Throwing Down My Teeny Weeny Gauntlet

For the last three months, there’s been a loophole on SFWA’s site about who qualifies for membership. Specifically, it’s Rule 3:

One paid sale of a work of fiction of under 40,000 words for which the candidate’s income equals or exceeds $2,000.00, such income to include a simple payment or an advance and/or subsequent royalties after the advance has earned out. Detailed documentation of payment will be required.

Rule 3 does not specify that said work must be sold to a “qualifying professional market”, but Rule 1 and 2, which list other ways to qualify, do.

When I questioned that, I was told that it didn’t overrule the bylaws, which still prohibited qualifying based on non-qualifying markets.

By that time, however, I’d had a lot of time to think.

This morning, SFWA sent a seven-question survey about whether or not indie and small press publishing credits should count for SFWA membership. Consider this a broader answer to those question.

Case 1: Lori Witt

In March, Lori wrote this post about writing income, which I’ve previously written about.

…whereas I’ve made over $8,000 from a novella published in 2011.

That description narrows the book in question down to two possible novellas, but I believe it’s this one. [Edited to add: I was wrong; see note at bottom.]

Riptide’s a small press, specializing in LGBT books, with around 50 authors. As is Samhain, which is a much larger digital first romance publisher that publishes both straight and gay romance.

Case 2: Michael Bunker

Michael Bunker lives off-grid and writes Amish science fiction. He makes a significant part of his income doing so.

The Point

As I’m writing this, I’m eligible for Associate (junior) membership in SFWA based on my sale of a short to Baen in 2003 (published in 2004).

Lori and Michael are eligible for absolutely no SFWA status based on their writing.

Back when SFWA was formed, essentially you sold to qualifying markets or you weren’t making significant money writing science fiction. The world has shifted in recent years, and that’s no longer true.

Any writers’ organization that privileges my one-time sale to a Baen anthology in 2003 where I’ve earned less than $400 over the last 11 years over far more significant current income from working writers—that’s an unjust system.

My opinion.

It’s frankly been idiotic for me to continue to pay for SFWA membership; I’ve essentially paid out all I took in from that one sale (so far) several times over.

Therefore, I’ll start paying for SFWA membership again when the whole qualifying market thing changes.


Well, I guessed wrong on which novella. It was this one, which isn’t sf/f.


  1. Craig says

    The easiest fixes are : Remove requirement for an Advance; Qualify Amazon (& Smashwords) as qualifying markets. Alternately, change the dollar numbers so that you qualify if Advance of $X or royalties of say, 2* $X… since I think part of the point of the standards is to say to publishers “this is the minimum you should pay professional writers”.

    Mind you, I would insist that to be a qualifying market you should have to allow the organization to conduct random royalty audits on books sold by its members. But then the qualifying markets would be very few. That would also be a service of value to any member, and encourage membership amongst traditionally published folks.

    You could also provide useful services to indy authors, like maintaining a current list of referrals to quality for-hire editors, copy-editors, cover artist/cover layout people, etc.