2015-03-08

SFWA Membership

On February 3rd, 2015, the SFWA posted one of the best pieces of news I've heard in a long time--they would begin admitting self-published authors. You can read the announcement here. On March 1st, I went to their website to sign in and...nothing...no updated membership requirements. I continued to check the website throughout the day. I also tweeted my frustration. Cat Rambo replied and apologized. On March 2nd, I noticed the new requirements (vague as they were) were up and I applied for membership.

There are issues with the online application form as far as an indie author is concerned. The SFWA is well aware of this and are working to come up with a more indie-favorable form. The existing form assumes you're an author that has a signed contract with a large publisher and you've received an advance on your royalties. You are allowed to upload only 3 items. The biggest omission is a box where the applicant can explain things. I believe I have sent them sufficient information to process my application and grant me membership.

I have written to Cat Rambo and discussed my concerns with her. I also provided some suggestions concerning how they should deal with indie authors. I don't know if my suggestions will be accepted, but here they are:

  • Since there is no publishing contract, a self-published author should be asked to provide proof of authorship of the work being used to qualify for membership. A copyright notice from the US copyright office would be perfectly acceptable.
  • Since the vast majority of self-published authors receive royalty payments from Amazon, proof of royalties received for a specific novel is problematic. Yes, Amazon does provide a downloadable Excel spreadsheet showing sales in each region for each novel, but Excel spreadsheets can be altered. To back up the data shown on the spreadsheet, I recommended requesting copies of the 1099s authors receive from Amazon and Smashwords.
  • The online application form will also require modification by providing the applicant an opportunity to explain how they meet the admission requirements.
Self-published authors do not receive an advance when they upload their book to Amazon or Smashwords. They collect their royalties each month. There are many authors who have signed contracts, received their advance, and then never see another payment again yet they are admitted to the SFWA. There are self-published authors who, over the course of a year, collect more in royalties than many signed authors receive in an advance. Proving this to the SFWA is a problem but it is not a problem that can't be solved.

I look forward to becoming a member of the SFWA. The membership will help identify me as a legitimate author. My feedback and sales have already done that for me, but membership status in the SFWA will send that doubt to the bottom of the deepest ocean once and for all.

On the writing front: I've made good progress on Dragonverse Origins. I have been working myself into a new shift schedule in which I have to be up at 3:00am. This new shift starts this Monday. For the past few days, I've been getting up earlier and earlier and I've had the mornings to myself. This has given me plenty of time to write. Origins now stands at just over 14,000 words.

I took some time this morning to buy my plane tickets for Launch Pad 2015. I am looking forward to meeting another wonder group of authors.

There is also another Launch Pad-like educational adventure you can apply for. If you are interested in quantum physics, you can apply to attend the newly created Schrodinger Sessions. Chad Orzel modeled this course after Launch Pad. For further information you can read about it here. A more detailed description including some background can be found here. I signed up this morning.