The new SFWA requirements and apathy

First I’ll quote the “release”;


SFWA Welcomes Self-Published and Small Press Authors!

In 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

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….”


Okay so here is what we have.

First I am a BIG union supporter,  I was the president of my union and a steward though I have not been involved with SFWA politically.  But I do vote.  SFWA is at its best a union that supports and protects its members.

SFWA has protected and supported me with royalty recovery and similar situations personally and as a benefit to SF writers generally.

When I started writing SF seriously in the 1990’s I had as a personal goal to obtain active SFWA membership.  I spent considerable marketing effort towards that goal and in a few years I obtained it. .

Currently there are 1,800 members worldwide (as best as I can discern from web sources), so less than an average of 35 or so per US state.  That made me feel pretty good and kinda exclusive.  It took a lot of effort to qualify and I was and am glad I did,  I also like the fact that my work had been judged good enough for a professional market to purchase.  That also boosted my pride and ego.

I see the advantage of greater membership and more money to SFWA making more benefits possible.  But I kinda liked being in a somewhat exclusive club.

Now we have only the buying public acting as jurors, but let us be honest, they always were the ultimate jury.

But now the bar is a bit lower.  And a bit higher for flash fiction.  There are members who would no longer qualify under the new rules.  They remain “grandfathered in ” but really — in example.  If all one write is flash than the $600.00 bucks would come easily,but getting three flash stories in at over 10,000 words is going to be one heck of a trick.   For more on this specific issue see two excellent articles linked below:

On Unqualifying for SFWA

Under new SFWA rules, I almost qualify

The rate went from five cents per word to six.  Markets slow to catch up on this will cause difficulties for SF writers as well.  But I think this is an improvement

But for me the main issues are these:

First — is self publishing really viable and reasonable for qualifying?  I would rather my colleges be judged by something other than being able to sell or purchase enough copies of a self published piece.

Second does selling six hundred bucks worth of your work really make you a professional?

Third, I think flash is very hard to write.  An author selling twelve hundred bucks worth of flash to a half dozen markets is excluded, while a single sale of six hundred bucks based on a ten thousand word piece qualifies.  Seems off to me.

So I know many will be upset with me on this. So be it.  I just am surprised with the relative dearth of negative comment and the wellspring of joy as to these changes.

Oh — one more thing.  Let us look at the numbers.  And I will state first that I voted.

Approximately 1,800 members.  Approximately 600 actually voting.  So about 515 members out of 1,800 authorized this drastic change.  I know that means that approximately 1,200 were apathetic,but still, really?

Note these numbers are approximate so don’t yell at me — the basic idea is still here and valid.

515 made the change for 1,800.  That is really the point and there is little to be done about that.  We don’t know how to fix apathy.