Ashley Eckstein’s Fangirl Empire Expands with Her Universe Press

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There were a lot of exciting announcements at last weekend’s New York Comic Con. Lots of panels and celebrity guests. Lots of people, and lots of incredible cosplay.

But on Saturday evening, in a packed, standing-room-only panel in the Javits Center basement (someone woefully underestimated the popularity of this panel), Ashley Eckstein announced that the Her Universe brand would be expanding to the world of…publishing?

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Yep, that’s right. The brand was made famous by Eckstein (the voice of Ahsoka Tano on The Clone Wars and Rebels) with the purpose “to create stylish, fashion-forward merchandise for female sci-fi fans.” Her Universe has since become recognized as the go-to source for geeky apparel designed specifically for female fans and fangirls.

And now, with an expansion into publishing, Eckstein is inching Her Universe toward becoming a media empire.

The press was established to provide an opportunity for new and aspiring female writers to have their voices heard and to see their work professionally published. Through her many many interactions with fans, Ashley clearly saw that there were an untold number of stories to be told by countless people who just don’t have a way into the publishing industry as it exists today.

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Therefore, Her Universe is partnering with Permuted Press to bring these books to market, and part of what makes this so exciting is that they’re actively looking for submissions from everyone. Even though the first few books will be written by established authors, Eckstein made it clear that they’re very interested in seeing submissions from fans, first-time authors, and “agentless” writers. They’re so committed to this, in fact, that the Her Universe Press website, right now, is little more than a submission page where aspiring authors can submit their pitches and proposals.

What are they looking for? In a nutshell, they’re looking for YA genre fiction (fantasy or science fiction) that features an empowering message and a strong female protagonist. Ashley responded to fans’ questions and indicated that they are open to proposals that don’t quite fit that mold (e.g., nonfiction, children’s picture books, stories with a male protagonist, non-YA novels), but she made it clear that they are not currently looking for comics or graphic novels. Novels with illustrations, yes. Full-on graphic novels, no.

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The press and the books they’ll publish are intended to be all inclusive, but their content will emphasize stories created by and for the same demographic that the Her Universe line of clothing (and the site’s famous Fangirl of the Day) targets.

The purpose of the NYCC panel was both to announce the press in general and to release details on the initial slate of titles. So what’s coming?

First up (and already available for preorder) is Weirdest by Heather Nuhfer and with illustrations by Brenda Hickey, scheduled to come out in April 2016. Weirdest is the story of Veronica, a girl just like everyone else (i.e., without superpowers, magical abilities, or special gifts bestowed upon her) who wants to be the funniest, smartest, or happiest…but is actually the weirdest. It’s about learning to love who you are – not who you think you want to be.

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Slated for summer 2016 (but obviously the flagship title of the first wave of books) is The Confidence Chronicles, a steam punk fantasy starring a teen heroine with unruly hair and a mechanical owl. And if that hasn’t already won you over, try this on. It’s the first book in a planned series that will be written by E. Anne Convery and illustrated by Dave Filoni.

Filoni is most well known as the creator and executive producer of both The Clone Wars and Rebels animated series. His involvement is enough to pique my interest, but The Confidence Chronicles will almost literally be the first non-Star Wars thing he’s illustrated in more than a decade. From the cover/concept art they released, color me excited.

With Convery writing, Filoni illustrating, and Eckstein shepherding and “midwifing” the entire thing, this is truly a heroic team effort!

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Not gonna lie, this was a surprising direction to take the Her Universe brand, which until now has been known for Star Wars dresses and an annual fashion show at San Diego Comic-Con. Nevertheless, it is a most welcome new direction.

Indeed, to paraphrase the great Chancellor Palpatine, we will be watching Her Universe Press with great interest.

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