On Thursday, Goal Publications announced that they’re probably shutting down. You can read their announcement here: https://goalpublications.com/update-and-our-future/
This is, of course, very sad and a huge blow to our little community. It leaves us with lots of questions, such as, “What will happen to the books they did publish? Will they vanish? Will another publisher pick them up or will they become self-published titles?”
But if they do close their doors, then maybe we should be asking ourselves a different question: Does the furry fandom even need publishers anymore?
For now, major publishing houses still have a viable business model and can use the power of large print runs to trim costs and generate profits. Plus, by acting as gatekeepers and only publishing the best manuscripts submitted to them, consumers can have confidence that “If it comes from XYZ, then I’m probably going to enjoy it!”
But can we say the same for the fandom’s publishers? These publishing houses are doing runs measured in scores of books, not thousands, not millions. They’re not getting similar economies of scale that the big publishers do, so there’s less room for them to make a profit. Furthermore—get ready to throw things at me for daring to say it out loud—they’re not doing such a hot job of gatekeeping.
Those are fighting words, I realize, but over the past decade, we’ve seen furry publishers go one of two ways: either they become too accepting and publish poor quality books along with the good, or they become walled gardens where they continue to accept manuscripts from authors they’ve published in the past without allowing any other authors in, regardless of how good their books might be.
So, if Goal does fail, I think I’d like to propose that the guild form a publishing co-op—in essence, a non-profit furry publisher. Please note that I’ve only been mulling this idea for a few hours, and so it’s probably going to be easy to poke holes in my initial suggestion, but if you give my idea a chance, I think we might be able to iterate on it until it does become viable.
The co-op would leverage free, open source tools such as wikis and task tracking software to democratize the publishing process and help authors self-publish and sell their work. Just like a traditional publisher, authors would be able to submit a cover letter and synopsis into a slush pile. Members who enjoy reading story ideas could read through the submissions and add their ratings and notes onto the submissions.
These ratings and notes would help members find the stories that they’d like to help through the next stage of the process, getting a full draft and adding ratings and notes.
Again, these new ratings and notes would help members find the stories they’d like to help through the next stage, getting the draft to a developmental editor. Obviously, the author would need to foot the editor’s bill, but the co-op would be a place to gather resources and help the author make informed decisions on who is good and how much they charge.
Once edited, the co-op could be the same sort of resource for the next stage, line editing.
And then layout.
And then cover illustration.
And then cover layout.
At the end of the process, the co-op could provide to the author “Here are the files you will upload and what you should put into these fields to get your proof copy.”
Once the book was finally published, the co-op could continue to be a resource—for marketing and through an online catalogue of furry books. Since the catalog wouldn’t be selling the books, it would provide links of all the places where readers could buy the books—each with an estimated percent of what the authors keep from each sale, so that readers could make informed choices that would best help authors out financially.
There would be no reason to limit the catalogue to co-op assisted titles, so we could list books that were already published or published elsewhere and collect links so readers could find those books.
The co-op could even facilitate sales relationships. For example, I have a shop where I sell my books. If there was a book that I loved and wanted to add to my store, the co-op could help me establish that relationship, agree on fair royalties, codify how we could terminate the relationship if we wanted to, etc.
If we could ever find someone who wanted to do furry book marketing, the co-op could be a resource to connect authors with them.
Well, that’s all I’ve got at this point. I’d be curious to hear your thoughts.