It's 2014, and even though the self-pub revolution is 6 years old writers and authors groups are still struggling to come to terms with the idea of admitting self-published authors to their ranks. It was only in March 2014 that the Writer's Union of Canada voted to allow self-pub authors to join at a later date, and the SFWA is only now asking its members for feedback on the question of self-published authors.
This was posted to the SFWA blog on Thursday of last week:
The SFWA Board of Directors is asking members to share their opinions of self-publishing over the summer. The Board has asked the members to consider not just whether or not to make it possible for writers to join on the basis of self-published works but also the issues that would have to be addressed, such as confirming income, sales, and other publishing information from self-published writers. The issue should be submitted to the full membership prior to November’s business meeting at the 2014 World Fantasy Convention.
My initial response to that post was to add that the feedback could be submitted by fax, telegram, Pony Express, and steamship, but then I got my snark under control.
The fact of the matter is, the SFWA set what looks to be a low bar for membership. Self-published works aren't accepted, no, but to join the SFWA an author only needs to sell 3 stories to a qualified market. That is within the abilities of any of the better self-published authors.
On the other hand, the bar for membership may be low but it is still outdated and archaic. The list of valid markets hasn't been updated nearly as fast as the publishing industry has changed. For example, Kindle Singles isn't on the list, and in fact none of Amazon's publishing imprints are on the list. (I'm sure that's not the only omission, but it stuck out.)
Say what you will about Amazon, their publishing division meets all the definition of being a publisher. They should be listed, and I bet they would be if not for the 2012 contract dispute between IPG and Amazon. The retailer was pressuring the distributor to change the terms of the contract, which is really neither here nor there, but the SFWA decided to weigh in on the topic and start directing book buyers everywhere but Amazon. Tell me Amazon's publishing division hasn't been banned for the same reason, I dare you.
According to some, the SFWA is itself an outdated and redundant organization which exists for no other purpose than to validate existing members and provide a platform for petty politics. I can't speak from personal experience, but when I see that any number of authors I respect have either let their memberships lapse or declined to join the SFWA I wonder if perhaps the detractors are right.
I don't bring up the negative opinions to slam the SFWA but to point out that this group has considered updating their membership rules in the past (including one attempt last fall) and, if the several blogs I found were correct, most of the efforts fizzled.
I think that raises the point whether the latest effort will meet with a similar lack of success. If it falters it will confirm much of what the SFWA's detractors have been saying will have been proven true.
So what do you think of their plans?