SFWA Policy on Self-Publishing: Comments Welcome.

Logo SFWA-Web squareThe SFWA Board of Directors is asking members to share their opinions of self-publishing over the summer. The Board has asked the members to consider not just whether or not to make it possible for writers to join on the basis of self-published works but also the issues that would have to be addressed, such as confirming income, sales, and other publishing information from self-published writers. The issue should be submitted to the full membership prior to November’s business meeting at the 2014 World Fantasy Convention.

Members are invited to share their opinions with the Board through emails, via letters to the Forum, on the discussion boards, or at SFWA business meetings.

46 Responses

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  2. david litster

    As more authors are self-publishing, and as the line between self published, small press, and traditional publishing continues to blur, keeping a firm rule against self publishing seems to no longer make sense, unless the goal is to restrict membership to the the same group that has always been members. This is not something that sounds like a way to find the next group of futurists, who will so successfully predict the tech of the next fifty and hundred years that they will inspire the generation after them.

  3. Wantoo Sevin

    Since most of the really great fiction is coming out from independent authors at this point, I would say yes, yes, and yes. I’m not a writer but all of my favorites are independently published writers. I would love for them to be recognised.

    The day of the big-name “best sellers list” domination is over! Let’s be OK with that!

  4. Brian Hoffman

    Maybe there should be a new set of categories such as Best SP novel, etc. But to ignore self published writers is discriminatory. You are letting those who work the slush piles at the Big 5 determine who is and who isn’t worthy of membership.

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  6. Josh Roseman

    I suggest that self-published authors will need to reach a certain level of distribution (number of copies sold) that is commensurate with the general reach that a traditionally-published novel would achieve. This would also apply to independent publishers and small presses — if the book makes x amount of money and/or sells x amount of copies, that would qualify the self-published author for membership.

    For short-story writers, I believe a threshold number of copies sold or money made could also be applied to self-published short-stories who sell their work electronically; perhaps selling enough copies that the author made the equivalent of 6c per word in a given timeframe (say, one calendar year) would mean that story counts toward the three-story level of SFWA active membership.

    Writers who self-publish would then have to provide records to SFWA, and I believe SFWA would need to designate someone to review the work and ensure that (a) it is up to SFWA standards (ie: not fanfic) and (b) it meets the requirements of self-publishing for active membership, be it a novel or short-story. I believe this person would need to have been an editor at some level of a SFWA-accredited publication or publishing house.

    1. Ashlyn Forge

      I hate indie authors. I am also an indie author. I hate my own kind because there is a lot of drek out there. That being said, I hate traditional authors, too. Turns out, there’s a lot of drek out there as well. If your success is only by how well you sell, then this same rule should be applied to ALL authors, not just self-published ones. Because I have seen more than a few traditionally published authors down in the trenches with me.

      I have also seen people manipulate sales by launching huge campaigns that get them to be ‘bestsellers’ and the books aren’t worthy of seeing the light of day. And of course, if Amazon sees you selling, it shows you more, it ‘recommends’ you more, and you keep selling until you run out of steam. The idea that being good at marketing means your story is good or bad is a testament to just how much you know about publishing.

      How much are YOU selling, Josh Roseman. I promise you though, you’ve just lost a sale with me.

      money = good quality. Yes, of course, tell that to Fifty Shades of Grey, and the stank that is almost all Hollywood movies right now. It’s that mentality that pushes down the good stuff that’s not heavily marketed and has turned our media into the state of utter BS that it is today.

      No. I don’t sell a lot, I also don’t market a lot. In your eyes, I’m no author, but then again, I seriously call your ‘expertise’ into question.

      Hear that artists? If you’re not making money, your work has NO value to Josh Roseman!

    2. Kate Pavelle

      With these suggested jumping hoops, why bother? Being a member of the club won’t necessarily increase my sales. Since modern and Big 5 sales strategy differ, I think it’s impossible to determine whether a book is “successful” or not. Or even, what constitutes success. The big push, designed to launch a book onto a best-seller list, just to have it go out of print 3 years later, is pretty old in the tooth as marketing mechanisms go. An indie or small press writer can have the book out for years and years, and realize income in monthly royalties as more new readers discover him or her. Those sales are lower in number, but higher in money. So, no, I don’t think you can really evaluate new writers to see if they are worthy. How about you leave that to the readers?

    3. Theresa Tseng

      SFWA spend days on end just trying to get some attention to their novel. We don’t have a publisher who has the staff and resources to publicize the book let alone all the criteria you’re talking about. My hat to all those who pulled through!

  7. Anthony StClair

    I want to applaud SFWA for taking up this issue and doing some serious re-examination of the exclusion policy. As we all know, the publishing landscape is far different from what it once was. Today’s indie author is not the vanity press seeker of yore; more often than not, it’s someone who wants to retain control over their work and keep a direct hand in running the day-to-day business of his or her books and stories.

    Along with other indie authors in the science fiction and fantasy community, I look forward to SFWA’s reconsideration of the policy. Hopefully soon more of us indie authors can be joining the ranks of this organization.

  8. Debra Holland

    I’m not a member, but I would love to be (despite hearing tales about the bickering and misogyny that occurs in the organization.)

    I’m a self-published USA Today and NY Times Bestselling author. Although my fantasy and SF books are not the majority of my sales, I’d have no problem submitting my Amazon/Nook/iBooks statements to prove a certain level of sales and/or income.

    1. Ashlyn Forge

      Don’t you dare. You’re a NY Times Bestseller and you have to get naked and prove you deserve membership?

      Woman… I’m supposed to be looking up to you. As a woman writing sci-fi myself, you’re my role model.

      :-(

  9. Travis Hill

    As a self-published author, I’m glad to see the SFWA following in the footsteps of some of the other organizations (RWA, for instance).

    But…

    You should also keep in mind that most of us self-pubs are going to ask, “what can the SFWA do for us?” At Kboards and other discussion outlets (TPV is another rich discussion area), most of us wouldn’t be all that interested, considering the ugly infighting that has gone on lately within the SFWA.

    Personally, I’d like to have a good reason to be a member, including, but not limited to:
    1. Some kind of healthcare plan offered through the organization
    2. Access to legal advice / lawyers (not asking for the SFWA to pay for these services, but to have a pool of resources to draw from)
    3. Cleaning up of the organization so women, minorities, LGBTQ’s, etc., feel not only welcome, but won’t have to fear the ignorant nonsense that has plagued the organization over the last few years.

    I’m a nobody, but I’m also part of the fastest growing sector in the book industry: the independent, self-published author who has zero plans to ever sign with a traditional publisher (unless they decide to start offering hybrid contracts again like they did for Hugh Howey before clamming up and shutting it down).

    It’s good to see authors like me are being courted instead of bashed and trashed because others snub their noses at the “tsunami of crap” that we supposedly have flooded the market with.

    Travis Hill

    1. Eliza

      I agree with you on every point! It’s awesome if SFWA were to open its doors to indie authors, but do we really want the welcome after all if nothing else changes? Self published and small press authors are already used to (and loving!) doing everything on our own or hiring out for things like editing, cover design, etc. so unless an organization like this can offer us something amazing that we really can’t do for ourselves, or something in a much faster/easier way, then I don’t think many of the best Indies will even bother joining.

      The 3 changes Travis listed above are what I’d like to see, too. Maybe even adding a database of freelance editors and designers, because some people who once worked for big (or any size) publishing houses are now going it on their own and they’d be able to connect with Indies via something like this site.

  10. Jordan Summers

    As a member who is both traditionally published and has self-published, I have to say that self-published authors should be allowed into the organization. If you want to set a minimum sales requirement such as $2000 earned within two years or something along those lines, then that’s fine, but they should be allowed in. The people making a decent income are every bit as professional as traditionally published authors.

  11. Jean Marie Ward

    I’m thrilled SFWA is looking into this issue, and I hope the examination will extend to small press sales, as well. SFWA pursues a number of ongoing initiatives, from insurance to estate management, which can benefit all writers. It can also do more, and that’s one of the reasons why I want to join as a full writing member.
    At the moment I can’t. I have more than enough sales which qualify from a dollar amount, and the documentation to prove it. However, since many of those sales are to new or small presses or presses which only qualified as a SFWA market much later, they don’t count.
    Yeah, I definitely have a horse in this race. But I don’t think I’m the only one.
    Good luck!

  12. Susan Satterfield

    I’ve been a science fiction fan for years and have run conventions for many years. I see that conventions are becoming more and more accepting of self-published authors. I am a published author myself, but it is small press where most of my work has appeared, and it would give SFWA a chance to gain some new blood (and hopefully new enthusiasm) if small press and independent authors were allowed to become members.

  13. Ashlyn Forge

    If the SFWA wants to dig the their heels in the sand, bang their old-man staff and wave it off as a ‘fluke’, then let them. Because we all know, the best way to go forward into the future, is to cling to the past; insist on doing it the way it’s always been done; and to ignore something happening around you that has taken on a life of its own.

    If you honestly think self-published words are sub par, that will never change. And giving self-published authors a black tax is unfair. I self-publish because I can’t see the difference anymore. I honestly can’t. I’ve read good and bad indie and traditionally published works. I’ve even seen typos in traditionally published books.

    The lines are blurred, completely and utterly blurred. If I want to get treated like dirt by others, I can do that on the internet. I don’t need to beg to join an organization that’ll just treat me like dirty anyway, or always call my work into question. If you want to accept submissions and take a few seconds to read a paragraph, that’s a different story. That puts more stress on the SFWA but you might not have much of a choice.

    But I love the irony, Sci-Fi writers clinging to the past. I guess that’s what the Fantasy part is about.

  14. Ben Reeder

    For novel length submissions, if one is required to have a single paid sale of $2000 to a qualifying professional market, then a similar requirement for self-published author seems sensible. A traditionally published author is not required to have actually earned out their advance, so in truth, the bar would be set considerably higher for meeting that same amount because a self-published author must actually make that in verifiable sales, rather than in speculation by a publisher on the merits of a book.

    If a time limit was believed to be a necessity, I believe one year would be reasonable.

  15. Randy Ellefson

    I’m glad to see this is being considered. I decided last year to stop pursuing traditional publication, in favor of self publishing, and I dislike the idea that this makes me a second class citizen or something. I’m every bit as serious, and may even do more work, since I have to do all of the publisher tasks myself, or hire someone. Why should such authors be excluded? Our battle scars, combined with sales of a certain amount, should get us recognition and the benefits of membership. It is a mark of seriousness, isn’t it? What could be more serious than not only cranking out novels that sell, but managing the entire business side ourselves?

  16. Sheila Guthrie

    I think guidelines like those the HWA is considering would be fair. It’s been a dream of mine for at least fifty years to become a member of the SFWA , so hearing the organization is considering opening up to self-publishers warms my heart.

    The only way to change the organization will be from the inside, so an influx of new members with new ideas and new experiences will only help SFWA grow and become more relevant to all authors.

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  18. Greg Curtis

    Hi,

    Just to weigh in briefly. As an indie I’m very happy to hear that you’re at least thinking of moving with the times. But while you’re sitting there mulling over the criteria you would have to consider to allow an indie to join the ranks, you might want to think also about my (and I’m sure a lot of other indie’s) first question.

    What the heck can the SFWA do for me?

    Sorry to be blunt, but I very much fear that for many indies that ship has sailed.

    Cheers, Greg.

  19. Salem

    With everything becoming more fluid in publishing, a central question is whether the readers care if an author is a member of any trade association. I own an indie press and am self-publishing. When I reach out to a reviewer, I ask them to consider the quality of the writing. It is for quality control as well as business control that I had no interest in going to a more established press, and I find it odd that within the SFWA community a book could get ignored because it is not issued by a member.

    I look forward to following the developments in the SFWA this year. Thanks for asking the question.

  20. Alice Janell

    As a fantasy author who is both a part of the independent and traditional publishing world, I love that SFWA is considering allowing self-pubbed authors into their ranks. It’s been a long standing goal/dream of mine to be a part of SFWA.

    I also would not mind having to show a certain amount of sales/copies sold, however, if it comes to that, I think it should be a criteria across the board, not just for self-published authors.

    Either way, I look forward to the day I can join SFWA.

  21. John Gregory Hancock

    I remember when country clubs decided to drop their anti black and antisemitic membership policies. The overwhelming question people asked was “Why would I join a club that up until now called me every disparaging name in the book, considered me less than human and worked so hard to block me at every turn? If I now join that club, what does that say about my self esteem?

    So, great, NOW you’re considering self and indie published authors. Now you’re pretending to act as if they might actually be authors. Yet, even so, you want to set hurdles for them that you never required of current members. And for what? so we can be your token indies that you trot out to validate your inclusiveness? Really? Do you even have the ability to recognize what you look like?

    ok, a less incendiary example: when the wizard of Oz gave the lion a medal for being brave, he’d already been brave. Did the medal matter one whit? the lion was brave enough without the medal.

    You’ve waited long enough to make yourselves irrelevant. The changing publishing paradigm is looking at you from the future and laughing.

  22. J.L. Dobias

    I think it’s an intriguing notion, but I would expect that your concerns at this time are over-bloated.

    What I mean by that; is that I’ve watched some writer forums recently decide to give honorable mention to the self-publishing authors in their membership by allow them to come forward in a specific thread and make themselves known. To date: six have done so and I know there are at least a dozen and more self-publishers in that forum.

    So I think that you should make your rules similar at least to the criteria necessary for traditionally published authors. If you chose to make it more stringent for the self-published I don’t think that will make a difference because I’m not sure how many are eager to become members. Maybe six that I know of.

    If membership would include the same right to recognition and awards that your present members have then that might be a good thing to mention. [Unless the point is that you don't want that many applicants.]

    J.L. Dobias

  23. Trisha J. Wooldridge

    I don’t mean to go off on a tangent, but I believe this needs to address authors who are published with small- and mid-sized presses as well. I would love to be a member of SFWA–especially if it can broaden its diversity by accepting members who have found their publishing homes outside of the “Big Five.” For example, authors who identify as women, persons of color, and part of the GLBTQ community often find their work is a better fit published in a “non-traditional” manner.

    I argue this with some bias, admittedly, as nearly all of my publications have been through small- and mid-sized presses. And I’m an editor at a mid-sized press.

    Presses who do a first print run of 2,000-5,000 or who cater to more niche audiences with digital print runs or electronic publication can’t afford the size of advance required to be considered for its authors to be SFWA members. That does NOT mean they are not paying their authors professional rates for royalties or working hard to help their authors as professionals.

    So, the suggestions I offer are for allowing membership for a variety of non-traditionally published authors:

    If the potential member is with a small- or mid-size press:

    Are royalties in line with industry standards?
    Are rights, reversion rights, and other contract pieces in line with industry standards / fair for authors?
    Has the publishing house been cited by Writer Beware, Preditors & Editors, and other watch-dog organizations as problematic?
    Or, has the publishing house been openly reviewed and found to be professional or recommended by a watch-dog group?
    Are advances fair in terms of print-run size?
    Does the publishing house regularly post its acquired titles in Publisher’s Weekly? Are agents posting good deals with this publishing house in PW?
    Are books by this publishing house getting reviewed in major journals?

    For the potential member – works for all non-trad publishing routes:

    Is the author professionally filing taxes as a business and not as a hobby?
    Is the author getting reviewed in professional venues and journals?
    Is the author a member of other professional organizations (like SCBWI or RWA – which do not have the requirements of SFWA, yet are extremely helpful, as well!)?
    Does the author have a substantial platform and set of followers via a variety of social media?
    Can the author furnish records of sales throughout the prior year of x amount units (can be a mix of titles)?
    Have any of the author’s titles been nominated or have won awards?

    All of these things are signs that potential members are working at a professional level and can be quantitatively measured. A professional author may not be getting a huge advance, but s/he very well may still be a working professional with multiple streams of income from a number of titles professionally edited and distributed.

    I’m happy to see SFWA moving towards being more accepting of the variety of professional authors that exist out there, and I hope to someday be a member of SFWA.

  24. Doug Dandridge

    It had always been my dream while growing up to join the SFWA. Now I have to wonder at the relevance of such an organization. My favorites, including Heinlein, Asimov, Poul Anderson, my mentor Charles Sheffield, were all members. Now many of the big names in science fiction and fantasy that I enjoy are not members. And there has been so much controversy of late among the ranks of members and former members. Would I still join if offered the opportunity? Probably, but again it has been something I had always wanted to do. As long as you don’t raise the income bar too much above 100K I should qualify. But it is no longer the burning desire it was in the past.

  25. Catherine Stine

    I am a hybrid author, meaning that I have been published by Big 5s (Random House, Scholastic, American Girl), but also by a smaller press (Inkspell) and through my own press (Konjur Road Press, an indie). I do think that it is time to seriously consider indie published authors. There are many I know personally and through my reading, who are fantastic storytellers. Of course, there is some mediocre fare too. perhaps one criterion could be a minimum number of 5 star reviews, plus a showing of indie awards, or sales. I have won multiple indie awards for my two indie published novels, and I know that my indie novels are every bit as good as my traditionally published ones (well, I think better!).

  26. daniel

    Lot of off topic and weird ranting here.

    SFWA is not an organization for certified “good” writers. Or even of “successful” writers. It’s for Professional Writers who can make money off their Science Fiction writing. Period.

    Regardless of how they choose to do it, some manner of demonstration of that ability (to make money) needs to be the sole requirement.

    Those arguing it’s too late are off topic and subjective. It’s a given that as self-publishing became more viable, this change in policy would need to happen. 8 years ago–too few self-published making any money. Somewhere between then, and now, enough are. No matter when it happened, there would be complaints. End of that useless, nonconstructive branch of the topic. It’s happening–the question is, how should it be handled?

    The “vetting” argument has always been that a traditionally-published and a self-published work taken at face value are not equal in terms of determining “professionalism”. The traditional work, regardless of its success or quality, has been vetted by an agent-publisher. That doesn’t in ANY way mean it’s better, just that it comes to the table with some tangible credibility, while a self-published work has no such defacto resume. Some additional criteria needs to be determined as to the author’s ability to produce a professional product.

    I reject that, simply because, as stated above, SFWA is for professional writers–able to make some agreed on amount of income from their writing. While “vetted” was a convenient metric, since being published and making money are in NO way the same thing, it wasn’t consistent with the idea that SFWA is for professionals able to sell books. Not just get arbitrary publisher approval.

    I feel this moment should be seen therefore as an opportunity to now require BOTH types of published authors conform to the same “pro” standard. Have they made money off their writing to the extent agreed upon for membership?

    Sales data from both publishing types need to be submitted going forward. I would personally say there needs to be a combination of BOTH raw number of copies sold along with total dollar amount as the yardsticks. One or the other invites cheating. (20 thousand books at a penny a piece shouldn’t cut it, for instance).

    It will be difficult to come up with procedures to that don’t tax the SFWAs ability to confirm the validity of the records presented, but this is the way it should be handled: A formula that takes into account raw books sold and money made REGARDLESS of how the works were published.

    1. Marc Cabot

      “[SFWA is] for Professional Writers who can make money off their Science Fiction writing.”

      In that case, are you going to have a rolling earnings requirement?

      Because there are a lot of card-carrying SFWA members (met a few) who have literally not sold a story in years if not *decades.*

      That hardly constitutes a hard-hitting requirement for Professional Writers to be Making Money.

  27. J. R. Tomlin

    And then SFWA turns around and slaps indy authors in the face by siding with Hachette in the Amazon/ Hachette dispute. First, I consider the letter they chose to endorse wrongheaded in so many ways it’s hard to count and two, it made very clear that exactly how much they are not on the side of indy authors. Good to know in advance. If SFWA weren’t homophobic and misogynistic enough, throw in actively working to harm indy authors. Thanks, but no thanks.

    1. Don Sakers

      Boneheaded move by SFWA, yes. I was one of the first members to shout to the world that in this matter they don’t speak for me.

      But “homopohobic”? Dude, I’ve been an openly gay member of SFWA for over 30 years. At this very moment, my collection “Meat and Machine: queer writings” has one of the rotating spots under “Featured Book” on the SFWA website. In my long career, I’ve found homophobia in various parts of the publishing world and from more individual fuggheads than you can imagine…but not SFWA.

      You can call SFWA many things and be right…but please don’t muddy the waters with talk of homophobia.

  28. steve davidson

    I largely agree with Daniel above; professional organizations establish criteria that are supposed to reflect and reinforce whatever standards have been established for the designation of “professional”. However, I disagree that merely “making money” from an activity should be used as the sole criteria for membership. Should the guys who scrape content and sell cheap “anthologies” of (maybe) public domain works qualify as “professional editors”?

    Not everyone is qualified, regardless of how much they earn. Without a line of demarcation, one is left with nothing but a member’s organization that will ultimately be unable to satisfy its members because it will be unable to define its goals.

    I think that many of the “rants” posted here can be ignored as coming from those who are trying to score points in the trad/indie wars. They can be safely ignored as most of them seem more than happy to declare their unwillingness to participate in SFWA: the professional act would have been to read and ignore.

    And to those who demand to know what SFWA is going to do for them before joining: 1. read your history (obviously you have some kind of interest) 2. belaboring the obvious – if you were members of SFWA, you’d be the ones deciding what “SFWA will do for you”.

    Virtually every field I can think of establishes criteria for “professionalism” – and almost all I can think of have some mechanism acting as a gatekeeper for determining whether an individual and their work qualifies. And in nearly every case, one major component of those criteria is being paid a professional rate, consistently, for their work, BUT: the qualifying skills were present BEFORE the individual began earning a professional rate for that work.

    Prior to the advent of self-publishing, SFWA used metrics related to the publishing industry’s activities to determine qualification – sales to markets that paid a professional rate, working with companies that gathered the necessary information and had themselves established professional guidelines.

    Indie authors wishing to qualify for SFWA membership should step up to the same professional standard: the indie equivalent of “three paid sales to a qualifying professional market…one prose fiction book sale to a qualifying professional market…one full length dramatic script….”

    In support of this: if a serial publication chose to restrict its acceptances to only indie authors and paid a professional rate, did so for more than a year and applied to SFWA and was accepted as a qualifying market, the fiction published would qualify under existing SFWA rules.

    If a consortium of indie authors established a press to purchase and publish indie novel length works, that publisher could become a qualifying market and the works published would qualify their authors under existing SFWA rules.

    The rub obviously lies in translating indie independent sales into SFWA guidelines. What is the indie equivalent of a professional editor with many years of experience in the field? Can a dollar amount be assigned to that? How many review stars does it equal? (What is the experience of having to work with other professionals who may very well request changes to an otherwise already “perfect” story worth? How will lack of that experience affect the overall organization?)

    Perhaps a different direction is required as it is pretty clear that there is little or no equivalence; perhaps SFWA needs to establish a review board of indie author members (drawing from the ranks of those who have gone hybrid), beginning with a minimum number of titles and a minimum level of sales for those titles. If, upon review, the work is professional, the applicant can be admitted.

    That may sound discriminatory but is really just a recasting of the efforts traditionally published members went through in order to acquire membership: submitting their work for review by those judged to be capable of making that assessment.

    That’s a lot of work (some authors may never write again if on that review board), but I don’t see any kind of “formulaic” method working adequately. The point of a professional organization is to establish and enhance professional work.

    And another thing to keep in mind is this: the vast majority will not qualify for membership in a professional organization – just as the vast majority of little league players never qualify for MLB; the vast majority of acting students never get a credit in a major film and hardly any boxers ever appeared on a title card with Muhammad Ali. Membership in a professional organization SHOULD be earned, and the earning should not be easy.

    1. Greg Curtis

      Hi Steve,

      Just to take issue with your point about those of us indies wanting to know what the SFWA can do for us before considering joining – why shouldn’t we want to know? Expecting us to join up blindly is a strange idea. I’m a member of the AA. I joined because I knew what they could do for me as a driver of an older car. I would not have joined if I didn’t simply on the proviso that once a member I might be able to direct their activities towards my benefit as a driver.

      But really my point is this. Having gone through the list of what the SFWA does for its members, there doesn’t seem to be much in it to help indies. Three or four years ago when I first started self publishing, some of that stuff might have been useful, particularly the fora (I assume since as a non member I can’t see them). But now experience has taught me much of what I needed to know to become a more professional author and sell in more markets and so forth.

      The SFWA’s problem in finally looking at taking this step is that many of the other indies they might want to attract, will only find value in what the SFWA can do for them early on in their careers. For those further on who have found some success who the SFWA might actually want to join, they will need to provide some sort of enticement. Show some sort of evidence that they can and do support indies.

      Otherwise as I say, for those indies who the SFWA would consider, many will already be sailing away while the SFWA stands on the peer watching them go.

      Cheers, Greg.

    2. Marc Cabot

      If, upon review, the work is professional, the applicant can be admitted.

      Punchline of an old joke, modified for context:

      Poll Worker, Incredulous: “You can read that?”

      Indiepublisher, Resigned: “Yep. It says ain’t no independent authors gettin’ in here today.”

  29. J S Eaton

    How to define success? And are those criteria alone the basis for membership here? Really goes to the heart of the matter. Sales alone? Published by X? I certainly don’t have the answers here, but I’d like to think a new set of standards are probably in order to address the growing and positive future of the indie author. That said, I’m still one those people that firmly believe traditional publishers still have a place in our book world, and there’s still plenty of readers out there who like the idea of traditional publishers. But if the number of self-published authors are meeting the measure of ‘success’ as defined by this organization, it would be nice to include them.

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  32. Sarah Avery

    I would like to second Trisha Wooldridge’s comment above. If SFWA is going to consider how to open its doors to self-published writers, it would be very strange if SFWA did not also consider how to open its doors to small-press writers. Trisha’s proposed questions and criteria are a fine starting point for that discussion.

    1. Marc Cabot

      Actually, I can see them using their traditional-publisher requirements to encourage publishers to meet minimal standards and discourage authors from signing up with scam companies (including the many scam companies run by traditional publishers.)

      “You can publish with a qualified publisher, or you can publish it yourself and if you hit a certain sales leve that counts, but if you publish with a non-qualified (i.e. a “bad”) publisher, no soup for you” is not that outrageous a position.

  33. J. N. Race

    What a wonderful discussion this has been. I have been enjoying so many of the positive and inclusive comments thus far. I too am not an SFWA member but it is not for lack of want. I am among the many who opted for independence not because they couldn’t be traditionally published but because I enjoy having control over the process. I like knowing that if I succeed or fail, I have no one to look to but myself.

    There isn’t much I can add that hasn’t been said. However, I will state that should the SFWA opt to allow independent authors to join, I would hope that they would not seek to segregate through the use of language by attaching the “self-published” label. Membership should be considered an honor and if one manages to meet the requirements then let the honor be shared equally and without prejudice.

    What good is it to announce that all are welcome at a party only to make a certain group sit in the back roped off from anyone else? That certainly wouldn’t make me feel good. In the end, I hope the board will make the decision to open its doors as I am ready and willing to meet the criteria they set forth in good faith and trust.

  34. Jonathan Brazee

    Ever since my brother took me to one of the conventions in Denver back in the 70′s and I sat at the luncheon with an SFWA author, I’ve wanted to become a member. But over the years, I only published non-fiction and one single scifi short story. In 2009, I self-published my first book, a milfic (I had a career in the Marines, so it was “publish what you know”). My second book was a scifi. I didn’t sell many copies of either until 2012 when my first book took off. I’ve actually done well over the last two years with my milfic, making a fair living. When I went back to scifi, my latest book made it up to 309 overall on Amazon’s list, #20 on the scifi list. Personally, I made it to #21 as a scifi author.

    I am not the world’s most gifted writer, and I won’t be competing for a Nebula, but simply by money earned and copies sold, I believe I would reach any reasonable requirement for membership. I really don’t care what membership would offer me. It would just be the satisfaction of being a member that would be my goal.

    I may write more milfic, but my heart is and always has been in scifi. I read it voraciously and have a long-running scifi review website. Being accepted into SFWA would simply be a personal goal attained.

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