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.