Mary Rosenblum: It’s All About Community

Asimov's June 1990I’m  a proud member of Science Fiction Writers of America.  It costs me in the neighborhood of  $100 a year in dues or so.  And it’s more than worth it.

When I was starting out, membership in SFWA was a huge goal, an indication that you had “made it”.  Why?  Because SFWA has publishing standards that you must meet in order to qualify for membership.  For SFWA, it’s  three short story sales to a qualifying short story market or a published novel by a qualifying publisher.  Ohmygosh, as a new writer just experiencing my heady first sales, it was SUCH a goal!   You made that third short story sale (that’s how I qualified), or sold that novel to Tor or Bantam or whomever and Woohooo….I’m a writer! A real one….  It felt like such a huge achievement!

I still remember how that first sale to Asimov’s, “For a Price”, sold to editor Gardner Dozois while I was attending the Clarion West writers workshop, in 1988.  Wow, was it really that long ago?  I was walking on air, for sure!  On my way to SFWA membership for sure…   It was only much later, when I was writing full time, supporting myself and my two young sons through my writing, that I realized the true value of SFWA membership.

That value was  real then and it’s real today, and it’s worth way more than the yearly dues.   I have to say, as an editor offering publishing support to self publishing authors, many of whom are producing work that is equal in quality to commercially published work, that I am very pleased to see SFWA open the doors of membership to qualifying self published authors.  I think that’s a critical component of SFWA’s continued strength and success as a writers’ organization.  We only benefit by strong numbers.   And for those of you who are out there publishing and marketing your own books — it’s a great benefit for you.

Why?  Oh, let me count the ways.  Or go count them for yourself on the Why join? page.   Over all, what you are joining is a community.

Publishing successfully today, especially on your own, is all about community.  We build a community of fans who love our work and share it with friends.  We build a community of other writers (Who We Are) who can share in the promotional burden.   SFWA offers a lot of community benefits, from the Grievance Committee who will go to bat for you over contract or payment issues, to the Writers Beware column that will help you avoid the (many!) scammers out there, to the wealth of useful information available on the SFWA website.  The online Forum allows you to connect with other writers in your genre.  Make friends (New Writers Interface)!  Invite authors who write like you to swap blog visits with you.  Their fans will probably like your books and your fans will probably like their books.  It’s a win-win!  And being able to sign that query or cover letter as SFWA Member really does matter to a lot of editors.   Just as it meant to me, back in 1988, it means “this one has arrived, this one writes at a professional level”.

Mary RosenblumI know I got a second  look in the slush pile, before many editors knew my name, because of that SFWA Member below my signature.   And, for those of you who don’t plan to stray from the self publishing path, it’s going to matter to your readers.  It sounds…well…professional.

The publishing world is changing rapidly, but there are still some constants.  SFWA is one of them, and if you’re writing speculative fiction, it’s a community you want to belong to.  You are a professional and this is a professional home.

Mary Rosenblum has won the Compton Cook award for Best First Novel, the Sideways Award, and has been a finalist for the Hugo, Nebula, and just about every other SF award.  She has returned twice to teach at Clarion West and currently writes and works with new authors, editing and offering publishing and promotional support as New Writers Interface.