The Science Fiction Writers of America, or SFWA, has finally come through with its long-promised support for self-published and small press authors. A SFWA press release declares that complete details will be posted to the SFWA’s membership requirements page by March 1, 2015. (I have been informed that SFWA’s members refer to it as SFWA, sometimes pronounced “siff-wah,” rather than the SFWA, so I shall do so within this article.)
The press release states that the requirements for Active Membership are having earned at least $3,000 via novel (it’s unclear whether that’s from one or several such novels over how long a time period), or published at least 10,000 words of short fiction paid at a minimum of 6 cents per word. Associate Membership requires one story of at least 1,000 words at 6 cents per word.
It’s great that, after several years, SFWA is finally getting around to supporting one of the biggest market segments of authors in publication today. But the question is, now that they are, just how many self-publishing authors are going to be interested?
After all, SFWA has had a bit of tempestuous history with self-publishing writers in recent months. Last year, I questioned the organization’s relevance given its frequent association with controversy and lack of support for exclusively-self-published writers. I soon discovered the organization was in the process of drafting new guidelines to let it accept those writers, though as with any bureaucratic process such things take time.
A little later, SFWA stirred more controversy with its endorsement of writer Douglas Preston’s anti-Amazon letter during the Hachette affair without first consulting its members, and its insistence that doing so was part of its writer-advocacy mission. Given that many self-publishing authors rightly or wrongly saw Amazon vs. Hachette as effectively an “us vs. them” argument, SFWA aligning itself with “the enemy” didn’t exactly win hearts and minds; even SFWA self-publishing advocate M.C.A. Hogarth expressed disgust at the decision.
While SFWA does offer a number of useful resources for writers, they’re not the only place that has resources. A number of writers have expressed distaste at SFWA political infighting and the scandals that have come out of the organization. And every successful self-publishing author to date (or, at least, every such author who was not eligible via also being traditionally-published) has been successful without having or needing SFWA membership.
On the other hand, the only way SFWA is likely to change is for enough new writers to make like John Scalzi’s “insect army” and join it to change it from within. If enough writers see the potential for what SFWA could be, and aren’t afraid of knocking heads with the opposition to get it done, maybe change could happen after all. One thing’s for sure: it’s going to be interesting to see what comes of all this.
Six cents a word? Really? I got a dime a word from most mags I wrote for back in 1969 and wasn’t happy about it.