At long last it has finally happened: the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) has voted to allow self-publication and small press credits to be accepted for membership and associate membership in their organization. The final vote was 6 to 1 in favor of changing their bylaws.
Self-publishing writers can now apply for membership or associate membership into the SFWA.
So what does this mean for independent writers?
For one thing, self-published writers can now submit their novels to be nominated for the Nebula Award, one of the most prestigious awards in science fiction. The Nebula is a peer-elected award, meaning only members can vote for the winners. In other words, it is other writers of science fiction who will say the winner’s book is that good.
It also means a self-published writer will appear on the roles of membership of the SFWA. There are some independent writers who will shrug that off and say, “So what? I made it this far without them.” The answer is many large science fiction conventions in the United States determine their guest list by selecting from the membership list of the SFWA. With self-published writers now able to appear on that membership list, it is entirely possible that we will begin to see self-published writers headlining these events.
Seriously, what self-published writer hasn’t daydreamed about being the guest of honor at one of the major cons? Being asked to address a roomful of fans—and potential future fans—as a paid speaker? Most self-published writers I know either attend cons by buying a ticket or by paying for a table so they can try to sell books. I fall into this category. Someday it’ll happen. But for now, I’ll just daydream about it.
I do know many self-published writers who are doing quite well without being a member of any writing guilds or societies. However, the promotional possibilities with having one’s name included with some of the greats of science fiction can’t be ignored.
Any struggling actor can tell you that just being nominated for the Academy Awards (the “Oscar”) is enough to propel one to superstar status.
SFWA recognition also gives professional legitimacy to self-published writers. Something that has taken a bit of a beating in recent news.
The SFWA also provides some benefits and services for their membership.
Another group that benefits from SFWA recognition is small press publishers. The independent publishers comprised of people who walked away from the big publishers to do things the way they feel it should be done. To change the way the publishing industry works. For them, SFWA recognition is huge. By showing potential new clients, whether seasoned or debut authors, that they are recognized as a legitimate market by a professional organization, they can assure those writers that they will be doing the best work they can to take care of their writers and the manuscripts the writers provide them.
The SFWA routinely blacklists publishing companies that mistreat authors. To be recognized by the SFWA as an acceptable market is a good selling point for bringing in new writers.
Now, before you jump at filling out an application, there are some requirements for membership.
For one thing, you must be successfully selling books. The SFWA requires certain minimums must be met before a writer can receive full membership. Those minimums are based on a writer’s income, not copies sold. The point being, a writer must prove that he/she/ze is a professional writer by making a living as a writer. Not just a hobbyist that put a single book up online.
That means by proving you are making a minimum level of income through your writing.
Their membership qualifications are listed here.
I will say for the record, at the moment I do not qualify for full membership in the SFWA as I have nowhere near met their income requirements for membership.
But the fact I could as a future possibility is a positive.
What I find most appealing to all this is that the SFWA now recognizes self-published writers a being legitimate professionals and peers in the industry.