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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » SFWA?

   
Author Topic: SFWA?
rcmann
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Is it worth joining?

A moot point at the moment for me, since I have yet to be admitted to the ranks of the Accepted Ones. But several magazines make a point of mentioning that their publication is a SFWA qualifying venue. On the other hand, I have read comments form more than one writer, including OSC, who state that they left SFWA for some reason and have no interest in going back.

Anyone know much about it that you can't get from their web site? Is it worth the dues?

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MartinV
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What you're saying is like asking: "Is it worth going to Stockholm to pick up the Nobel prize? I didn't do anything to earn it yet but I'm thinking of booking a flight to Stockholm."

If you write for praise, reward or a pat on the back by some veteran somewhere, maybe you need to rethink your strategy.

Excuse me for being quirky. I'm not mocking, just confused.

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Robert Nowall
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The Science Fiction Writers of America is, in theory, a writers' union---I say this in theory, because, having belonged to and worked with the real thing, the SFWA seems more a social organization than any kind of union that can accomplish anything of substance to the benefit of its members. Some of its activities strike me as questionable, to say the least. But they might be able to put you in touch with somebody who could help you with a problem.

(As I recall, I was an "associate member"---which meant I got the magazine, which does have useful tidbits for us would-be writers---but I was never a full-fledged member, never having sold anything up to their official professional standards. I may still be one, for all I know---the magazine doesn't come out that often. I don't know if I'd go for the full-fledge version, though.)

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axeminister
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RC,
When submitting stories, being able to say SFWA member lends credentials.

Because you need (3?) professional sales before joining them, having this on your cover letter immediately tells the slusher you're a previously published and paid author.

As for being in, I believe you get to vote on the Hugos and Nebulas. (But don't quote me on that.) And I suppose you can interact with other members, as Robert said, a social organization.

I'm sure they have various protections in place, fight for your rights, etc, but as the public is so much more informed now as a body, I don't think we're as easy to sneak something by as we might have been in our uninformed past.

However, perhaps if you got a contract from a publisher, maybe looking it over is something they do?

If it's not too costly, I don't see why not. I'm sure OSC had his reasons to leave, but he also had his reasons to sign up initially.

Axe

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Robert Nowall
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Just the Nebulas.
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genevive42
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I went to Worldcon last year in Reno and got invited to a SFWA sponsored party (not a member myself). There were some very important people there. All the editors from the big three, and others. To the best of my knowledge, SFWA does work to protect its members, but it's not quite what you would call a tough union. I do believe it would be excellent for networking. Becoming a full SFWA member is one of my primary goals. My submission strategy is based on it. And it definitely looks good on a cover letter.
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EVOC
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Hugos are voted on by WorldCon members.

The SFWA needs to seriously rethink its admissions standards, IMO. To me they are more of a group of elitists. Where you have to strive to be good enough to join them.

Many people think it is a ticket "in" to being published at 5 cents a word more often. My experience tells me that they get rejected as much (or more) as we "outsiders" do. If anything they are held to higher standard.

I think if I am ever considered good enough to join, I will join. I'll judge the worth and if it isn't worth it, I can leave. Since worth is a term relative to each persons opinion, that is really the only way to know if it is "worth it" or not.

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extrinsic
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SFWA is a professional association with inherent pros and cons. The association is akin to a lawyer or doctors' association or other professional vocational association with standards for membership.

Orthopedic doctor associations, for example, members must have an advanced orthopedic degree, meet a specialty Board written and oral defense certification standard, have interned and resident practiced the specialty for a number of years, and have no adverse actions against their license. While there's a social networking feature, there's also setting standards and ongoing research and development and documentation and peer refereed publication involved.

SFWA, similarly, engages in social networking and industry-influencing activities. The association has had its up and downs over the years. The membership tends to be insular. The administration tends to be hampered by individual agendas and, contarily, membership apathy. It is what the members make it. The most common denominator of the SFWA association is that it's a group of professional, contentious writers.

Membership benefits largely are prestige driven. Membership problems largely are differences of opinion on direction: who's agenda matters to who and what direction the association and the industry as a whole should take for the greater good.

SFWA's singular status marker is the Nebula Awards. Membership select the best short story, novellete, novella, and novel published the previous year. Many writing-related associations' primary claim to fame are based on a literary award for artistic merit, like the Nobel prize for literature is selected and awarded by the Swedish Academy, whose primary mission is furthering the Swedish language's purity, strength, and sublimity (Swedish Academy).

[ July 13, 2012, 11:28 AM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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rcmann
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In other words, it's apparently not something you need for career advancement. My standard for success is how many people read my stuff. Other writer's opinions do not keep me up at night. Thanks folks.
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genevive42
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quote:
Many people think it is a ticket "in" to being published at 5 cents a word more often. My experience tells me that they get rejected as much (or more) as we "outsiders" do. If anything they are held to higher standard.
If they're getting rejected more, it's probably because they're submitting more, and to tougher markets.

SFWA membership doesn't get you published more, but is like any other pip on your collar. Winning an award, or WotF, or publication credits with highly respected magazines are all nice things to be able to put in a cover letter. SFWA is just one more thing to tell an editor (or slush reader) that you're serious about this writing thing and yes, they should expect something pretty darn decent when they look at your story.

And to say they're elitist? How? As extrinsic mentioned, most professions have an organization that has standards for admittance. Are they all elitist?

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extrinsic
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Writing career advancement in the past often benefited from social and professional networking. Accomplished authors' careers I've investigated, and there are many, were propelled by corresponding within a select group of similar writers and followers: fans. Mentor and protégé relationships developed, varied, grew. Pupils became masters; masters became emeriti; emeriti became standard bearers for new generations.

They discussed technique, aesthetics, structure, writing mechanics, grammar and mechanical style, and markets. They critically reviewed each others' works and published their criticisms. The criticisms, however, were a different nature than commonly practiced today. They were analytically driven to interpret intent and meaning, not to locate accessibility, voice, craft, and mechanical style shortcomings. As a consequence, their works garnered more market attention and advanced their skills and careers and the skills and careers of their in-group peers.

They engaged in a long-running writing conversation, contributed to the conversation, and advanced the state of writing arts. Writing inner circles, niches, still converse, but it's out of fashion if simply not done in many genre circles. Perhaps artistic jealousy hampers interpersonal skill- and career-enhancing dialogue between like-minded artists. It's a shame, in my opinion. Although it might be validly asserted websites like this forum and writing blogs are the infancy of a new emerging venue for dynamic writing arts conversations.

[ July 13, 2012, 11:38 AM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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JoBird
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extrinsic wrote:
quote:
Although it might be validly asserted websites like this forum and writing blogs are the infancy of a new emerging venue for dynamic writing arts conversations.
As well as podcasts. Writingexcuses.com offers the occasional, interesting insight. I try to listen to it every now and then to hear what Brandon Sanderson has to say.


EVOC wrote:
quote:
The SFWA needs to seriously rethink its admissions standards, IMO. To me they are more of a group of elitists. Where you have to strive to be good enough to join them.
In regards to elitism, I don't understand that accusation. If an organization strives to fill its ranks with professional members, then great. That essentially means it's an organization of professionals, as opposed to an all-inclusive group. Vetting their members is certainly within their prerogative.

Vetting is an important thing in life. Folks are, for instance, more inclined to buy a novel published by a known publisher than they are to buy something that's self-published. There's a sense to that. Publishers often rely on agents to vet material, readers rely on publishers, and some readers rely on word of mouth. It's all a process of separating the wheat from the chaff.

A history of achievement means something. Potential, on the other hand, not so much. If you can only refer to someone's potential that's probably because they haven't accomplished anything yet. I've heard it said that potential is another word for loser, and while that's harsh, I acknowledge the point.

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EVOC
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The point remains that SFWA has not evolved with the changes in publishing.

There is no reason that people being published by small presses or even self published authors should be ignored.

All an author has to do is sell a manuscript to one of their listed markets and they are in. But what if someone else sells to another press but sells 20x as many books? Why can't they join?

Clearly they have proved achievement. They are not basing their acceptance on a writer's talent which is measured by a reader's enjoyment, not what publishing company purchased it.

They believe that because they were one of the few (elite) to be accepted by this small group (elite) of publishers that they are entitled to special membership. Thus the elitist statement.

Many professional organizations are elitist groups. They restrict to an (in their opinion) elite group. Elite is, by definition, a group of people considered to be the best in a particular category based on wealth or talent.

My point in my comment was not that they should let everyone in. I just think they need to rethink the whole "because you were published by _________ you are good enough for us" mentality.

It is my opinion that there are far better ways to judge an author's talents. I understand it is a subjective judgement, but there are other ways to measure it than which publisher bought the story.

PS: As I said before, if I ever made their standards to join I would. I would judge for myself the worth of such membership.

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extrinsic
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The subtext of SFWA membership eligibility criteria says publication by screened-submission publications with established, merited professional reputations.

From to "Qualify a Venue," or other markets not otherwise listed in SFWA eligible markets.

"To qualify a new Qualifying Professional Market, it must be found acceptable to the Membership Committee. In particular, it must satisfy the following criteria for a given date range to qualify for membership purposes:

• Payment for all works of fiction (other than reprints or serializations), either in advance of publication or on publication, at the rate of either (a) at least $2000 for a single work or (b) at least 5˘/word (3˘/word before 1/1/2004); and

• Must have published consistently for a period of at least one year before the market will be considered qualifying; and

• Must have a print run or circulation of at least 1000 copies, or the equivalent in other media (e.g., demonstrated downloads in electronic media); and

• Is not self-publication, vanity press, or other type of author-paid or fee-charging press, as demonstrated such as (1) by having published at least ten distinct works by different natural persons during the date range; and (2) by authors not having paid or been requested to pay fees or give consideration of any kind" (SFWA Membership Requirements).

Ostensibly, Playboy is an eligible market, as is Highlights, and New Yorker Magazine, though none are on the prescribed list. The latter occasionally publishes works by Margaret Atwood, "The Stone Mattress" recently. http://www.newyorker.com/fiction/features/2011/12/19/111219fi_fiction_atwood

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rcmann
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I guess it's what you are after. I'm not out to impress anybody but my readers. And a few people I know personally.
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JoBird
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quote:
There is no reason that people being published by small presses or even self published authors should be ignored.
This clarifies your point somewhat for me.

Originally, I had the impression that you were rebelling against the organization for having standards. Now I'm gathering that you think their standards of excellence should include other forms of achievement, like selling a like number of copies via vanity publishers.

I suppose I can cede that there's logic in that point.

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EricJamesStone
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I've been an Active Member of SFWA since I made my third professional short fiction sale and became eligible to join in December 2004.

The main reason I'm a member is because it's the professional organization of the profession I want.

I've served on the Grievance Committee (aka Griefcom) for the past several years. Griefcom helps writers who are having problems with their publishers, and can often get results. Because confidentiality is important to our work, we can't really advertise our successes, but Cory Doctorow <a href="http://boingboing.net/2010/04/26/in-praise-of-sfwas-g.html">blogged about his positive experience with Griefcom here</a>. (For the record, I was not involved in that case.)

Members of SFWA can have their contact information listed in the organization's directory. Because my email address listed in the directory isn't my standard email address, I can tell when someone emails me after looking me up in the directory. My invitation to submit to an anthology containing several big-name authors came to that email address. I probably would not have made that sale (and sales to two sequel anthologies) had I not been listed in the directory.

SFWA has also given me some networking opportunities at conventions.

SFWA membership allows me to nominate and vote for the Nebula Awards. I can remember reading the Nebula anthologies when I was a teenager. To be allowed to vote for the awards is a privilege I am thrilled to have.

If you look at SFWA membership from a completely mercenary point of view, you may decide that it will not pay for itself. But if you look at it from a community standpoint, SFWA membership is "paying your dues" to be a part of the genre community.

By the way, with regard to qualification for membership, SFWA has been looking into ways to allow successful self-publishers to join while still maintaining professional standards.

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EVOC
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quote:
Originally posted by EricJamesStone:
By the way, with regard to qualification for membership, SFWA has been looking into ways to allow successful self-publishers to join while still maintaining professional standards.

That is good news.
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skadder
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I joined SFWA the minute I was able to, but the relevance and benefits are a little less evident for me as Brit. I probably won't renew unless I plan to attend some event like WorldCon, something that is is out of my financial reach at the moment.

That said, I could always mention in a cover letter that I WAS an active member of the SFWA (I may--not sure), but a list of pro-credits speaks for itself anyway.

[ July 19, 2012, 05:14 PM: Message edited by: skadder ]

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MartinV
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Well, if a Brit didn't find much use in it, I don't see how someone like me might benefit from it.
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skadder
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I don't want to put it down. Probably other Brits may have got more out of it and certainly it helps if you have problem with a publisher. I may re-join when I have a book to publish.
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genevive42
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World Fantasy Con is in Brighton in 2013.
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skadder
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NOOOOOOO!!!!Kewl!
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genevive42
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I got my 2013 memberships for World Fantasy and World Con (Texas) already. My goal is to have two books finished and ready to pitch. Don't forget, World Fantsy is usually a small gathering with limited membership so don't wait to get your tickets.
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