Hello Furry Writers’ Guild! I know it’s a bit silly to call this a guest post, but I was hoping to take of my President hat for a moment to write a post for the blog on a personal experience and I thought that it would be far more fitting. Recently, an anthology I am involved in editing had its submission call reach a larger audience of folks who haven’t worked with traditional Furry publishers before and it caused quite a stir.
I help maintain the Furry Writers’ Market so I see all the submission calls put out by the community. This call didn’t look like anything out of the ordinary. However, gaining these fresh perspectives from outside eyes showed me there are ways we could try to improve submission calls in the community to help attract more authors to write for anthologies.
I want to personally thank Personalias, Daddy Wuffster, and CK Crinklekid for opening up these discussions. I hope the information I can share with you all here can help all of us find new ways to improve the anthology process. With the preamble finished, I’ll get to the good stuff!
New Authors Don’t Know About Furry Publishing Standards
I say this not as an insult, but more of as a fact that somehow we’ve all been missing. We as authors, publishers, and editors, are used to the general process involved here. This isn’t the case to people brand new to the writing scene in general or those looking at submitting to an anthology for the first time.
For example, it’s standard for anthologies to include a section about the authors where they can promote themselves. We may know this, but an outside observer would have no clue. When we lack this transparency, even if accidentally, it’s easy for someone to look at a submission call and feel like something shady is happening. With this in mind, here are some of the things I was directly told would be awesome to see in submission calls from outside observers.
- The anthology payment is placed prominently on top of the call, not buried after explanations of stories that are being looked for.
- Mentioning the promotional section for authors.
- Stating the period of exclusivity for stories.
- Stating if stories can can use their stories as the basis for other works like sequels or continuations.
- Directly state how stories should be formatted for submission. (My number one question from new authors as President is how do I format submissions. A link to the Standard Manuscript Format could help with this.)
These suggestions made a lot of sense to me and I am positive there are more things that we take for granted but outside observers would have no clue about we don’t explicitly mention. The potential to make submissions more attractive to submit to through transparency and clarity is something we all should consider.
Payment For Anthology Stories
This will not be a debate on payment for anthologies being too low. Furry publishers cannot feasibly offer SFWA rates of eight cents per word and be able to reasonably continue production. A half cent per word has been standard for some time and some projects like Difursity have even managed to offer higher rates. In general, compensation for anthology writing has been on the rise as of late in terms of flat rates and contributor’s copies offered which is an exciting prospect.
Now, several anthologies have offered contributor’s copies as payment for their work as the only payment. This can make a lot of sense as many authors end up buying a copy of the book they are in and want a copy. With many anthologies being passion projects made more for authors than readers, this makes a lot of sense. Sometimes, the flat rate that could be offered would be less than the cost of buying the book in the first place, so to those in the community this makes sense as payment.
However, it’s easy for this to look like this is a typical vanity press scam to those who aren’t familiar with the process. This became very apparent when this became a discussion on Twitter with people upset authors were being paid “in exposure” but becoming more understanding once the situation was better explained to them. With this in mind, I was given two suggestions to improve on this.
- Have publishers offer either a contributor’s copy OR monetary compensation (author’s choice).
- Allow authors to buy the anthology at cost (or at least at a discount).
This would make it easier for outside observers to see authors are not simply being paid “in exposure” which is good optics for everyone involved. Making contributor’s copies easier to purchase could also benefit publishers and authors as well. Cheaper books create the potential for authors to purchase copies for giveaways (which grows both the publisher’s and the author’s audience) and provides another perk for authors in terms of payment. For those who writing is mostly a hobby, being able to buy copies of the book they can share with friends and family at a better price point would help bridge that gap between half a cent a word and a full eight cents per word.
Making Submissions More Attractive To Independent Authors
As previously mentioned, many Furry authors write as a way to engage with the fandom, promote Furry literature as a while, and enjoy their hobby. The goal isn’t always to make a big profit or get famous. However, plenty of authors are able to make livings (or at least have an impressive side hustle) purely writing commissions, running a Patreon, or getting donations from stories on gallery sites.
Traditional publishers cannot manage to offer the lean production a single self-published author can when producing their work and that is understandable. However, we need to realize that as it stands many anthology submissions calls would be a detriment for some of these authors to submit to.
If an author is making less on their anthology story than they would get writing a commission, what is the value in submitting to a publisher? Maybe it’s the prestige of being featured in a very competitive anthology or an easier chance to win awards. Maybe it’s just wanting to see a story in a printed book.
However, even the best furry anthologies don’t sell more copies than the views more popular authors can get on stories posted to a gallery website like FurAffinity or SoFurry. If we cannot pay them the rates for commissions and even a free story is going to offer them more exposure to a general audience, it’s reasonable for these authors to think their time is better spent writing elsewhere. This makes it harder to attract the best talent to anthologies to write, which would in turn boost anthology sales and allow publishers to pay more.
I wish I had ideas on how to do this — sadly I don’t. I’m willing to admit when I don’t have answers to a question. However, if publishers, authors, and editors all work together and brainstorm, I’m positive we can find solutions. Perhaps the Guild hosts a round table to discuss these ideas or these talks take place across whatever social media and chatrooms people participate in. It doesn’t matter where they happen, I just hope that they do so we can find ways to keep bringing Furry literature to even greater heights.
I hope everything I wrote today was useful and at least a little entertaining to read. I would like to remind everyone that while I may be the Guild President, I am perfectly capable of being wrong on a subject. If you disagree with anything said here, I want to hear that feedback (or any feedback) so I can gain more perspectives. Learning from the amazing members of the guild and those who strive to join us someday has helped lead to many improvements for us and I hope this editorial can lead to discussions that help make the Furry writing community as a whole stronger.
— Linnea Capps