SFWA Welcomes Self-Published and Small Press Authors!

Logo SFWA-Web squareIn a referendum with a third of voting members participating and over 6 to 1 in favor, the membership of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America has approved bylaw changes that enable SFWA to accept self-publication and small-press credits for Active and Associate memberships in the organization. We are using existing levels of income but are now allowing a combination of advances and income earned in a 12 month period to rise to the qualifying amounts.

SFWA President, Steven Gould, states, “Writers write. Professional writers get paid a decent amount for what they write. For the past five years it’s been apparent that there are ways to earn that decent amount that were not being covered by our previous qualification standards. Though these changes took a substantial amount of time, I’m grateful to everyone who worked toward this end.”

According to SFWA Vice President Cat Rambo, “I’m very excited to see SFWA moving forward and adapting itself to the changing face of modern publishing. SFWA will be much richer for the influx of knowledge and experience that the new members who have focused on independent and small-press publishing will bring with them.”

Specific details will be posted at sfwa.org by the first of March, but the basic standards are $3,000 for novel, or a total of 10,000 words of short fiction paid at 6 cents a word for Active membership. A single story of at least 1,000 words paid at 6 cents a word will be required for Associate membership. Affiliate, Estate, and Institutional membership requirements remain unchanged.

Self-published and small-press works were already eligible for the Nebula and Norton Awards, SFWA’s member-voted genre award, and will remain so.

SFWA will open to applications from small press and independent publishing qualifying members on March 1, 2015. Further information will be available at that time here: http://www.sfwa.org/about/join-us/sfwa-membership-requirements/

For membership questions not answered at the link above, please contact Kate Baker, at operations@sfwa.org. For information on SFWA or the Nebula Awards, or to request interviews or other information, please contact Jaym Gates, at communications@sfwa.org.

About SFWA

Founded in 1965 by the late Damon Knight, Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America brings together the most successful and daring writers of speculative fiction throughout the world.

Since its inception, SFWA® has grown in numbers and influence until it is now widely recognized as one of the most effective non-profit writers’ organizations in existence, boasting a membership of approximately 1800 science fiction and fantasy writers as well as artists, editors and allied professionals. Each year the organization presents the prestigious Nebula Awards® for the year’s best literary and dramatic works of speculative fiction.

27 Responses

  1. Erec Stebbins

    This is very welcoming news indeed to the indie community, and thanks very much to all who support this decision.

    One suggestion: a criterion for units sold for novels vs total $ might be more inclusive, as many indie writers rely to a large extent on ebook sales vs print, and the prices of ebooks are substantially lower in general, and for indie writers in particular, and as compared to print.

    Whatever the final requirements, it’s great to see such a major organization open the doors so widely to independent publishers and authors, to ‘boldly go where no one has gone before!’

    Erec Stebbins

  2. William Hertling

    It’s wonderful SFWA is taking this very inclusive approach! I hope the new members that join will help enrich the organization, and I look forward to seeing what happens.

    Thank you to everyone who worked so hard to make this happen.

  3. Angela Korra'ti (Highland)

    As a hybrid author with both a series at Carina Press and a self-pubbed series, I’d like to thank the members of SFWA for this decision. I am not currently at qualifying levels of income but this _does_ give me a goal to shoot for, and I am pleased to now have that opportunity!

  4. Misa

    A welcome change, though a less welcome threshold amount. I’m also disappointed that the choice seems to still be between novels or shorts, and doesn’t include novellas.

    1. Jim Johnson

      I think the guidelines to be posted soon will clarify it, but novellas will fit into the shorter works piece of the puzzle.

  5. Jim Rudnick

    Nice to see the SFWA responding to current events in the publishing world…and yes, I’ll apply now as well…

    However, I still think that the “old school” way of finding an agent, then a publisher who believes in ones work is best….least that’s how I see it!


  6. Gregory L. Mahan

    The wheels of progress are sometimes slow, but there’s no denying it.

    I’ve been longing to join the SFWA for a few years. Now it looks like I’ll be able to! I look forward to submitting my application as soon as the new bylaws go into effect.

  7. Roz Morris @Roz_Morris

    How wonderful that you’ve made this progressive step!
    However, your thresholds may be unrealistic. You’re requiring that authors demonstrate substantial earnings, but this may not be the best measure of professionalism or quality. As indie writers are funding themselves and publicising themselves, you will find only the writers with big sales and successful marketing campaigns. You may be missing writers whose work is significant and of a high standard.

    Is there some other criterion you could use for judging applicants who are self-published?

    I do admit I have a vested interest. I self-published my science fiction fable because publishers told me it was too original. It hasn’t done much in the way of sales, because I don’t have the funds and I’m concentrating on writing my next book. However, it has terrific, serious reviews – including a heartfelt endorsement from multi-Hugo and Nebula winner Kij Johnson. Would such a testimonial persuade the committee to give me a chance?


    1. BKA

      You’re assuming they actually want indie authors to join. If that were true their requirements for joining would have been based on the writer’s literary accomplishment, not on who publishes them or how much money they make. A hack like Stephanie Meyers can join, but skilled writers without a big publisher are still not welcome.
      This club isn’t about art, it’s about money.

    2. sanjoy

      I agree with Roz on this subject. You might get authors who are sure to recover their investments but, not new authors with sufficient quality.

    3. Beech

      The fable is too original, Roz says. It would make a whopping $3,000+… if but only…, Roz says.

      The delusion is strong in this one.

  8. Darrell Schweitzer

    I hate to be the dissenting voice here, but my last several sales, to very prestigious publications (CEMETERY DANCE, WEIRD FICTION REVIEW, POSTSCRIPTS, assorted anthologies including THE MADNESS OF CTHULHU, FLESH LIKE SMOKE, and WORLD WAR CTHULHU) DO NOT qualify one for SFWA membership … but a self-published writer can get in. I am not personally concerned. I have had enough qualifying sales over the years and am grandfathered in, having been a member of this organization since about 1978. However, it does, on the surface at least, seem very hard to explain. A writer could have a very illustrious career (particularly at the fantasy/horror end of the spectrum), sell dozens of stories to prestigious, professional, but non-qualifying markets, maybe even collect award nominations, and then conclude that SFWA is irrelevant to his/her career experience. Some of the anthologies might qualify over time if they earn royalties, but even then we could have the absurdity that my story in BLACK WINGS 1 qualifies but the one in BLACK WINGS 4 does not. I support SFWA and do not want to see it marginalized. I am writing this just now because I got on the website to renew my membership.

    The simple solution will not be popular: lower the figure for qualifying short fiction to three cents a word, which will reflect reality a little closer. The reality is that about half of the short fiction market out there pays 3-5 cents a word. When I was editing WEIRD TALES and Warren Lapine was editing ABSOLUTE MAGNITUDE and there were several other magazines in the stable, all of which paid 3 cents a word, we had a little discussion about whether SFWA’s raising the standard of qualifying sale to 6 cents a word meant anything. We concluded it did not. We could not afford to double editorial costs just then. There was no shortage of writers standing in line to get into those magazines.

  9. BKA

    It’s a token gesture to reduce the number of complaints without actually opening their doors to most indie authors. If they really cared about writers they would have never imposed an exclusion in the first place and instead allowed anyone serious about writing to join.

    This is the same type of traditionalist BS as big publishers buying their authors’ books to get them onto best seller lists.

  10. Jonathan Brazee

    This is welcome news. I’ve wanted to join since I attended a convention back in the 70’s with my brother. I expect to have my application in on March 1.

    I had expected a higher threshold, but this will allow more writers to qualify. At a 70% royalty for eBooks, at least, this figure is pretty easy to reach.

  11. Greg Curtis


    It’s good news, and judging by the article I qualify to join as an indie. So I’m pleased about that. But I have no intention of doing so at this stage.

    I don’t mean this as a slight upon the organisation or its members, but as an indie taking charge of my own publishing etc, I always have to ask one simple question before I commit to any business expense – what’s in it for me?

    Putting “Member of the SFWA” on my author bio is not going to garner me one single extra sale. Access to your author discussion forums could be useful or not – I have no idea since as a non-member I can’t actually view them. The legal and insurance part is interesting, but thus far I’ve had no need for such things.

    I think if the SFWA truly wants to take some indies on board, it needs to look specifically at what it can offer them.

    Also as a by the by, you might do better looking at sales rather than dollars. My understanding is that a small print run for a trade published author would be around 2000 copies. Perhaps that would be a better benchmark, since the dollars earned from that number of sales for an indie will vary widely. For example if I priced a book at 99c on Amazon, I’d get 35c per sale or $700, which falls well short of your limit. If I priced at $3.99 I’d get $2.79 per sale or $5,580.

    Cheers, Greg.

  12. Graham J. Darling

    I find conflicting guidelines at http://www.sfwa.org/about/join-us/sfwa-membership-requirements/.

    Under “Active Members”: “Three or more paid sales of different works of fiction (such as three separate short stories) totaling a minimum of 10,000 words to eligible markets, was self-published or sold to a small press for each of which the candidate can prove the sale at the minimum rate of 6c/word or higher”.

    This suggests that two stories of 5000 words each plus one sub-1000 flash—or, twenty stories of 500 words each— all at 6 cents per word, would be enough to qualify.

    But, “Qualifying Short Fiction Venues

” further down still mentions a “$60 minimum (1000 words x .06 word) sale requirement” for short fiction. Is this still in effect?

    Also, “Paid Sales” talks about “Rule III for Active Membership above”, whereas the “Active Members” section contains no “Rule III” (Roman numberals).

    Such inconsistencies could create confusion and discouragement for newbies, towards whom this information is most directed.