Furry Writers' Guild Forum

About membership qualification changes

Hi folks,

Received the poll, filling it out, but it felt like something that could benefit from some discussion as well. (I think it probably has been discussed in the Slack channel? But this is easier across time zones.)

I want to say first that I don’t have a very strong opinion. I have some thoughts (or maybe just prejudices) but I haven’t really thought this through or discussed it much – that’s part of the reason for this post – and I wasn’t really able to express that on the form. So here goes.

I’m sort of torn between a few points. Roughly, they go like this:

[ul][li]Part of the point of the Guild is to represent furry writers’ interests, and specifically to help protect and advise them on the financial/commercial side. Most furry publishers are pretty writer-friendly so this doesn’t come up so often, but it’s worth keeping in mind. If there are semi-professional furry writers whose interests the Guild isn’t representing because they don’t tick the right box, that’s a problem with the Guild rather than those writers. (And, in the other direction: are we missing out on members with a lot of self-publishing experience who might have useful advice to offer?)[/li]
[li]Either membership in the Guild ought to mean something – i.e. have some non-trivial bar to clear – or it ought to be totally open. Both of those are legit positions, and the Guild can choose to move from one to the other, but it can’t occupy both at the same time. Personally, I quite like the current setup where the formal membership is restricted (but is mostly for formalities), but the forum membership is open and most of the action happens there.[/li]
[li]The current bar to clear for membership (at least one piece, including short stories, in a paying qualifying market or at least two in nonpaying qualifying markets) is a fairly low one in many cases. Basically, if someone is writing high-grade furry fiction and making decent money off it through self-publishing, they should have little trouble getting one or two short stories published. (Not overnight, sure, but that’s part of the process.)[/li]
[li]… but not in all cases. In particular, if someone is writing in a language other than English, paying furry markets are going to be a lot harder to find (and there might be other cases like this that I’m not aware of). Self-publishing might be the only viable route there.[/li]
[li]On the other other hand, there’s a reason why membership currently requires publication in a qualifying (i.e. selective) market: you send your piece to someone, they read it, and they have to decide on the merits (hopefully!) whether it’s good enough. So an actual person gets to make an informed decision. (It may not be the right decision, but with enough stories and enough markets I think we can assume quality will get there in the end.) But for self-published books, the customer will nearly always be making the decision about whether to buy or not before they get to read and evaluate the piece. So requiring works to make at least $X in net sales is a filter, but it’s not necessarily the same kind of filter.[/li]
[li]It’s worth thinking a bit more about what kinds of self-publishing count, because this is in the process of changing all over again. A few years ago, it was e-books on Amazon or bust. These days, it’s not just e-books on many platforms but also other models like Patreon (or even story commissions). If someone is making $200 a month on Patreon for short fiction, or a serialised novel, is that any more or less worthy than $200 in a year on Amazon? Or if they’re making a living on commissions?[/li]
[li]Some of the issues above can be sidestepped by doing something like a double-blind peer-review application. (If you want to join based on self-published or crowd-funded work that meets a threshold, you submit a sample short story or poem or chapter and then a few members, chosen by lot, read it and vote yea or nay.) But this doesn’t deal with all cases, e.g. non-English-language works. It also feels a bit elitist to make people jump through the extra hoop.[/li][/ul]

So, as you can tell, I’m a bit conflicted. Would be particularly interesting to hear from people who’ve tried both routes.

– mut.

Several FWG members – Kris Schnee and Frances Pauli are two – have qualified as FWG members because they have short stories in anthologies by furry specialty publishers, but they also have novels and short story collections self-published, mostly through CreateSpace or Lulu Press I do not know the circumstances of these, but the authors are obviously aware of the existence of the FWG. Were their CreateSpace books submitted first to the furry publishers and rejected by them, or were they first sent directly to CreateSpace?

Several authors of furry fiction, mostly not in furry fandom, publish through CreateSpace, but they have their books listed under their own imprints. They often have their own websites for their imprints, that publish only their own books; or publish through small presses outside of furry fandom. Examples include:

Daniel Potter and Fallen Kitten Productions: http://fallenkitten.com/

Steven Hammond and Rockhopper Books: https://www.stevenhammondbooks.com/

M. C. A. Hogarth and Studio MCAH: http://mcahogarth.org/

Paul Kidd and Kitsune Press: http://paulkidd.net/kitsune-press/

Rahma Krambo and Reflected Light Books: https://www.linkedin.com/in/rahmakrambo

Pati Nagle and Evennight Books: http://evennight.com/wp/fantasy-and-science-fiction-by-pati-nagle/

Brett A. Brooks and Pandahead Publishing:

Should we be doing more to recruit these authors into the FWG?

If I were to play devil’s advocate, one might argue that good sales from self-published works has less to do with the quality of the writing and more to do with the author’s marketing capabilities, and that this cannot be easily distinguished from a book selling well on merit (or, indeed, merit+marketing). If I remember right, the original reason for the publication requirement was because it’s one of the less arguable metrics of quality – someone somewhere with some level of expertise has decided your work over dozens or hundreds or thousands of others should be seen by a wider audience.

Personally I’m not opposed to self-published authors having a chance at entering the guild, just to be clear. But that is a potential counter-argument that ought to be considered, maybe not so much in how people vote as in how the self-published membership category would eventually be implemented (which thought-process may also swing how people vote, granted).

When I say this is a discussion we’ve been having on and off for years, it’s not remotely an exaggeration. We’ve also seen the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America go through this discussion slash debate slash knock-down drag-out fight for years, driven in no small part by the FWG’s own MCA Hogarth. The argument against it there was much the same as the argument against it here: editorial selection supplies some kind of theoretically objective bar of quality. I understand that, and I’m not unsympathetic to the argument.

But you know what? The SFWA did it. The SFWA – a much older, larger organization that has paid dues and much stricter membership standards – found a way to establish criteria they were comfortable with. So why can’t we? Furry is, if anything, more likely to have folks doing self-publishing of various kinds, given how far out of the mainstream some of our work gets.

I understand that sales numbers are an imperfect measure. So why pick it? For the same reason that it’s what the SFWA picked: you need some kind of measure.

The SFWA requires $3,000 per year net revenue to the author. Bluntly, very few of our writers would be able to qualify at that level, or even at $500; after some discussion we settled on $200, with the option of qualifying based purely on unit sales. Picking the “right” number is tough. For our best-selling authors, that is really low, but for a lot of our other authors, it isn’t. That’s not just a furry thing; I’ve seen multiple figures quoted for how many copies most self-pubbed books sell, and ~250 copies in the book’s lifetime is the high end. There are many, many self-published books that will not sell 50 copies ever.

The specter of somebody publishing their unfinished manuscript as an ebook and then getting their mom to buy 50 copies gets raised a lot in these discussions (I saw it earlier today elsewhere, in fact.) So sure: that’s possible! But statistically, it’s not likely. Assuming this passes, we’ll write the wording in such a way that requires the prospective applicant to send us a copy of the book and gives us final say on whether to accept a sale. We are probably smart enough to avoid obvious scams.

But I didn’t want to go down the rabbit hole of having a panel review books for quality, or establish a criteria of outside review sites (another proposal I’ve heard). The former is a really big ask – much bigger than the “this doesn’t look like a scam” verification suggested above – and the latter is something that would exclude a lot of books published by our established indie presses.

I can’t speak for Chris, but I qualified with a novel published by a small press /non-furry house. At that point I had no short stories in anthologies from furry presses because I had only just discovered the fwg, the genre, and the existence of such presses. My self published stuff at that time was not furry.

I absolutely stumbled upon the guild by accident, and it was a total shock to me to find that this genre, let alone a guild and dedicated publishers existed. I do think there are authors out there doing well and writing what could fall under our meta-genre umbrella, and I think it’s a great idea to reach out to them. Maybe not so much hard line recruiting, but just a nice letter that says, we noticed you’re writing this, were you aware we have a growing guild and a presence? Here would be some benefits of joining and a link if you’re interested.

I for one would have pounced on the chance. :wink:

I agree a review panel sounds untenable.

Question: where does these sales numbers come from? I’m wondering if there’s a way to get some more robust numbers to give whatever threshold is decided on some empirical backing. (I think I asked this before.)

I’m thrilled to see us moving forward on this. Even if we don’t get the details perfect, getting something in place is a big win. We can always modify it as we go, but opening up the guild to indies has been a long time coming. I think we’ll see a positive effect on our numbers and our participation as a result.

At least, that is my hope.

I will admit i don’t have spreadsheets to back up the numbers in the proposal. (People who’ve known me for a long time might find this mildly surprising. I like spreadsheets!) But, they come from having been in and around furry publishing for a while and talking to both publishers and self-publishers within the fandom; I’ve seen unit sales figures not just for my own titles but for various anthology titles published within furrydom in recent years. So the requirements in the proposal are, at the least, well-educated guesses about a good median.

Fair enough! One can always adjust it later if there turns out to be a strong need. I was just curious.

Thanks for all your hard work.

Hello hello.

Just popping back in to say: thanks for the thoughts and the explanation. It’s appreciated. (I quite believe you that the discussion has been going on for years – but it’s been going on in places and at times where I wasn’t, and there was a call for input, and I had a few minutes and a 'net connection, so…)

FWIW, I’m in favour (particularly with the added sanity check Chipotle mentioned). Would just say: give yourself a bit of wiggle room to adjust the criteria after a year or two. Good luck!

– mut.

Definitely more than willing to put this to a new vote in later years. Just want something in place to get the ball rolling!

So for those that haven’t see, this ballot has passed! Here are the results:

  • Self-published works qualify for membership, so long as the author has sold 25 copies or $200 worth in one calendar year
  • All other entrance guidelines remain untouched, which means two non-paid published works still qualify you for membership, and one paid (at any rate) published work qualifies you for membership.

Here’s the full post: https://furrywritersguild.com/2018/10/02/fwg-membership-qualification-change-proposal-results/