At a businesswomen’s fellowship recently, we were asked to talk about a trait we inherited from our parents. By the time it got to be my turn, several others had already said “love of learning.” Not wanting to be a copycat, I said, “My parents were Star Trek fans from before anyone ever coined the word ‘Trekkie,’ so I have to say they gave me a love of the fantastical.”
So I’ve been a science fiction and fantasy fan pretty much from birth. I therefore knew about Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, known as SFWA, though I never gave it much thought beyond occasionally reading its Writer Beware blog, which is excellent, by the way.
I don’t know why, but even when I was writing for the secular market, I never considered joining SFWA. Just as well. They wouldn’t have me.
Unlike the writing associations I belong to, SFWA has no place for those who are learning the craft. It doesn’t exist to foster new writers, only to protect the interests of those who’ve already made the big time, as they define “big time.”
To join the SFWA, you not only have to be published, you have to be published at an “approved” publishing house. To be approved, the house must pay in advance or on publication. Publishers like Splashdown Books and OakTara, which pay authors only after books are sold, need not apply. Self-published authors, no matter how many books they’ve sold, are also excluded.
What drew my attention to SFWA was its refusal to authorize Random House’s Hydra imprint because Hydra authors received no advance. Random House actually wound up rewriting its contracts to placate the SFWA.
So Hydra now offers two options: the SFWA-approved advance on royalty, in which the author receives 25 percent of net revenue, or a profit share model in which authors receive 50 percent net. Seriously. SFWA thinks it’s better to get half as much royalty money, as long as some of it is paid in advance.
I find it sadly hilarious that an organization founded by a science fiction writer clings to an old-fashioned business model rather than embracing the future. And if you don’t think the future of publishing is in print-on-demand, lean management, and self-publishing, you haven’t been paying attention.
That pretty much makes SFWA an organization I’m not interested in joining. Even if I could.