people who’ve helped us, though!
Running a company solo can be difficult as well, but I’m so lucky to have friends and colleagues who’ve reached out to help and I’m so grateful for them.
6. How do you envision Folkways Press growing in the future?
My dream is to grow enough to run the company as my full-time job. I envision having a few people on staff and offering paid internship opportunities to students or anyone who’d like to gain some experience in the industry.
Right now, our goal is to publish shorter works, such as novellas, poetry collections, short story collections, anthologies, memoirs, etc. I’d like to grow enough to publish novels or even expand into more multimedia options. The sky’s the limit when it comes to dreaming, but right now it’s all about practicality—haha.
I’d also love for Folkways to collaborate with non-profits in some way to promote literacy and act as an advocate for causes we believe in.
7. Do you offer any freelance services outside of Folkways Press? How can someone contact you if they'd like to reach you?
Yes! I offer services from editorial to marketing and more. I can be reached via my website here.
8. Do you have any personal writing goals (to write a novel, short story, memoir, etc.)?
I’ve always loved writing since I was a kid. Poetry has been my main focus for the past few years, and I’d love to publish it in a book eventually. I also enjoy writing short stories and flash fiction, so I’ve also toyed with the idea for a short collection of either. Though, to be honest, I’m very happy with my writing being published in journals and magazines, too.
I once dreamed of writing a novel and I started one when I was in my teens. I can tell you that it probably wasn’t very good! I still think of writing a novel, but that’s definitely a goal that’s remaining on the back burner for a while.
9. How do you think the publishing industry is changing in the wake of the pandemic of 2020? Do you think trends happening now (work from home) will continue after COVID? Why or why not?
The industry, in my view, has changed quite a bit since the pandemic. Many events are being moved online, though I’m not sure if that’s helpful or harmful to book releases. More people might be able to join, but it doesn’t seem to garner the same atmosphere. However, we did see book buying continue during the pandemic and increase. I’m hoping that’s a trend that continues. It’s exciting to see people to continue their joy of reading or even rediscovering that joy.
I could see working from home remaining in some capacity. As much as I enjoy being in the office, I also enjoy working from home. It seems to remove some stress and it’s nice to spend the day with my dog while I work.
10. What advice can you offer writers looking to get into publishing?
I’d tell them that they don’t have to have a degree in publishing to be successful in the industry, especially when the cost of education is getting higher each year. I benefited greatly from my degree, and I’d recommend Stirling to anyone, but it’s not something you have to do.
Don’t be discouraged if you don’t get an internship right away or if you don’t get a publishing job right away. I worked as a senior editor at a university after I graduated with my MLitt degree and I’m so thankful for that job. My skills as an editor improved and I picked up some new skills along the way that have benefited me greatly. There’s no right or wrong way into publishing.
Keep advocating and pushing for the change you want to see in the industry. Your voice matters. There are others who want to see the same changes and improvements that you do. Keep taking those small steps and you’ll start to see all the progress you’ve made.
Find more than one thing to love about publishing. You may love editing now, but, by exploring other options, you may also find that you love sales or publicity or design. There are more than one or two types of jobs in this industry, and you might just surprise yourself as you learn more about them and how they fit into your career path.