As the SFWA controversy still rumbles around the Net in various writing circles, I’ve seen the topic come up of whether, if SFWA is inaccessible and/or irrelevant to a lot of today’s working writers, is it time to fire up a competing organization? That very question has been raised to me in comments, and I’ve seen it raised on at least two other blog posts. Like Cora Buhlert’s Revenge of the Girl Cooties post, as well as the World SF blog, which is asking whether SFWA can continue to be relevant in an increasingly global writing market.
Over on her own blog, Dara has now addressed the question of, if a competing organization were to arise, what would that actually mean? Picosummary: a lot more work than many might think. I encourage you to go give her a read.
I’ve also seen people suggesting that perhaps SFWA should follow the example of RWA and admit members who aren’t published writers yet. I think it’s certainly an idea worth considering. Though me, I’d be just as interested in seeing them open up a tier of membership allowing members who have sold to professional markets–even if they aren’t advance-paying markets.
Now, I get it. I get that a publisher who actually pays you an advance is still going to be the most Serious Business thing you can do for your career if you’re a writer. But the problem is, that still pretty much means “a publisher who can get you into print”, because I have yet to hear of any serious digital-only markets that will pay advances. (If such markets exist, I’d love to hear about them!)
And as the number of aspiring writers continues to rise, the advance-paying markets, the ones who can in fact get you into print, become harder and harder to sell to. I’ve personally experienced an advance-paying market telling me I had a good novel–but they didn’t want it because they had no room in the schedule for it, and they were sure some other market would take it. (And I had to wait well over a year to get that response.) Fewer and fewer advance-paying markets are taking unsolicited submissions, just because it’s become so easy to submit a novel to markets these days that they’re drowning in tidal waves of slush. They have to lock down their submissions queues if they want to get any work done at all.
Which of course means that aspiring writers have to then court agents instead, if they want to get to those otherwise inaccessible advance-paying markets. But this doesn’t solve the problem, because the agents that are taking unsolicited submissions are also drowning in slush. An author still has to wait, often upwards of many months, before an agent may get back to them. And that’s assuming the agent doesn’t have a policy of “if you never hear from me, that means no”.
Given all these things, I cannot be surprised in the slightest that many writers who tell absolutely lovely stories are turning to digital markets instead. I’ve read quite a few of them from Carina now. I’ve gone this route myself, of course, and y’know what? I’ve never had anything less than a professional experience working with the team at Carina. I will say with pride that Valor of the Healer is an infinitely better book because of the editing it received from Deb Nemeth, my editor.
And yet. Because I sold to a digital market, one that didn’t pay me an advance, I’m still not eligible for SFWA.
I may eventually be. I do have an agent, and once I have my trilogy with Carina out of the way I do plan to have her shop my other forthcoming works around to hopefully higher-profile markets. But realistically speaking, at best it’ll probably be four or five more years before I could make the necessary sales. And by then I’ll have at least five digital novels out–Faerie Blood, Bone Walker, and the entire Rebels of Adalonia trilogy. I’ll also have novellas in the Warder universe, which I will be putting up for public sale as soon as I finish them and get them to my long-patient Kickstarter backers. And I have every expectation that as I continue to work with Carina as well as on my independently published works, my craft will improve and I will grow as a writer.
Yet not a single one of these words will make me eligible for SFWA. And I have to admit, if a competing organization that could pull off the same level of professional competence arose, one which would accept digital, independent, or hybrid authors, I’d be looking very seriously at joining it. I will in fact be looking very seriously at the Northwest Independent Writers Association, though so far their scope is limited to the Pacific Northwest and I’d like to see something more national, if not global.
But it sure would be nice if SFWA would consider opening up an auxiliary tier of membership for those of us who have sold to professional digital markets with good track records of paying their authors. I’d absolutely pay dues for that.
Until then, I’ll be over here working on my books.