Furry Writers' Guild Forum

Structure and organization ideas

Funny how I’m the one making these threads even though a LOT of people have ideas and opinions…

Anyways, there was a lot of talk during Rainfurrest about the guild and the direction it could/should head in. The biggest concern, of course, comes back to the question of "What can the guild do for me that isn’t offered to just everyone? We have the Coyotls, which are a good start, but what else could we do?

There were also some members who feel as though the guidelines for getting into the guild should be more strict, and those members that feel that we should have yearly dues. We also have, and this was one thing that was most commonly agreed upon, members that feel we should have more than one officer other than the president.

This thread can be used for posting some of your own ideas and giving feedback on the ideas of others. However, if you are going to post out against the idea that another member has, please give constructive feedback with details as to why you don’t think the idea would work and what you might do to change it.

I feel as though having this discussion before we go into election season next year is critical, as it’ll give the candidates an idea of the direction in which members wish to see the guild go.

Now that the intro post is out of the way, here are some of the ideas that I have either had, or have heard from other members and agree with.

The first items concerns officers. I completely agree that we need more than just one person running the day-to-day activities of the guild. I feel as though we could benefit from the following positions:

[ul][li]Secretary - This individual could handle the email, mostly concerning member applications and outside communication requests within the guild[/li]
[li]Tech - This individual would be responsible for the upkeep on the website and forums. Part of the requirement for the new president will be to get the forums off of the AnthroAquatic website, so we’ll need someone to come up with a solution, since we don’t have access to the cpanel for the FWG hosting; we only have access to the content on the main page of the FWG.[/li][/ul]


There are probably other positions that could be had, and we can discuss that in this thread.

Another idea that I’ve had for a long time, one that got a good amount of support during RF, is that we could really use membership tiers. While I don’t think we really need to raise the requirements of membership, I believe a tier system could alleviate a lot of the arguments. Here is what I’m proposing:

[ul][li]Bronze Tier - This tier would have the exact qualifications that we have now. Bronze members would:

[li]not have any sort of dues owed.[/li]
[li]be able to nominate, but not vote, in the Coyotl Awards (this is more to give more clout to the other tiers, but something I’m looking for feedback on)[/li]
[li]have a bio on the FWG website and have access to the hidden member area of the forums[/li]
[li]be able to submit to the FWG anthology[/li]
[li]Silver Tier - This tier would require the member to be accepted into 5 more or more markets paying at least $0.005 per word a year, or the member to make at least $500.00 (or the international equivalent) a year in a literature-related field (writing, editing, reviewing, or publishing). Silver members would get the perks of bronze, but also would:

[li]have yearly dues, to be decided later on[/li]
[li]be able to vote in the Coyotl Awards[/li]
[li]be endorsed by the guild to be a GoH at conventions[/li]
[li]an opportunity to vote on the theme for each guild anthology[/li]
[li]more perks to be decided on later[/li]
[li]Gold Tier - This tier would require the member to make at least $5000.00 (or the international equivalent) a year in a literature-related field (writing, editing, reviewing, or publishing). Gold members would get the perks of silver and bronze, but also would:

[li]have yearly dues above those in the Silver tier, to be decided on later[/li]
[li]be given a copy of one Coyotl-nominated work in each of the four categories at the expense of the guild[/li]
[li]be given a permanent spot on the FWG website main page to advertise[/li]
[li]more perks to be decided on later[/li]

That’s what I have so far. I’ll be interested to hear some of the ideas of others.[/list]

I’m personally philosophically opposed to the idea of tiers as membership. I think that that would go a long way towards cementing the occasional outside perception of the FWG as elitist. (Unfortunately, I think that that is always going to be the sour-grapes kneejerk reaction ANYWAY because we dare to have standards, but that’s a grumble for another bottle of Writer’s Tears…)

I’m not opposed to paying very modest dues, but frankly, I think most of our membership would be. Furry as a genre pays pretty universally a half-cent to a cent per word, which isn’t enough to start putting financial burdens on the membership. I try to ensure that the FWG receives a healthy donation from me at least yearly, but that’s voluntary both because of the benefit of the Paid Markets Listing and in my own personal interests in furthering the cause of improving anthropomorphic literature.

So, yes, I don’t mind dues. I expect 60-80% of our membership, however, would.

Secretary and Tech both sound like strong ideas. I’d volunteer for Secretary but I genuinely wouldn’t have the time to commit to the duties at this point, and with the amerocentric nature of the guild (not a criticism, just a fact of demographics), I don’t feel like I could be effective in any officership of the guild living outside of american borders.

Direction-wise: Stay the course. Keep a modest but meaningful membership standard. Support EVERYONE, member or not. I think that the FWG’s presence this year at RainFurrest was outstanding both in headcount and in quality of representation. I was fiercely proud to see the FWG come out and represent the way it did.

Press for and advocate on behalf of authors. Work to expand markets, work to expand payscales, work to push the publishing companies within our niche to expand and grow. Whatever puts more money in their pockets and in ours. Support electronic writing media. Reach out to artists and writers that aren’t yet members, and make sure they know about us and what we can do for them.

Big props to Poettigress for coming out and presenting so professionally. I’m sorry she won’t be running for president again, but I certainly understand the desire not to shoulder burdens of leadership.

I can’t speak to the far past history of the FWG. But I can speak for the now: The FWG is a valuable organization, and it’s the first guiding light I look to whenever I go wishing for more literary quality in furry fiction.

Quick thoughts:

I like the idea of a tiered membership, though I’d suggest keeping it simple with only two tiers. We’re already seen as elitist by some and not exclusive enough by others – that’s always going to be the case. Creating tiered membership would allow us to stay open at the level we are now, while also offering a higher level for those who are interested in working to reach it.

I would be cautious about doing anything that puts bigger limits on who can nominate or vote in the Coyotl Awards, so while I like the idea of mirroring SFWA’s associate/active memberships by having one tier able to nominate and the other tier able to nominate AND vote – I don’t think we have a large enough membership yet to actually support that.

I would support paying dues. I didn’t see that subject come up at the RF meeting this year (though, I did have to step out of the room for setting up the Coyotl Awards a few times), but when it came up last year, I was quite surprised by how many people supported the idea of paying dues. So, I’m not sure we really know whether that would work without doing some sort of poll or actually taking a vote.

Finally, I want to say that it’s great to have these topics being brought up for discussion, and that the guild has been doing a wonderful job of growing and maturing over the last couple of years.

I suggest two tiers, called “FWG Member” and “FWG Pro Member,” in addition to the support we provide for non-members. Here’s what it could look like:

FWG Future Member: No publication requirements. Access to the public forums. Free.

FWG Member: Must have had one paid or two unpaid publications. Access to the public forums and the guild member forms. Can nominate and vote in Coyotls. Free.

FWG Pro Member: Must have had more and/or better-paid publications. Access to the public forums, guild member forums, and “pro” member forums. Can nominate and vote in Coyotls. Annual dues.

To summarize: if you have some better publication credentials, then you can pay to call yourself a “pro” member and talk to other pro members in a special pro member forum. And that’s it. It’s mostly cosmetic. And yet… I think the very minor privileges would be enough to entice some members to do it. The fact that these benefits are fairly superficial could help reduce the perception of elitism.

P.S. Thanks for starting this conversation, Sean!

I like a lot of Sean’s ideas, although I’d suggest tiers more like Tembroke’s arrangement – I’m pretty sure there are very, very few FWG members who make 5 paid sales a year. :slight_smile:

The SFWA has full and associate memberships equivalent to Tembroke’s categorizations. The Romance Writers of America have general, associate and affiliate, which aren’t quite the same as SFWA’s and are sort of interestingly set up: “general” members are really the equivalent of both SFWA’s associate and full, but there’s subgroups of general membership: PAN is for for published authors who’ve earned at least $1K on an eligible novel or novella, and PRO is for members who’ve completed at least one work and intend to join PAN but haven’t yet. Associate members are people in the romance publishing field who aren’t writers (editors, agents, publishers, etc.); affiliates are librarians and booksellers.

For the FWG, the RWA categorization is too fine-grained, but I could certainly see Tembroke’s categorizations, whether we use those names or not. I was thinking of “associate membership” rather than “future membership” because it sounds more, well, active, then “full” or “general” for the next level, so something a bit like:

[ul][li]Associate: no publication requirements; forum access; nominate for the Cóyotls but not vote; free[/li]
[li]General: one paid or three unpaid publications; all associate benefits plus guild forums, voting in the Cóyotls; free[/li]
[li]Pro: three paid publications; all general benefits plus pro forums and Maybe Other Stuff™; $10–20/yr[/li][/ul]

I have ideas on what Other Stuff™ might be relating to marketing and web site benefits, although some or all of it might actually belong more at the general level. But maintaining a list of member publications on the main web site, with links to where they’re available online or for sale, for instance, and setting up landing pages for “if you like mysteries, try…” “if you like hard science fiction, try…” I think the FWG is doing very well at writer outreach and I’d like to keep that up – but I think we need to expand to reader outreach somehow. Basically, we need to build our audience. We need to get more of all those furry readers at SoFurry and FA to be aware of furry small press, and get non-furry readers to be aware of it, too. I’d really like to start seeing higher pay rates within the fandom, and I suspect the best way to nudge publishers into agreeing to that is to be able to say, “Look, your sales are two or three times what they were a few years ago, so you should be increasing your non-royalty rates to match.”

Having two levels isn’t a bad idea, but shouldn’t we have levels that members can aspire to? Without trying to sound snobby, it is really, really, really easy to get membership in the guild.

@Chipotle: I understand that 5 publications in a year is a bit difficult to get, but the dollar amount, if you combine one standalone work’s royalties with a couple of anthology publications, isn’t that far of a stretch. It would take a good amount of work more to get that level, then a good amount more after that to get to the next level. If we could come up with that “Other Stuff”, then we’d have a lot more reason to have the levels.

@Ryff: I agree about the Coyotl issue. Was definitely more of a suggestion to try and find those perks.

I’m more and more liking the idea of having a spot on the main FWG page for higher-level members to advertise work. Could definitely be a good perk that wouldn’t take all that much work to achieve.

Having dollar amount options for the higher tiers would also include the self-published that have a decent product, so that would also close that can of worms.

I completely agree that a second level of membership could showcase what some of our members have already accomplished and motivate the others to accomplish more. Motivation is good!

Beyond that, here are a few other levels people can aspire to:

[ul][li]Coyotl nomination[/li]
[li]Coyotl award[/li]
[li]Ursa major nomination[/li]
[li]Ursa major award[/li]
[li]Writing guest of honor at a convention[/li]
[li]SFWA membership (associate or full)[/li]
[li]NYT Best Sellers list[/li]
[li]Pulitzer Prize in Fiction[/li]
[li]Serving as “Mooseter of Ceremonies” for the Coyotls[/li]
[li]Nobel Prize in Literature[/li][/ul]

That should keep most of us busy for a while.

I can see some advantages to having more levels within the guild – it’s fun to level up and unlock achievements! However… I don’t think we need to rank writing accomplishments like levels in masonry, scientology, or martial arts. It also gets harder and harder to do that fairly, given the many different approaches to writing. (Which is better – 10 stories in New Fables or 1 in Fantasy & Science Fiction? How do you compare?)

I’m personally against adding membership tiers of any sort, because I think it’s adding a great deal of confusion – and potential strife within the membership – for very little benefit. I don’t think the criteria need changing; I think what we have is a decent balance between keeping the bar reasonable and inclusive while still having some requirements for entry. (I do still get emails from people complaining about not being allowed in with the current criteria, mind you.) More importantly, as far as tiers are concerned, I don’t want to see the FWG get into a situation that might end up being construed as having greater and lesser members within the group, and I think if you get into having “gold” members or “pro” members and regular ones, that’s an inevitable feeling.

In short, I don’t think anything about the membership criteria is broken and needs fixing, and I would personally vote against any proposal to change it.

As far as dues go, I was surprised when I did the survey (and still need to post the rest of the results) how large a percentage did end up in favor of it. On the other hand, charging money again adds a level of complication, and right now we’ve been doing fine with a donation model. (That also leads into the question of how much money the guild needs and what we’d use those dues on that can’t be covered with the occasional donations we already get.) And yes, there is a question of many in the fandom (and in the guild) being on a limited budget. If we do go to charging dues, I’d want to see a fund established for those who might have true financial hardship, so that that doesn’t become a barrier to membership.

A couple other thoughts to add to the mix as far as officers go:

–If we start charging dues, I think at that point we automatically have to have a Treasurer position, preferably elected rather than appointed or volunteer.

–One of the biggest time issues of running the guild is maintaining the FWG blog – sending out requests for Membership Spotlights, choosing the Book of the Month, reading and editing guest posts (sometimes soliciting them), and scheduling all the posts. If a Secretary position (or Blog Editor, or whatever title) could cover just those duties pertaining to the blog, the President would have a lot more time freed up to still handle all the official FWG communication through the email account and maintain a consistent voice there. From my perspective, with the workload the guild has at the moment, the email is not a time issue; the blog is. (And I believe the blog is valuable enough to be worth continuing.)

I agree that having those other officers should be a priority right now, and that they should be elected.

While I like the idea of a tiered membership (if kept simple), I also think Poetigress makes really reasonable points about it, and maybe it’s more an idea for the future than for now.

Well, we implicitly have two tiers already: we’re calling them “future members” and “members,” which (almost) exactly correspond to the “associate” and “general” levels I described. I prefer “associate” to “future” because I think it’s a bit more inclusive, not less. (My suggestion that associate members be able to nominate in the Cóyotls but not vote is arguably also increasing inclusiveness, not reducing it.) Also, we already have a third kind of membership: an affiliate membership for editors, reviewers and publishers. We call that “associate” currently.

I think the questions really revolve how the FWG recognizes, unofficially or unofficially, the different approaches to writing its members have. Do you want to get paid? Do you just want more readers rather than more money? Would you like help in getting your stuff in front of mainstream readers? Would you like help in getting your stuff in front of furry readers? Would you like to make a living at this, and if so, how? Not all of those things are even addressed by tiers – but we should probably at least think about how the FWG might be able to address those questions in some capacity. How about this: back in the Dark Ages of the Internet, we used the term “SIG,” for “Special Interest Group.” Could there be a self-publishing SIG? A writing career SIG?

Also, I think our current criteria do need to at least be re-examined. Maybe not right now, but sooner than later. Given the rapid growth of “indie publishing” in the few years the FWG’s been around and given how appropriate that model is for niche audiences like ours, I don’t think we can keep punting on this indefinitely.

I think everyone has valid thoughts on Tiers and what to call them and whether or not to offer them, and it could indeed go around and around. PT said she would personally vote against it – perhaps it’s something we should put up to a vote?
Also, the very idea of a “guild” is always going seem snooty to some people. Those just might not be people who are interested. Others want mentorship and help. I think our presence at Rainfurrest, the good PR everyone made through educational panels, the inclusive morning coffee & pastries all work to mold our image into, “We’re here to help and support you!” whatever people’s journey might be.

Perhaps “Associate” is clearer word than "Future Member’ since, if someone is happily publishing on SoFurry and isn’t interested in making money, they can still “associate” with the Guild?

As far as paying dues, I’m in a position and would be happy to pay yearly dues, especially something in the realm of $15 to $20. Some things I think could benefit:

-Logo gear–buttons, bookmarks, etc, with an official logo
-Snacks at FWG hosted Con events
-A yearly, paying, Guild Anthology

I think those could be worthy uses of funds.
I agree more officers could help out, but that leads into finding people who can contribute :smiley: I’m personally moving on from three years as President of my local author organization because I need to focus on my next book launch, and it’s now taking up too much brain space. I say if the man power (fur power? :smiley: ) is there, then by all means…

My understanding is that “future member” is actually basically synonymous with “not a member.” Thus, I would strongly oppose allowing future members to nominate in the Coyotls. The entire point of the Coyotls was to have an award that’s different from the Ursa Majors in that there’s a barrier to entry for nominating and voting.

That’s correct. It’s basically a friendlier way to say nonmember, in the sense of “you’re not there yet, but we think you can be.” I think Sean started that, and I liked the image it projected and kept it when I took office.

Thus, I would strongly oppose allowing future members to nominate in the Coyotls. The entire point of the Coyotls was to have an award that's different from the Ursa Majors in that there's a barrier to entry for nominating and voting.

I would also oppose that, for the same reasons.

I think the issue of whether to allow self-published writers to qualify for membership is a separate issue that doesn’t necessarily need to be solved by creating membership tiers. The questions involved there are, what are the most objective criteria that we could apply to self-publishing, and (as with the traditional publication requirements) what’s reasonable for the fandom while still maintaining a certain level of skill/quality for entry?

It would have to be put to a vote, since creating membership tiers is essentially a change to the criteria. From the by-laws, just for reference:

Changes to these membership criteria must be approved by a majority vote of the membership, with at least 30% of the current members voting.

Regarding dues amounts, I could potentially support $5 or $10 a year. Any more than that, and I think we would need to provide more member perks than we currently do, unless we have a clearly definable need for that kind of money.

And I want to disagree that we’ve been “punting on this” as far as indies go. It’s been something that’s come up, discussed casually in various formats, but not acted on. That hasn’t been strictly my choice; it’s also been because no one has officially proposed a change to the by-laws. I do think it’s an issue we need to consider, but sometimes you can consider something and decide against it, or decide it’s not the right time yet. That’s not the same thing as just putting it off or blowing off the concerns.

Honestly, I’d prefer just “unnoficial member” or something more honest. “Future memeber” always feels really patronising; like, even if somebody is terrible, there still has to be the false “oh, one day you’ll make it” attitude. I don’t know about anybody else, but being put under the title “future members” is what stopped me from posting on the forum for a while. Even now, I feel kind of lesser for having the title in all my posts. I’m not saying that there shouldn’t be a requirement, I’d just preffer it if it felt less condescending. It’s like being spoken to as if you’re a child, or getting a “participation” medal- everyone is smart enough to know what it really means. Having simply “not a member” would be better, in my mind.

I still think before we can make any changes to the Guild we have to decide what the Guild’s purpose is. You can’t decide where to steer the ship when you haven’t even figured out if the ship is an ocean-going vessel or a raft or a barge or a cruise ship. Granting that, though, my thoughts:

I think membership tiers would be great. I don’t think more than two are necessary, given the size of the writing community. The future member thing always struck me as a little patronizing, too, so you’re not the only one, C.W. I wish we would change that verbiage. And I do think an RWA membership structure–“anyone can join at a very basic level, but there’s a tier for people who are making money”–works better for us than a SFWA-like version (“everyone who joins has to at least have made some money”).

This, of course, assumes that we want to attract only people who want to make money writing. We don’t appear to have decided on that either. And the decision we’ve made isn’t consistently applied, because right now people who’ve made no money, but have placed pieces in non-paying venues, can join, but people like me, who make full-time money via indie publishing, can’t. That’s nonsensical… I really think it needs addressing. If our criteria is going to be ‘you make money’ we need to apply that standard consistently. Right now, honestly, our criteria seems to be ‘you were chosen by an editor’, which is a weird breed of nepotism given that half our members seem to be editors as well as writers. And we want to be careful what we’re saying when we say that what you need to be a professional writer is to be anointed by an editor. Is that what we really want to say, given the way the industry is evolving?

I don’t mind paying dues, but agree that at this point the FWG isn’t giving enough value to make dues of more than $10 a year worthwhile. Also, the moment we start accepting dues, we need a Treasurer, and we need reports about how much money has been received and where it was spent. Accountability becomes a big deal when you are requiring people to pay you.

Until we figure out what we really want to accomplish–what our concrete goals are, and what steps we want to take to achieve them–we’re not going to be able to do anything useful, except by accident.

My two cents, anyway.

I’ll chime in here with a couple of comments. First of all, if we go to any system of membership tiers, the criteria should be such that any tier, once acquired, is retained. In other words, there should not be any requirements that must be satisfied repeatedly on an annual basis. I’ll allow two exceptions to that: if we decide to have membership dues, it’s okay to require keeping dues paid up. Second is in case we ever have a case of someone acting badly enough to justify revoking their membership (but that’s a whole 'nother hornet’s nest and I’m not aware of any current situations that would justify poking it).

In my opinion, a major part of the guild’s purpose should be to promote reading and writing of furry literature in the furry fandom, and to offer mutual support to others in the fandom to improve the quality of the writing produced by members of the fandom. It’s not just about what we’re doing for each other, but what we do for the fandom as a whole. When I first got involved in the furry fandom in the late 1990s, it seemed like literature was a significant part of it. Since then as the fandom has grown, interest in art and fursuiting has taken off dramatically, while writing and literature hasn’t really kept up. What can we as a guild to to help reverse that trend? (Aside: puppetry is another part of the fandom that used to be more popular but has fallen behind in recent years.)

What would we change it to? I don’t think having “Nonmember” under someone’s name looks or sounds any better PR-wise – possibly worse, frankly – and “forum member” is just going to be even more confusing. I believe we need some kind of group name just because of the way the forums are structured, although I could be wrong and maybe we could just drop the designation altogether.

Right now, it does state in the by-laws that members who meet the criteria are permanently qualified, and also that “memberships may be revoked at any time, for good and sufficient cause, at the discretion of the president.” So those portions are potentially already in place. (For the record, we haven’t had any memberships revoked so far, and hopefully that will never be an issue.)