by Phil Geusz
©2010 Phil Geusz
Long ago I used to write a monthly column about how to be a better author. It wasnt a subject I could write about foreverin fact Im surprised I hung on for as long as I did. But the writing itself hasnt slowed down a bit; I still compose or edit something practically every night of my life, and at this point expect to continue doing so right up until the day I die. The subject therefore is clearly important to me. So from time to time I return to my original columns theme. It doesnt happen all that often, but sometimes I still feel that I have something worth sharing. This month its about markets.
You cant sell furry stories outside the fandom, Ive heard a thousand authors claim. Theres no point in even trying. All you get are snooty rejection slips.
Well According to Robert Heinlein, if everyone knows something, then nine out of ten times it just aint so. And thats sure enough the case in this instance, as far as I can see. My very first salefor rather good moneywas of a recognizably furry TF story to a long-defunct e-zine called Dark Annie that specialized in thrilling fiction of all types. I next sold three more furry tales to another e-zine, for even better money. After that I too lost myself in the rejection slip jungle, and despite my previous experiences convinced myself that the crowd was right, that we didnt stand a chance outside of our own little artistic ghetto. So for years I concentrated exclusively on our markets, except for a brief flirtation with the Amazon Shorts program that netted me four sales alongside top-ranked authors. (Of these four tales one was definitely furry, the second not, and two were borderline.)
Yet despite this further success I still refused to see which way the wind was blowing. I figured it was a one-offa lucky breakand continued to submit only to furry publishers. Along the way I sold a few works to them as well, and some of these publishersnotably Sofawolfpaid quite well. From time to time, however, my subconscious stubbornly insists on producing an absolutely, beyond-question not-furry work, and then I feel obliged to market it like any other of my tales. So, after writing a piece of straight literary fiction entitled December Moth I went looking for a mainstream publisher
and not only sold the thing on my first attempt, but was eagerly invited to send in further work. I took them at their word and offered them a trilogy that at least one furry publisher had turned down. Rather to my surprise, they offered to buy that, too! (Though were still in negotiations over details of the sale, which may yet fall through.) And, when the collection including December Moth finally appeared in print, I got top billing on the cover!
Since then Ive submitted manuscripts to several other mainstream publishers. While not everything has been bought (and truthfully Ive not submitted all that much, being so busy with other projects lately) Ive learned from the very-positive feedback that my paradigm was totally in error all along. At this point, I now believe that its easier to sell a story to a mainstream publisher than a furry one, all other things being equal, because the furry publishers are so swamped with submissions (and, sadly, so short on sales). Or, its easier to sell good stories there, at leastthe kind that feature plot, theme, characterization, and nice tight writing. Yiff, however, remains marketable solely within the fandom, and probably always will.
In other words If youre a furry author, dont let a perceived barrier shut you out of ninety-nine-point-nine-nine percent of the marketplace. Expand your horizons and submit to the mainstream. Dont be afraid of who you are and what you writeperhaps even more to the point, dont write stuff that youd be ashamed to have published out in the Real World. And you know what?
You just might find theyre more receptive than you think! And quicker with their checkbooks, too!