Saturday, November 12, 2011

Professional standards

I got an email from the SFWA this week. It was a reminder about voting in an ongoing election that continues until Dec. 15. The group wants to re-incorporate in California (from Massachusetts) and needs 2/3 of the membership to approve. I only became an Active member of the SFWA - with voting rights - on Oct. 22 after I presented my contract with Daily Science Fiction. It was my third sale that meets the SFWA standards for membership. I assume the voting started before my membership was upgraded, which is why I didn't get the original notice of the election. This leads me to think about those standards. For a short story writer, it's three sales at at least a nickel a word, with a magazine that been approved by the SFWA. Such venues have to have been in business a year. The standards used to cite circulation, but they have been changed now to allow ezines with a requisite number of page views. The dollar amount isn't important - I think there's a minimum payment of fifty dollars.

Although my sale to Jim Baen's Universe, "The Witch of Waxahachie", remains my most profitable sale (I got eight cents a word), the sale of "Dispatches From the Troubles" remains my second highest sale. Although GUD pays only three cents a word, "Dispatches" was a novelette, of over 11,000 words. Although it didn't count as a pro sale, it paid more than my sale of "A Rocket for the Republic" to Asimov's and "Great White Ship" to Daily Science Fiction because of the length.
The SFWA used to count sales at three cents a word as pro level up until 2003, then upped it to five cents. Now, here is what occurred to me - If that old standard still applied, I would have been able to get upgraded to an Active member of the SFWA almost two years earlier. I signed my contract with GUD on Nov. 4, 2009. I got the contract from Daily Science Fiction on Oct. 20, 2011. Perhaps easing up on the standard a bit might draw more people into the SFWA, or draw then in earlier, like myself. We're in the fourth year of a recession, it must be harder and harder to get members to join.
I don't see any reason why, in addition to keeping the nickel a word level, the SFWA couldn't add the provision that three cents a word is good if the sale is over $250.
Just some random thoughts. I asked that a hard copy of the incorporation referendum material be sent to me, and I got it in the mail today. I will sit down and read it over the weekend. I will see what's exactly in the bylaws about the membership requirements.

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