Author Topic: What do indies want/need from SFWA to consider applying/joining?  (Read 26061 times)  

Offline Jim Johnson

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What do indies want/need from SFWA to consider applying/joining?
« on: September 18, 2013, 08:07:03 am »
As has been mentioned here and here, SFWA has created a self-publishing committee. Myself and several other SFWA members (including at least one who frequents these boards but I'll leave it to them to reveal themselves if they so choose) are working on creating recommendations to take to the SFWA board in order to revise the membership qualification criteria to make indies eligible for membership.

We're also working on what SFWA may need to do or services to add to make membership worthwhile and attractive to indies. Current Active membership is $90 annual, and while I've been an Active member of SFWA for about 6 years, I know that SFWA has very little to offer an indie at the moment.

So, all that being said, what services would SFWA need to be able to offer you, as an indie publisher, to make it worthwhile to join the organization?

I know I'm leaving the floodgates wide open, so I'll hope participants and the moderators will try to keep the discussion civil and on-topic. I'm ever the optimist... :)

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    bardsandsages

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    Re: What do indies want/need from SFWA to consider applying/joining?
    « Reply #1 on: September 18, 2013, 08:18:32 am »
    I know one thing indies NEED but won't ask for: legal services.

    Almost every day, someone asks a question about copyright, trademark, or some other legal issue expecting advice. Most of what they get is wishful thinking and conjecture. Affordable legal advice on publishing issues (copyright, trademark, contracting with service providers, bill collection, mailing list compliance, etc) is what indies need.



    Offline Gone To Croatan

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    Re: What do indies want/need from SFWA to consider applying/joining?
    « Reply #2 on: September 18, 2013, 08:28:28 am »
    I've wondered that myself. Back when I started writing short stories and sending them to SF magazines I was thinking 'I only need to sell a few and then I can join SFWA and be cool and stuff,' but now... I honestly can't think of anything they offer indie writers that I can't get for free elsewhere. They would probably have been a lot more useful in the past, with things like warnings about bad contract provisions with publishers, but I no longer have to worry about that.

    I guess the most useful thing would probably be a place to meet more indie SF writers, but there are other forums out there that don't charge $90 a year.

    Edit: I see Julie got a response in while I was trying to post. I agree, legal services would probably be of some use. Maybe vetted lists of editors, cover designers, etc with proven track records, or at least an easy way for writers to find them.
    « Last Edit: September 18, 2013, 08:30:39 am by Edward M. Grant »

    Offline Quiss

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    Re: What do indies want/need from SFWA to consider applying/joining?
    « Reply #3 on: September 18, 2013, 08:34:17 am »
    If anyone's confused: SFWA - Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America :)
    I don't think you need to be American though.

    I'd like anything that'll help market my books!

    Offline Joshua Dalzelle

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    Re: What do indies want/need from SFWA to consider applying/joining?
    « Reply #4 on: September 18, 2013, 08:54:13 am »
    A professional organization like SFWA shouldn't be confused with just a forum to meet people... there are some tangible benefits, even for indies.


    My question is would indies be welcome to the same table as the traditional authors, or is there to be a parsed off "self-pubber" section? In other words, is SFWA serious about bringing us into the fold or are they just looking at an untapped cash resource in all the commercially successful indie writers? (That questions probably sounds far more cynical than how I meant it.)

    Also, how would the qualification guidelines change? For people like me who move mostly eBooks would it be based on total number of paid sales?

    bardsandsages

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    Re: What do indies want/need from SFWA to consider applying/joining?
    « Reply #5 on: September 18, 2013, 08:56:53 am »
    My question is would indies be welcome to the same table as the traditional authors, or is there to be a parsed off "self-pubber" section? In other words, is SFWA serious about bringing us into the fold or are they just looking at an untapped cash resource in all the commercially successful indie writers? (That questions probably sounds far more cynical than how I meant it.)

    I think the fact that they are ACTIVELY asking indies "what do you want/need?" should answer that question. If it was simply a cash grab, they could just start accepting indies with X sales volume and wash their hands of anything else.

    Offline Jonathan C. Gillespie

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    Re: What do indies want/need from SFWA to consider applying/joining?
    « Reply #6 on: September 18, 2013, 08:57:13 am »
    Well, in theory the label is something you can use during some submissions to make your query standout, but that opens a whole can of worms best debated elsewhere. Either way, since a self-pubber probably isn't actively submitting their fiction, that potential feather in one's cap isn't much use.

    So I'll second the Sith Witch. Legal services. We need help with legal questions all the time.


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    Offline Daniel Knight

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    Re: What do indies want/need from SFWA to consider applying/joining?
    « Reply #7 on: September 18, 2013, 09:01:05 am »
    Access to group health insurance. I would say this is one of the biggest reasons anyone joins one of these professional organizations. Not sure how this will be effected by Obamacare implementation.

    As a counter question - what does SFWA have to offer for traditionally published authors?

    Offline unkownwriter

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    Re: What do indies want/need from SFWA to consider applying/joining?
    « Reply #8 on: September 18, 2013, 09:05:16 am »
    Gosh, it's always been a dream of mine to join SFWA! It's been a sad-dish thing for me that indies/self-published writers couldn't be members.

    Anyway, I agree with the points already made:  legal advice/services and resources or vetted people/services would be good. I'm not sure of what else, but if something comes to me I'll add it in.

    Just having the ability to join would be a plus for me (and I know, I can sell enough to qualifying markets and join, but right now it's something that's years away).

    Offline CEMartin2

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    Re: What do indies want/need from SFWA to consider applying/joining?
    « Reply #9 on: September 18, 2013, 09:14:29 am »
    Well, if my wife hadn't been unemployed for the past year, I'd be willing to pay the membership cost... but there's that annoying requirement that you have to have "traditional" writing credits. The whole point of being indie is you get to dodge the gatekeepers and their slush piles. I don't want a traditional writing credit- although readers would be nice.

    I'm still not clear on what SFWA can do for me as an author. Even if I were selling enough books to make that a full time job.

    Offline Cherise

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    Re: What do indies want/need from SFWA to consider applying/joining?
    « Reply #10 on: September 18, 2013, 09:23:45 am »
    Help getting on panels at conventions

    Affordable group health insurance
    "Free" qualified legal advice about trademarks, copyright, foreign rights, movie rights...
    Referrals to qualified IP attorneys who are taking on new clients for the purpose of negotiating contracts

    bardsandsages

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    Re: What do indies want/need from SFWA to consider applying/joining?
    « Reply #11 on: September 18, 2013, 09:35:46 am »
    In general, a good guild/association isn't just about "what's in it for me?" Good organizations are looking out for the entire community. For example, SFWA was heavily involved in pushing back Google's rights grab over "orphaned" books. Organizations can throw their collective weight behind legal issues than negatively impact members.

    I'm a member of the International Women's Writing Guild. These days, I use very few of their resources, but I still support the Guild because of the work that they do. Among other things, they are a recognized NGO with consulting status with the United Nations, and often give a voice to women writers in third-world countries who have no other support system. I feel the work is important, even if I don't personal benefit.

    Offline Jim Johnson

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    Re: What do indies want/need from SFWA to consider applying/joining?
    « Reply #12 on: September 18, 2013, 09:44:58 am »
    Great stuff, folks. Keep the thoughts flowing.

    As a counter question - what does SFWA have to offer for traditionally published authors?

    Quick response--the legal fund, the emergency medical fund, the grievance committee, and (specifically for tradpubbers and folks submitting stories to markets) working to increase the minimum word rate for pro markets. Not all tradpub writers will need these, but they're there.

    Offline Jim Johnson

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    Re: What do indies want/need from SFWA to consider applying/joining?
    « Reply #13 on: September 18, 2013, 09:49:05 am »
    In general, a good guild/association isn't just about "what's in it for me?" Good organizations are looking out for the entire community. For example, SFWA was heavily involved in pushing back Google's rights grab over "orphaned" books. Organizations can throw their collective weight behind legal issues than negatively impact members.

    Great point, and I think it's also important to add that a volunteer organization like SFWA is only as powerful/useful as its volunteers. SFWA needs more people willing to put in hard work on behalf of the organization and on behalf of other writers, whether they're members or not. Writer Beware is probably one of the more high-profile parts of SFWA and the work they've done for all writers over the years is huge. SFWA will always need volunteers. So it's that weird thing where SFWA wants to make membership possible for self-pubbers, but also needs self-pubbers to volunteer time and effort to make things mo' better for self-pubbers in general.

    Offline Victoria J

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    Re: What do indies want/need from SFWA to consider applying/joining?
    « Reply #14 on: September 18, 2013, 09:49:29 am »
    Like others have said, affordable health insurance would be good.

    Offline Aaron Pogue

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    Re: What do indies want/need from SFWA to consider applying/joining?
    « Reply #15 on: September 18, 2013, 09:52:51 am »
    Referrals to qualified IP attorneys who are taking on new clients for the purpose of negotiating contracts

    I can see a real advantage in providing a vetted list of all manner of support services. IP attorneys (as Cherise mentioned), editors, cover artists, publicists, etc.

    I know some professional organizations help members with contract language, so even providing some standard, sane work-for-hire aggreements for these sorts of freelance services could be beneficial.
    Author of The Dragonprince's Legacy.


    Published by 47North and self-publishing at Draft2Digital.com


    Offline Jim Johnson

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    Re: What do indies want/need from SFWA to consider applying/joining?
    « Reply #16 on: September 18, 2013, 09:54:36 am »
    I'm actually more interested in what goes on behind the doors, and in the forums. Do members get to chat directly to publishing professionals or is it mostly writers in there? The Nebula awards, conventions, publications and industry news, featured author programs (what are they?), publisher submissions openings, peer networking - that's the stuff that interests me and I suspect you already have all that.

    Many publishing pros are members of SFWA, generally Affiliate members. Editors in addition to writers. I'd have to check the latest Directory to see if any agents are members; not sure on that. I know many deceased members have their estates as a form of membership.

    Oh, speaking of benefits--the member directory lists all members in SFWA and their agencies where appropriate, so that's a resource for some writers. It's also nice to see what members live close to you. There are a lot of international members too, and I'd love to see that grow. There are internal publications as well as The SFWA Bulletin, all of which the new board (term started in...July?) are working on either improving or fixing.

    Offline PhoenixS

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    Re: What do indies want/need from SFWA to consider applying/joining?
    « Reply #17 on: September 18, 2013, 10:07:09 am »
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    Offline KaryE

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    Re: What do indies want/need from SFWA to consider applying/joining?
    « Reply #18 on: September 18, 2013, 10:12:29 am »
    1) Reasonable entrance requirements.

    2) A non-discriminatory member classification, i.e. when you look at a member's profile, you shouldn't be able to tell the indies from the trads.

    3) Indie works should be eligible for all awards and contests that trad works are (Hugo, Nebula, etc.).

    4) Full participation consistent with existing membership levels - panels, committees, cons, voting, etc.

    For me, specifically, SFWA doesn't need to do anything additional or special to attract me. It just has to let me in and treat me like any other member.  :)

    Offline Sophrosyne

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    Re: What do indies want/need from SFWA to consider applying/joining?
    « Reply #19 on: September 18, 2013, 10:17:12 am »
    That would be great. I'm all for legal advice, attorney referrals, affordable group health insurance (which I believe is getting easier to do now).

    I think if all the the things you currently have for members were also open to indies, that would be great. What about having an indie category in the different awards programs? Or making indie books eligible for the awards in the general categories?

    What about non-SFWA run, writing-related event & seminar discounts? Like, Sisters in Crime offered that discount to the Writers Police Academy.

    But yeah, I like what Kary said about treating indies like any other member.



    Offline RM Prioleau

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    Re: What do indies want/need from SFWA to consider applying/joining?
    « Reply #20 on: September 18, 2013, 10:21:06 am »
    I'm not a member of SFWA, but a few people said I should join. However, I am not sure how I can benefit from being a member, and I'm entirely unsure all of the things the association does as a whole. Do they host their own conferences? Do they have chapters around the country and/or throughout the world? The only thing I have found beneficial to the association is Writer Beware. There are so many questions I feel are unanswered whenever I visit the site, which seems more catered toward best-selling SF&F authors more than indies or anyone who aspires to write in the fantasy genre.

    Offline JRTomlin

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    Re: What do indies want/need from SFWA to consider applying/joining?
    « Reply #21 on: September 18, 2013, 10:24:13 am »
    I know one thing indies NEED but won't ask for: legal services.

    Almost every day, someone asks a question about copyright, trademark, or some other legal issue expecting advice. Most of what they get is wishful thinking and conjecture. Affordable legal advice on publishing issues (copyright, trademark, contracting with service providers, bill collection, mailing list compliance, etc) is what indies need.



    I agree that indies need this. Whether it is something that SFWA could somehow promote, perhaps with reduced price attorneys who actually KNOW the field, is another problem. It would be something that would tempt me though. Affordable group insurance would be a benefit to all authors, not just indies.
    « Last Edit: September 18, 2013, 10:25:58 am by JRTomlin »
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    Offline cheriereich

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    Re: What do indies want/need from SFWA to consider applying/joining?
    « Reply #22 on: September 18, 2013, 10:46:15 am »
    1) Reasonable entrance requirements.

    2) A non-discriminatory member classification, i.e. when you look at a member's profile, you shouldn't be able to tell the indies from the trads.

    3) Indie works should be eligible for all awards and contests that trad works are (Hugo, Nebula, etc.).

    4) Full participation consistent with existing membership levels - panels, committees, cons, voting, etc.

    For me, specifically, SFWA doesn't need to do anything additional or special to attract me. It just has to let me in and treat me like any other member.  :)

    This ^^^^^! Anything that's offered to a trad published author should be offered to an Indie.

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    Offline Vaalingrade

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    Re: What do indies want/need from SFWA to consider applying/joining?
    « Reply #23 on: September 18, 2013, 10:53:06 am »
    Before I can answer that, what do they offer already?

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    Offline NoCat

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    Re: What do indies want/need from SFWA to consider applying/joining?
    « Reply #24 on: September 18, 2013, 10:59:35 am »
    Hey.  I'm one of the people in SFWA on the self-publishing committee.  Thanks for your ideas, guys. They are being heard and considered.

    As for entry requirements, I'm not sure how much I'm allowed to share, but I feel that the ones we are discussing right now are very reasonable and in line with SFWA's requirements for the trad published authors (and I am going to keep fighting for that).  No one has suggested that full membership be withheld from indies, so that's one fear you guys can probably put to rest. If SFWA manages to agree on guidelines for letting self-published authors qualify, they would be full active members, in my understanding.

    Also, self-published works are already eligible for the Hugo and Nebula.  :D

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