SFWA Does Not Speak For Me
Douglas Preston is circulating a letter regarding the Amazon-Hachette dispute. In this letter, Preston finds Amazon alone guilty of multiple sins against Hachette authors. He encourages readers to email Jeff Bezos about the matter.
The dispute has exposed a big faultline in publishing, between those authors traditionally published by the Big Five (who have spared no words defending Hachette) and independent and self-published authors (who have been equally vociferous in defense of Amazon).
Myself, I've kept quiet about this kerfluffle because I didn't have a dog in this fight. I'm an independent author (without connection to any of the Big Five publishers.) I do make the lion's share of my sales through Amazon, so there's that.
Today, though, my professional society -- The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) -- threw my dog into the fight. The President and Board of SFWA officially endorsed Preston's letter. They did so without discussion among the membership or, as near as I can tell, any attempt to determine the wishes of the members.
Yes, taking sides in a trade dispute is a boneheaded move. But it's worse: after years of prevarication, the lumbering SFWA dinosaur is stirring itself to address the question of whether to allow self-published writers who meet certain income requirements to join as professional authors. (Now and previously, only those published by a limited number of SFWA-approved markets could join.)
Just last week SFWA made its first public statement on the matter, asking members to share their opinions on allowing some self-published authors to apply for membership. A vote of the SFWA membership is
promised suggested by November 2014.
For years, SFWA has been castigated in the self-publishing community, particularly by authors who support themselves and their families entirely on income from their self-publishing efforts, yet are unable to join an organization of professional writers. The public acknowledgment that SFWA was considering a change helped to smooth some feathers.
So what does SFWA do? It publicly and officially takes the side of traditional publishing, thereby signaling to independent and self-published writers that SFWA doesn't understand or care to understand their concerns. it's about as clear a message of "You don't belong and aren't welcome" as I've ever seen.
I know many hardworking members of SFWA who stood ready to resign if the vote goes against allowing self-published writers to join -- several of them have already said that this endorsement is the last straw.
I don't think I've ready to take that step -- the "resign from SFWA in moral indignation" phase of my career came and went decades ago. But I did want to make it absolutely clear that in this matter, SFWA does not speak for me.