SFWA Opens to Self-Published Authors; Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction Makes Contract Changes

Posted by Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware

I have two pieces of SFWA-related news to share today.

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Members of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) have voted to open membership to self-published and small press authors. From the official statement:
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 at SFWA's Membership Requirements page.
Voting members supported the change 6 to 1. This has been a long time coming, and I am thrilled that it's here at last.

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SFWA's Contracts Committee has issued the following announcement:
Several months ago, a number of members of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) raised questions with the SFWA Contracts Committee about the contract then in use by The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction (F&SF).

The SFWA Contracts Committee and Gordon Van Gelder, Publisher of F&SF, have worked together over the past several months to resolve problems with the contract. As a result of the discussions, the contract has been revised to address issues involving the length of exclusivity requested and the registration of copyright. The Committee will continue to follow implementation of the new contract.

Mr. Van Gelder was offered an opportunity to make a statement, but declined. We would like to thank him for his professionalism and courtesy in working with the Committee.

Michael Armstrong, Chairperson
SFWA Contracts Committee
The Contracts Committee consists of Michael Armstrong, chairperson, Michael Capobianco, Victoria Strauss, Ken Liu, Jim Fiscus, and Michael Stackpole.

5 comments to SFWA Opens to Self-Published Authors; Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction Makes Contract Changes

  • Weirdmage

    “SFWA has never been a union or a guild, and has never presented itself as one.”
    While this may be technically correct, the things that SFWA do that are what is usually associated with unions (, Writer Neware, grievance committee, and behind the scenes pressure on publishers – all of which I think are very good by the way.) are the things people advocating SFWA membership, including a former president, has cited as why SFWA is important. Actually it is the only things pointed out when people felt like leaving, or never joining, the organisation, because of its failure to make people feel welcome (SFWA Bulletin and VD).
    You can’t advocate for membership being important because of A, and then deflect criticism of the organisation not being A because it has never meant to be A. That is just disingenious, at best, and deceitful at worst.

    When you say that the income threshold is the same, I do not feel certain what you mean. I hold that the Kindle Select (, or whatever they call it now), has the kind of contract that WB/SFWA would protest if a publisher had it – especially since it is non-negotiable. So I wonder if money will be the only criteria for SFWA now? And does that mean that there will be no list of approved publishers, or is it as I asked, different rules for self-publishing venues?

    I’m sorry, but this thing does not seem to be remotely thought through. I just can’t see that a store where an author is forced to lend out their books, and not put them for sale anywhere else, can be eligible for inclusion in an organisation that claims to work for authors, AND has a history of disqualifying publishing venues that are bad for authors’ interest.

  • Victoria Strauss

    B.L. Alley,

    If you believe SFWA is nothing more than a social club for “antiquated snobs,” I’m thinking you aren’t very familiar with its current membership.

    At any rate, the income threshold that self-pubbed authors must meet ($3,000) is that same one that trad-pubbed authors must meet. So I’m not really seeing how that adds up to “not actually allowing them to join.” Or are you saying that most self-pubbed authors can’t manage to make that much? If so, I think a lot of self-publishers would strongly disagree.

  • Victoria Strauss

    Weirdmage,

    SFWA has never been a union or a guild, and has never presented itself as one. It’s a membership organization for writers of speculative fiction, just as (for instance) MWA is a membership organization for writers of mysteries.

    The income threshold is the same, whether the money is from income earned from an advance-paying publisher, a small press that doesn’t pay an advance, or self-publishing (for small press and self-publishing authors, I believe there will be a timeframe in which the income must be earned–I’m thinking it’s 12 months, but don’t quote me on that). Since the membership qualifications for self-pubbed and small press authors are now based strictly on book sales revenue, KDP and KDP Select books will be as eligible as any others.

  • B.L. Alley

    The SFWA is a social club for antiquated snobs who think they are superior because they belong to major publishers. They look down their nose because they benefit from well funded marketing campaigns and bestseller listings bought and paid for by those publishers.
    This is an attempt to reduce the complaints about the exclusion of independent authors without actually allowing them to join.
    Since when is the amount an author makes the benchmark for which their literary talent is judged? Anyone serious about writing, even if they are still honing their craft, should have the opportunity to join a group related to their chosen genres in order to learn and grow and exchange ideas.
    To be honest, after learning more about the SFWA I have no desire to be associated with it.
    I may never write a masterpiece, or make a fortune like the hacks selling their poorly written book series to movie studios, but at least I will maintain possession of my soul.

  • Weirdmage

    To be honest I don’t see how this will work.
    In one way I see it as final confirmation that SFWA is a social club and not a union/guild. Which in my mind makes it as relevant as any such social club.
    I will of course wait for the final membership eligibilty requirements- But I can’t see how Amazon’s non-negotiable contracts and distribution exlusivity can make it eligible for inclusion if the SFWA is going to hold on to the rules they have previously used for approving a publishing venue for eligibility. -So either this makes SFWA a free-for-all when it comes to where you publish, making money the only criteria, or they’re applying different rules for differently published authors.

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