Furry Writers' Guild Forum

Engagement, feedback, and the online-print pub chasm in furry lit

Anthrocon last weekend was a blast and a half. Full credit to an amazing group of writers who were wonderful to hang out with and staffed a really impressive slate of panels that were as well-informed as they were well-attended.

For me it also provoked a question. NightEyes DaySpring mentioned the radio silence that the fandom’s myriad anthologies tend to produce. There are a lot of them, and a lot of really great stories in them! But reviews are sporadic, the content is sometimes thin, and whole stories occasionally go completely unmentioned. For an author, it’s possible to wonder whether anyone is reading your work at all.

I think there’s a related topic. There seems to be little overlap between those authors who are prolific online and those authors who are prolific in print. Is it a problem, and if so what can we do about it? And where does it come from? Perhaps once upon a time it was a logical consequence of gatekeeping, and by median quality there’s no doubt still a difference. But I’d put the best of what’s online in furry up against what I see in furry print.

I suspect it’s largely personal preference: most people tend to choose one or the other, because the demands of both are exhausting. Many of the print authors I know are constantly working on prepping submissions — how many do they have out at a time? Two? Four? Ten? Similarly many of the online authors I know are constantly working on prepping submissions. Novel content draws readership. The way to keep your online readers happy is to constantly be posting new stuff, and that consistency of output is also hard to maintain.

A couple of people asked me at AC why I don’t submit to more furry pubs, and this is part of it. It comes down to a fundamental question of what I expect to get out of writing. I enjoy writing, and want to get better at it. You get better at something by practice, and by reacting to feedback, and by learning from others. Reading, and talking to the authors I know through the Guild and elsewhere, solves for the latter. Writing copiously solves for the former. What about the middle?

A few months back I posted a story, “The Odds,” to SoFurry. Fairly representative. It’s not a great story, and won’t set the world on fire, but it did alright by SF standards: 3,500 views, 149 favs; comments by 35 unique individuals in the discussion thread. In other words, I know not just that a hundred and fifty people read it and kind of liked it, but that thirty-five read it and cared enough to say something about it, which is about thirty more than I can say for the story I have in print.

It’s easy to sniffily dismiss these comments as fluff — “5/5 a+++ would read again” — but I don’t entirely buy that. I neither appreciate, nor concede to, the implied insult to the furry reading community — the same readers that we must engage, that we must cater to, and that we implicitly require to be eventual purchasers of content if we expect to sustain a culture of professional writing. It ain’t exactly like every Flayrah review is professional-grade curation, either.

So I kind of want to say that, for me, that’s the bar you need to reach. To the extent that feedback is critical to self-improvement; to the extent that it’s desirable at all, this is the minimum that print publication needs to offer. Give me thirty-plus people commenting on a story in an anthology, and the value exchange starts to become worth it. Otherwise, what does it offer?

One answer is the feedback of other writers. If that’s true, though, then do those print circles, and the feedback they offer, remain more or less the province of coffeehouse stammtisches amongst like-minded professional authors? A resource of useful, insightful, intimate, intensely valuable feedback… that nonetheless is pretty similar to the same sort of beta reading that authors are already doing with each other?

I suspect that negotiating this difficulty is one reason why there is such a divide and others in my position don’t feel compelled to bridge it. But it goes both ways: the readers are online, and if you’re looking for a consistent finger on the pulse of how your writing is being received that’s where to find it. The question that this seems to suggest is: what to make of that? And how do we close that gap? Perhaps it doesn’t bear closing, and perhaps that topic is outside our remit. Perhaps it isn’t a problem at all? At the same time, the desire to boost the number of anthology reviews, and the desire to launch a curated online publication that comes up perennially, seem to speak to a latent tension.

One reason I’m so active in boosting SoFurry, and online writing in general, at writing panels and conventions — and in talking with other authors about it in venues like this — is because I want there to be a voice in loftier circles for “that shadowy place beyond our borders” that the light doesn’t touch. So I feel that tension, too, but I don’t have an answer. Is this unique to us? Does it exist outside the fandom, too? What is this like in music? In art? Surely. Have they dealt with it?

Or is it simply the natural order of things, that East is East, and West is West? What would be the best of both worlds for you?

I have no idea how that gap could be bridged. Publishers could offer incentives for feedback, (like was discussed at the con,) but even that would depend on the participation of the readers. More and more, I still feel that readers are growing less and less interested in giving feedback on any medium. Mind you, I don’t think this means that they’re less interested, per se, more that the shift in the way media is enjoyed in furry, (and in society,) toward the instant gratification is steadily trekking onward.

Back to posting online, (the format I am most familiar with by far,) I love all feedback I get with only one exception in ten years of posting online. The exception was one of those, “You’re sick, you write porn, repent or die” things, so it was brushed off. However, the short few word comments do nothing for me except tell me the reader enjoyed the story. I LOVE the rare instances I get an actual critique on a story where a fan tells me what they did and did not like about it.

If there was a way to personally incentivize more readers to do this, I would do it. Beta reads and critique from authors is invaluable, but a critique from strictly a reader gives me a perspective that I no longer have. I can’t read a story or watch a movie without thinking about the writing aspect of it. It seems like all of the authors who beta read for me and critique me have a similar mindset. Maybe that will change now that I’m here. ^.^

The trick to incentivizing readers to give you feedback on either online posting or print has the same problem. You’d have to have someone interested enough in the story to look beyond just the words on the page to even bother reading where to go and what to do to get the incentives. You’d also need some sort of standard for it, because I wouldn’t pay for the “5/5 a+++ would read again”

Maybe we could do this:

Authors in an anthology review one other story in that anthology. Those reviews get assembled and a review of an entire anthology is made.

While this is really more of a temporary solution, and one possibly better kept from the public (like in the forums here), it could be a decent start.

For more of a long term solution we really need a dedicated forum (not in the digital sense) with a dedicated group with well thought out standards for publishing reviews.

I have been browsing PC reviews recently looking for a new laptop and so many of them have the same format. As new things come out one person is just assigned or requests a particular release. A few years ago I posted a few things I was working up on SoFurry for a month, just to get some feedback. I didn’t get any feedback, at least any satisfying feedback. Maybe the group could also curate a collection monthly of outstanding stories posted on the sites?

If you want there to be more reviews of furry books, go read a furry book and review it. I hear ROAR 6 is good…

I don’t think there was much gatekeeping in the past merely because there wasn’t a lot of publications on the past. I mean, there were fanzines back in the day and they didn’t pay and they weren’t… that great Well the ones I saw weren’t.

I would note that a lot of the first furry published authors got their start by writing for online audiences and built their fanbse before moving on to published writing. Kyell, Rikoshi, Kandrel, etc. But yes, they did one, then they focused entirely on the other. Many writings in our fandom were posted online, then later printed, and I think that can still happen today.

There are ways to try and do both. Serial novels are a good example. You post a section of the writing as you go, so you have that online feedback. Then when you are finished, you compile it into a book and publish it. Patreon is another example. Authors could, when they get the rights back on their stories, simply post them online; few do. One thing I plan to do is to take a break from writing for publication for a while to write some content just for online - I’m doing it to build my reader base as well as to drive readers towards my published works - but I’m still opting to do it. As well, there are some stories that are best suited for online, either because their content doesn’t allow them to be published, or because they are simply too corner-case or whathaveyou to reach a wider audience. Those stories are well, for me, for fun, rather than dictated by submission guidelines and worrying about editors and needing several hard passes.

Also Rob, the trouble with posting online is that you get more feedback the more followers you have. I started posting my stories online, then focused on publication, then I will post the occasional thing online - and the amount of comments I get are very minimal. You have almost nine times the followers that I do. There’s significantly less return for me to post online than for you.

Ultimately though I think there’s perhaps a divide between the motivations of online writer and the for publication writer. I think those who stick with it often are doing it for online do it for the reasons Rob does - that immediate connection with their fans, and the ability to link someone to your work. However the published author is likely doing it because being published is a form of legitimacy. You aren’t just some yahoo spitting words into the sea that is the internet, some gatekeeper said “this is good enough for me to pay you” and now it’s in PRINT and you are an AUTHOR. To some people, that is a great feeling, and each story is a feather in their cap that they can display to other writers, perhaps outside the fandom, to say “See? I’m an author too!” I love it when I say “I’ve published books” to non-authors, their surprise and approval is great. Many of the pub authors desire to “make it” outside the fandom. So getting these folks to post online may be hard.

So I kind of want to say that, for me, [i]that’s the bar you need to reach[/i]. To the extent that feedback is critical to self-improvement; to the extent that it’s desirable at all, this is the minimum that print publication needs to offer. Give me thirty-plus people commenting on a story in an anthology, and the value exchange starts to become worth it. Otherwise, what does it offer?

I suspect that negotiating this difficulty is one reason why there is such a divide and others in my position don’t feel compelled to bridge it. But it goes both ways: the readers are online, and if you’re looking for a consistent finger on the pulse of how your writing is being received that’s where to find it. The question that this seems to suggest is: what to make of that? And how do we close that gap? Perhaps it doesn’t bear closing, and perhaps that topic is outside our remit. Perhaps it isn’t a problem at all? At the same time, the desire to boost the number of anthology reviews, and the desire to launch a curated online publication that comes up perennially, seem to speak to a latent tension.

So here’s my question: can you point to me any mainstream produced thing that has that instant feedback? I don’t think that you can have instant feedback with readers for published works YET because I don’t see it anywhere else, either. Books? It’s hard to get reviews to books for authors who aren’t Big (or at least big in their respective genre). Most readers do not engage with an author. Only the most dedicated will go to that author’s blog. The only thing I can think of is say, the personal web forum for big name authors, where people buy hi sbook, then go to his site and talk about it.

Look at online publications of stories. Tor.com or Daily Science Fiction or something else - do they have a comment section, and if so, are a lot of people commenting? (Looking just now; Daily Sci Fi allows ratings but no comments, Tor.com allows comments).

Maybe it is related to the tension - it certainly is motivated by getting readers - but I think an online publication is desired for multiple reasons. It would be a place to link people to quality writing, for one. Rather than say “Here, buy this thing and you’ll see” you can just say “boom, right in your browser, quality stuff”.

One reason I’m so active in boosting SoFurry, and online writing in general, at writing panels and conventions — and in talking with other authors about it in venues like this — is because I want there to be a voice in loftier circles for “that shadowy place beyond our borders” that the light doesn’t touch. So I feel that tension, too, but I don’t have an answer. Is this unique to us? Does it exist outside the fandom, too? What is this like in music? In art? Surely. Have they dealt with it?

I imagine this happens in other places, like say, fanfic. You can’t publish Fanfic (unless you rewrite it about bondage billionaires I guess) and so you will have a Ton of writing online. Now, you will have authors who cut their teeth on fanfic go on to write other things. In The Real World there’s a much larger divide between “Professional mainstream thinger” and “I post stuff online” - but here in the fandom, it’s easier to go from one to the other (and back again).

The fandom’s writing has been growing by leaps and bounds each year. But I think the problem is that for the writers here, we are impatient that it’s not getting even bigger even faster.

Though I love reading an author review of a story and a dedicated reviewer review of a story, I would like to see more well constructed reviews from strictly readers. How would that be something we could accomplish?

I’m in the camp of writers who are so insecure they need the external validation of an editor okaying a story to feel the story is OK, and will probably still have doubts about it.

Re feedback, I think a big part of the problem is the number of steps you have to go through to give feedback on a printed work. SoFurry has buttons and a comment box right there under the story, so you can leave feedback while you’re still good and wowed/angry/horny. To leave feedback on an anthology, readers need to go on Goodreads/Amazon/the publisher’s website. Responding to an individual story is even harder. You have to look up the author’s details in the back of the book, or Google them if there’s no information. Then you have to compose a tweet or email that doesn’t sound weird or stalkery. There are steps to the process and by the time you’ve completed them, your enthusiasm for the story may have gone off the boil.

I have loved fandom stories in anthologies enough to make that effort, but they have to be outstanding, while online it’s easy to bash out a quick ‘good job, keep it up, BTW you got a typo there’.

I think that the root issues are money-- or more specifically the lack of it-- and author’s personalities. Why go to all the extra work it takes to craft tales to a publishing-house standard when the payoff is generally crappy in financial terms and you get just as much or more emotional satisfaction from an online posting that takes less than half as much effort? Furry is still too small a fandom to generate much in the way of revenue for authors even when they do formally publish, particularly when a) most of the fanbase in question is far more interested in visual art than stories, and b) we live in a world where it’s harder and harder to sell books and stories every year. I posted my stuff online free for many years and was paid only by satisfaction. As a direct result, I never did much in the way of editing and crafting, either. My works were were full of typos and missing words and worse, yet people eagerly seeking “free” sought them out and read them anyway. Posting stories for free was recreation, not work. I didn’t sweat the details, because why should I? I don’t mind doing fun stuff for free. But when I do actual, hard work (like editing novel-length manuscripts and repairing nit-picky continuity issues across an entire series of novels), I expect to be paid actual money. Only extreme optimists write furry fiction for formal publication and thus for money, in other words. Because only an extreme optimist, given current market conditions, would expect to see a return on the extra efforts involved.

Well, that’s not quite true upon further consideration. I can see where hard-core masochists might seriously attempt to write furry stories for publication as well. But those are the only groups I can think of…

The same is true for formal reviews, really. Or at least for why our fandom doesn’t have many of them. When I was growing up way back when, in the olden times when our school days were occupied with lessons on how to use slide rules and properly butcher dinosaurs, reviewers were highly respected professionals who in many cases earned a large part of their living, if not all of it, reviewing books. During the decade or so that I subscribed to F&SF magazine, each and every issue contained at least two sections of book reviews by at least two separate reviewers, each approaching the genre from different angles and covering different titles. (I recall that one of the reviewers called their section “Guilty Pleasures”, because the books covered were meant merely to be fun and not of any literary substance.) Anyway, these well-written and informative sections reviewed about a dozen books a month in total, as best I recall. Each title received perhaps five hundred to a thousand words worth of attention, and I for one depended heavily on these reviews in my purchasing decisions. Or at least I did once I learned which reviewers shared my personal tastes and which ones didn’t.

I bet you can already guess what’s coming next. Yes, those reviewers were actually paid to read those books and write those reviews. Probably not a ton, no. But I’d wager that it worked out to considerably better than minimum wage or else the reviews would never have been written in the first place. This is one of the key differences between then and now. In today’s world, we expect people like Fred to work for free. And that, I would submit, is why we don’t see nearly so many book reviews as we once did, and why the ones we do see tend to be of far lesser quality.

The Age of the Internet reminds me (so far-- it’s still very early in the game) of the old fable of belling the cat. Everyone wants quality content for free, but no one wants to be the one sweating blood for no return in order to provide it. Even worse, our fandom doesn’t yet sell enough books to finance a lot of real writing or editorial expertise. It takes a lot of years to make a skilled novelist or reviewer, and when there’s no significant money as a reward or compensation waiting at the end of the tunnel only a lucky few can afford to sink so many hours into something that won’t ever pay anything back. If you’re not writing a certain numbers of hours a week, you’re actually forgetting what you’ve learned faster than you can learn it! In larger fandoms things can still be made to at least marginally work via web-page ad sales and such. But in ours, there’s simply not enough cash-paying demand to move the system as a whole to the next level. (Or at least there’s not enough yet-- we’ve come a long, long way and are still moving forward.)


I think it comes down to this. Some of us post online for the joy of writing, as I used to. Because there’s no money in free posting, there’s no incentive to work at the harder parts of writing, the stuff that it takes self-discipline and willing acceptance of pain to master. Others try to publish commercially, very often failing because the bar for “free stuff” is set so low that they’ve never learned what real editing and polishing is, but aren’t even aware that they don’t know. (A tiny handful do indeed succeed in writing commercially and make decent money, but that number is so small that for statistical purposes it can be disregarded.) Who belongs to which group, I believe is largely a matter of personality. As stated above, fun-lovers post for free while optimists and masochists chase the money.

Meanwhile the professionals who in the past were the “regulators” of the fiction industry-- skilled editors, reviewers, etc-- are scarcer than hen’s teeth becasue if the financial situation is slanted against success for writers, it’s three times as hard for them since they require an entire stable-full of profitable authors and publications to service in order to make any reasonable amount of money, and their jobs require an even longer and steeper learning curve than writing. They have to invest even more, in other words, for even less financial return. In order to survive, they need a far larger pond.

The growth of the fandom is the ultimate answer, and it most certainly is growing. When I began there were virtually no paying furry markets at all, and even fewer book-buyers. So please don’t think I’m being pessimistic, when in fact I think the future is rosy overall. More financial support will cure all of this. And I think it’s coming.


Since Rechan talked a lot about “in the past,” I’m going to provide a slightly different old fogie perspective.

I don’t think a lot of FWG folks know much more about me than “oh, that older coyote who hangs out in the chat and has written some stuff,” because I’m usually too afraid I’ll come across as “I have been here since the dawn of time and you should listen to me.” Well, you know what? I’ve been here since the dawn of time and you should listen to me. :wink: For the first generation of furry readers I might well have been the equivalent of Kyell Gold. I was the guest of honor at the first Anthrocon; more than one furry told me that “A Gift of Fire, A Gift of Blood” was seminal in showing them what furry stories can do. (The chairman of Eurofurence was one of them; Uncle Kage is also a long-time fan.) I’ve done professional editing, both of the proofing and the developmental kind, and I’ve worked with moderately big name people on both sides of the editing divide. The furry magazine I edited and published, Mythagoras, was an inspiration for Sofawolf Press.

The furry publishing scene back then is a little misunderstood now. There were a lot of zines back then and many of them did have editorial standards. That’s not to say that there wasn’t a lot of crap published. But everything in Best in Show was also published then, and some of that is really good. There were also paying markets then, including my own Mythagoras, Touch, Renard’s Menagerie, and a few others. Some of those markets paid (gasp) a full cent a word, too! I’m fairly sure that Ryffnah’s ROAR 6 is the first from-within-furry publication in at least a decade, if not two, to actively seek contributors from outside furrydom, but it wasn’t the first; Mythagoras published an original furry story from Hugo winner Lawrence Watt-Evans (yes, after he won the Hugo).

What we’re doing now isn’t as different from what we were doing then as we sometimes think. What’s changed is how we reach the audience – or fail to reach it – and that brings us back to Rob’s original question. My suspicion is that despite the fact that furrydom was way smaller in the early '90s, more people read “A Gift of Fire” in YARF! than have read “Going Concerns” in Five Fortunes. Probably by a factor of two or three.

Bluntly, most furries live online. Many of them don’t go to cons, and not all of the ones who go to cons go there to buy things. If they don’t go to cons, the chances are they don’t know about furry publishers, probably not even the ebook stores. What they do know is that they can get stuff for free online. As Rob noted, while the median quality of furry stories that appear from Sofawolf and FurPlanet and friends runs higher than the median quality on Fur Affinity and SoFurry – I would argue probably a lot higher – the best stuff on FA/SF is, almost as a statistical certainty, as good as the best elsewhere.

You can argue that people who are that good should be writing for money, and in a sense I’d agree, but again, let’s be blunt: if you post a 5000-word story online, at typical furry pay rates you’re giving up $25 in exchange for what might well be an order of magnitude more readers. Is the extra validation of being paid enough to forgo that? (And if you build up an audience with free stories, is it possible that you’re going to make more sales if you choose to self-publish down the road?)

My issue with SoFurry is that, like other furry archive sites, it’s essentially in the “let people post anything and give them filtering tools” camp when it come to curation. Alex Vance envisioned the group system as a kind of curation tool, I think, but it really isn’t. What I’m envisioning is something more like (stay with me here) the curated “playlists” on the new Apple Music service: here are a dozen stories loosely connected in some fashion (thematically, species, whatever) that a self-appointed editor has found on the site and decided are gems.

The alternative to that is, of course, an entirely new site that’s entirely curated. I keep coming back to the “Strange Horizons but for furry” angle: a site for furry stories that are free to read, but curated in some fashion. Allasso might have become that site, but its founder apparently decided furries were giving him cooties or something. I think we still need that site. Actually, I think we need multiple versions of that site.

Last but not least: Claw & Quill, however fitfully updated it may be, is in part an attempt to do a little bridge-building, in that the original goal was to not only review things in print but to find the best stuff that appears in archive sites like SoFurry. And, again, I desperately need reviewers for the site. It hasn’t been updated in three months because I haven’t had time to finish my next review, the person who was originally going to review The Furry Future couldn’t, and nobody else has actually stepped up to contribute new reviews of their own.

(Actually, the last bit is that C&Q may accept fiction in the future. But that’s a different topic. OR IS IT?)

I agree. That is something I believe we need. To echo Ryffnah, if we want more reviews, better reviews, of more than just what gets published in the fandom, but outside, self pub, online, etc, we should do it. “If you build it, they will come” so to speak. While it may just be authors reviewing other authors, there is no guarantee that won’t change. I think a furry literature journal is a good way to go. I would be fully interested in doing this.

What was that quote I had on my profile for awhile? It’s far more challenging to get the ball rolling than to jump on once it’s going. Some folks write because there are stories that they would like to see that haven’t been written yet. Perhaps if we used this mentality on reviewing, it might be enough to bring some change.

I think Rabbit is right on target. The problem as I see it is that most furs don’t buy books, and even less write reviews. Writing in the furry fandom, unless you are the ‘The’ celebrity, is not going to be rewarding. The fact that there tends to only be one, maybe two writing celebrities at any one time I think bears this out.

Chipotle wrote an excellent story (quite a few actually), and I’m sure he’ll be the first to tell you that there were other writers out there who he felt were also deserving of equal attention. But they didn’t get it. I bet Kyell Gold also feels the same way. The fandom started based on art, and visual art at that. It is still primarily focused on visual art, with a strong leaning towards what is ‘free’. It is nice to see that there are people working to try and change that, but it is going to be an uphill battle.

Consider this: How many furry books are illustrated? Even if only a few pictures? Now how many fiction books in a bookstore are illustrated?

That’s actually something I’ve been heavily debating for Fragments. In mainstream, it’s so rare to see anything above a YA-rated novel illustrated, and even rare among the YAs. Most readers consider that something you do for children. Yet in the fandom, it seems common to have two or three illustrations because of how visually focused the fandom is- at least from what I’ve seen thus far. Does including these illustrations dissuade mainstream readers even as it brings in fandom readers? Hard to say since the current interest in the fandom with a positive light is incredibly recent.

To answer your question - most of the furry pubs have stopped putting illustrations in their anthologies because they found it didn’t increase sales enough for the cost of the art. The only collection that still continues to do this is Heat which is marketed more as a variety magazine than an anthology of stories for obvious reasons. If you’re thinking of putting art in your anthology, realize that it comes at a price and that price not might be recouped anytime soon, if ever.

There’s also the “Shit in the woods, don’t shit in the garden” problem: I’d love to review furry genre writing more often, but:

A) If I write a negative or mediocre review, I have to be concerned about grudges and non-professionalism by others.
B) I have to consider how that will hurt my professional writing standing if I have to work with these people again (and I probably do).
C) If I have to restrict myself to anthologies and publications I’m not connected to, and I work on being more prolific, that pool shrinks.
D) If I try to avoid these issues by writing reviews under a different pseudonym, any later exposure of that will be interpreted by some as malfeasance, sockpuppetry, etc.
E) Sturgeon’s Law: 90% of everything is crap. I’m a tough reviewer and critic in anything I do. My ratio of negative to positive reviews is, in practice, about 5:3. So that just compounds the issues A-D above. :\

I think Amazon is onto the right idea with restricting authors from reviewing works in their genre.

This strikes me as one of those questions we don’t really have enough data about.

JM’s review of Green Fairy certainly made it sound like he counted the interior illustrations against the story. However, respected “limited edition” publishers like Subterranean Press and Donald Grant often put out books with interior illustrations; all the books in Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series had interior illustrations in their original editions, for instance. And some mainstream sf/fantasy authors have expressed a bit of jealousy that furry authors often get to work with cover artists and get interior art.

Personally, I don’t think many people would hold the art against us as long as the art is good. At the same time I doubt interior art is somehow necessary to sell in the fandom, though – If you aren’t interested in reading fiction, you’re not gonna shell out $10–20 just to get a few illustrations, and if you are interested in reading fiction the illustrations are just a neat bonus, not a requirement. The kinds of people who are going to count the interior art against a furry book are probably the kinds of people who aren’t going to read furry books in the first place. Also, Stephen King says they’re wrong, so neener neener.

I talked with Rob about this topic at AC and after he posted this thread. In general, I line up very closely to what Chip’s said.

We have our traditional publishing that we see as a gatekeeper. Holding a bar of quality and paying authors so that readers should feel confident that they’re purchase is worth the money they paid. A large issue lies in people struggling to review or give feedback as, let’s be honest, most of us are lazy. We’ll read a book, enjoy it, think we should review it and then decide to do something else. Talking with Sofawolf especially at AC they commented on this. They know their books sell and sell well, but they rarely hear a peep about it. They’re doing something right if their sales are up, but it’s confusing how quiet everyone can be about a publication.

Traditional publishing also gives us the professional feedback (usually) about how to improve our stories and help them fit or bring out some buried elements in a narrative. We get to know other authors because we end up in the same collections together or we’re getting beta reads or edits done by them. This can be looked at as, “Oh I only get feedback from writers never readers” but don’t forget Authors are readers too. If you want to write well, you should be reading and learning from that. This also helps build a network of authors who then can recommend your stories to others and so forth.

With online, if people can find your stories among the slush, your feedback is much more instant and readers can connect. The story is there on the page with a like button and a comment box. The large issue I see with online is that many authors don’t know how to turn the readership and feedback they could get online into money. This should be said, but if you want to be professional with your writing, you are in charge of setting the cost and the bar for entry. We can be afraid to publish things online because maybe it can find a paying market else where and thus achieve the goal of being paid for our craft. Still, there are other options that I feel are not mentioned often.

Rob has said he puts together an collection of stories and releases them with a “Pay what you want” option (I hope Rob elaborates on this more). He’s said he’s been given a fair amount for those and is able to get what he would, probably more, than he would in tradition publishing. As well, at AC Teiran commented how they wanted one more story for the recent issue of Fang. He found an old buried story of Kyell’s online that he assumed little to no people had read before and asked Kyell if they could put it in the issue.

In a sense of shortening the argument, what are your goals for writing? Do you want to have someone accept your story and put it in print? Then seek out an anthology or submit stories to publishers. You’ll also be paid for doing so. Do you want to amass some readers and have them help build you up through feedback and comments? Posting stories online and being consistent in increasing your output and quality should do this for you. Just don’t assume that readers == money at any point unless you look at a way to harness that in some form. Even then, don’t expect 500 readers to mean 500 sales. There’s also self-pub but that’s a whole other section.

On the topic of illustrations, Ocean’s a little off. a few anthos still do illustrations. Heat, Will of the Alpha, and Hot Dish all spring to mind (and if we want to go back in time a bit more, toss in Anthrolations, New Tibet, and Historimorphs too). The original question was on books though and there it’s a lot more common. I think all Sofawolf novels these days are illustrated and a good chunk of FP’s novels and novellas are too.

I generally agree with Rabbit’s post. Reviewers (whether more professional ones or those who toss on a star-rating on Amazon) have always been a small fraction of readers. As the readership grows, so will the number of reviewers.

One topic I think hasn’t been brought up is the variety of new furry productions. The number of new anthos and novels released even in the last two or so years is much larger than it was before then. It may have a diluting effect on readership, since not everyone is reading the same thing. Heat may be one of the few touchstones left, where you can assume that if someone reads furry erotica, they probably read Heat.* All the anthologies seem to be recouping their costs, as the publishers are continuing to produce them, so to me, at least, it does seem that furry readership is broadening.

Hm, this post seems even more stream-of-consciousness than my usual.

  • Ironically, I don’t think I’ve seen a review for Heat since Isiah’s review and interviews for Heat 9.

Sorry if I didn’t clarify, but the publishers have stopped putting in pictures over the last few years. Abandoned Places is an exception because Voice paid out of pocket for his. I did forgot Hot Dish has them but there’s only been one published so far. Will of the Alpha had pictures, but from what I’ve heard the upcoming WotA 2 and 3 will not, thus showing this shift away from illustrations.

Also, I think I’ve asked this before, but where’s the best place to post reviews of Heat? I’m going through five volumes, possibly writing an article about all of them, but I’d like to post reviews as I go. And more longer form reviews, something longer than what is on the SofaWolf pages, though I could post something there too.

Also, I think I've asked this before, but where's the best place to post reviews of Heat? I'm going through five volumes, possibly writing an article about all of them, but I'd like to post reviews as I go. And more longer form reviews, something longer than what is on the SofaWolf pages, though I could post something there too.

Sofawolf, Furplanet, and RV all have reviewing enabled on their store pages, I believe. But if you’re looking for longer form, collective reviews, I’d go with Flayrah, Dogpatch Press, or Claw and Quill.