Are you a SFWA eligible writer? A poll

I’m trying to figure out what percentage of eligible writers belong to SFWA and what lies behind the percentage. If you are genre writer, could I ask you to answer the following questions:


(In comments, would you please let me know if you’re eligible, why do you belong or not belong? Anonymous comments are fine.)

(In comments, would you please let me know if you’re eligible, why or why not? Anonymous comments are fine.)




Please pass the word along. I’d like to get a bigger cross-section than just the people who read my website and LJ.

Edited to add: I would prefer it if the comments on this post were restricted to your opinions and experience only. Please do not refute others’ comments at this time, no matter how tempting it gets. Thanks!

Further edited to add: To make an anonymous comment, use an obviously fake name. Your email will not show up and is only used to verify that you are not a spambot.

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49 thoughts on “Are you a SFWA eligible writer? A poll”

  1. Anonymous Female 1

    I’m eligible, but let my (3 months of) membership lapse this summer because, on all levels but one or two, I don’t really see SFWA as effective as an organization. The 3 months of access to the private forums and discussion only reinforced that opinion.

  2. I frequently make pro sales outside genre and semi-pro within genre.

    At this point I feel no motivation to learn more about the SFWA or to join it. I do not feel the organization is supportive of all ‘genre’ writers but chooses to recognize the value of only those at the top.

    In my opinion the writers NEEDING the most assistance are the writers they are ignoring. These are the writers who could use direct assistance in networking for agents, publishing assistance and a better understanding of the industry.

  3. Joined because of things like the Legal Fund, the Grievance Committee, contract advice, access to the membership directory, etc.

    Joined despite the frequent feuds and stupidities — which only ever involve a small, overly-noisy, overly-ego-filled, fraction of the membership.

    [Note that SF writers have been having never-speak-to-each-other-again feuds for decades. Reportedly, they used to manage this via snail-mail!

    That many of these feuds now take place, in part, on an electronic forum sponsored by SFWA hardly makes them an aspect of SFWA itself.

    (Of course, dubious official actions or public statements by SFWA committees or officials are a different matter.)]

  4. Anonymous Female 2

    I’m an Active member.
    I joined mostly because it seemed to be what you did after making that third pro sale.

    I like SFWA’s programs such as the Grievance Committee, the Emergency Medical Fund and active work to get markets to offer better basic contracts for writers.

    As a community, I’m not at all comfortable in it. I’m considering looking at non-genre professional writer’s organizations since the things I like best about SFWA aren’t related to genre but to things that are important to any writer.

  5. I am not eligible right now, but I don’t really see myself joining these days despite what my five-year-ago-self had planned to do. With the recent incidents with SFWA I just don’t see them as representing me.

  6. I am eligible for associate, but not joined and probably won’t/ Think I’ve been through my reasons before:)

    The questions for me comes down to a couple of crucial things (fighting and arguing will always be there, in some ways it’s healthy actually):

    1) what is the value for money? what can the SFWA do that a writer cannot get somewhere else, probably for free?
    2) administrative incompetence – enough has been said on this one, and it is a big stumbling block;
    3) exclusionist and elitist culture – two parts:
    a) is the SFWA open and supportive to genre on a global scale or not? not really clear here, it still feels like it’s primarily an American-British club. Maybe it truly is, don’t know.
    b) I have no problem with membership qualifications, is supposed to be something you strive for. What I dislike is a sense of elitism that creeps in (no, it’s hard to point to specifics, a kind of undertone), where the impression is that SFWA exists to protect and preserve their own/themselves/ their mates, not to promote genre as a whole, and don’t really give a fek about anyone not a member. In other words, SFWA appears to do little to actually help new writers in general to attain membership. This is a hard one and could probably go on for some time; I’ll just leave it at the main point that bugs me which is that SFWA appears to be concerned not with the health and furtherment of the genre, but the protection of their members.

  7. it’s kind of like the Good Old Boys Club syndrome, you know?

    the way I want to see it is like athletes training for the Olympics, or college kids making a bid for the NFL (kind of) – you work hard and attain success and become part of something bigger; not part of an elite gentlemen’s club that sits around puffing cigars and congratulating themselves on their own brilliance and having a chuckle at the plebs.

  8. I’m not yet eligible, but must admit I’m undecided as to its value, particularly to writers outside the US. Maybe I’m just missing something! 😀

  9. I’m planning to join when I’m eligible for active status, mostly so I can vote in elections. Right now I don’t see many tangible benefits for me in SFWA, and the last thing I need is another online community to keep tabs on.

  10. I used to be a member of SFWA, but I left. While almost all my stuff has been published in the US, I don’t live there, and there didn’t seem to be any benefit in remaining a member. I found myself asking far too often what the point of SFWA was, what influence it had these days, and whether I agreed with what it was trying to do.

  11. I could belong but don’t because the organization seems backwards and pointless, which, I’m afraid, describes far too much of the SF publishing industry.

  12. Not yet eligible. Until the past year, always thought I’d join SFWA, but the recent incidents and negative publicity have seriously changed my opinion of SFWA.

    It just doesn’t do enough to reach the community that should be actively participating in SF, in my opinion, and the recent incidents seem to be ticking off far too many of the people we should be attracting to the genre.

  13. 1. I joined as an associate member because I could! It’s the professional organization for my chosen craft. There are a lot of sharks out there – and SFWA is the best shark repellent I know of for SF writers.
    2. SFWA promotes the genre and represents me in the larger issues such as the Amazon “look inside” controversy. Without them, we have no voice.
    3. They provide valuable services such as Writer Beware, Health & Welfare Medical fund (to which I contribute – do YOU?) & etc.
    4. I get a sizable discount on my membership costs.
    5. It allows me to serve my fellow writers with my knowledge and skills by assisting committee members when I can.

    As stated above – it seems like there are always people who want to sit on the sidelines and bitch. If they were in the majority, then they could take over the organization – but then we’d see them for what the are – cracked and empty vessels. Which is not to say there shouldn’t be discussion and debate – but some people get personal and that shouldn’t be allowed.

  14. I’m eligibile for associate, but won’t consider joining until I qualify for pro membership. I’m still undecided about applying, however, because I have been able to network using smaller private groups, which tend to be attended and run with more courtesy, in general. I may consider joining and avoiding the fora, hoping there’s some sort of objective newsletter that keeps members informed of voting and etc.

  15. I might qualify now for affiliate status, but I expect to join if and when I sell some fiction to appropriate markets. I look at SWFA as roughly equivalent to other professional societies I’ve joined in the past (e.g., Air Force Association, American Astronomical Society, American Society for Quality Control), which means I’ll join for a few years and eventually let my membership lapse. Best, G

  16. I originally joined SFWA as an Affiliate when I was Director of Subrights, Contracts and Electronic Publishing at DAW Books. I joined because SFWA was a good way for me to network in a part of the publishing industry that was new to me. In short order, I was asked to join the Contracts Committee (where no one from the publisher’s side had ever served before). This was one way that I learned that, whatever class-warfare might exist between SFWA and publishers, SFWA *wanted* to make sure it was on top of what was going on in the industry. No better way to do that than to have one of the “enemy” on their side.

    In 2003, I left DAW, and had my first sf story published. I decided to upgrade to Associate, because even though I was still going to be operating as a rights agent for authors, I intended to continue writing and selling. Everything I’d learned about being a writer came from SFWA, and it was time to pay forward with my feet firmly in the authors’ court. I continue in that fashion to this day, as I seek that elusive third qualifying sale for Active membership.

    There a many benefits of SFWA membership that others have mentioned in these comments. Note that SFWA does a great deal that benefits non-members as well. We’ve made publishers and editors (and one major internet bookseller) give authors better terms in their contracts. We were the only writers organization to put a comprehensive plan before the Copyright Office to improve their handling of “orphan works”. Not just for SFWA members — these are not secret handshake arrangements — but all authors benefit, from the person making their first sale to a Tekno Books anthology or Dell magazine, to Stephen King himself.

    Now, one could say, “Hey, great! I can get SFWA benefits without being a member.” But, really, what kind of moocher wants to be like that, when they can become a member of the only professional organization for sff genre writers. No one has to go into the SFWA forums if the person doesn’t want to. Most of the real nitty-gritty work of SFWA is not done in those forums. They are places to post questions, provide answers, and occasionally blow off steam. SFWA does a great deal for writers that does not get effectively publicized (speaking as SFWA’s former Public Relations Chair, I know full well the failing of our publicity programs). Check out the SFWA Pressbook, which disseminates members’ press releases for them. We are working on fixing the thing which look bad to the general public, but we can’t do it alone. If writers with the proper credentials feel that they have the skills, desire and time to start a brand new writers organization, then they could better devote those skills and time to make SFWA better.

  17. I don’t qualify for Active Membership yet. I need one more pro sale. When I qualify, I intend to join for a year, then weigh the advantages and disadvantages of keeping the membership.

    I’m Canadian, so the Emergency Medical Fund isn’t something I’d need. I’ve been under the impression that there are some anthology market listings available only to SFWA members and it’s those I’m interested in.

  18. I didn’t understand that gender identity question. I checked ‘yes’ because you didn’t have ‘buck’ listed anywhere.

    I am in no great rush to join SFWA. While there are advantages, and the reported flame wars going on inside would be fun to watch, I see very little direct benefit to myself. If this was a place of learning and support, where more experienced writers would help the juniors, it would be beneficial. As only a means of entertainment, there are a lot of flame boards I can join for free. The emergency medical fund is nice as is the legal fund, but it appears there is a lot of horsing around to go through to get those benefits.

  19. I’m eligible as an Associate, and my application’s in the mail. I joined because SFWA is the only professional organisation for writers out there–I appreciate the work they’re doing on Writer Beware and the Grievance (Grief?) Committee while not being in a position to actually need it.
    There’s some stuff about SFWA that I don’t appreciate so much (in particular, I think their idea of professional publications is a tad too stringent, and I’m not a big fan of flame wars).

  20. Well, I’m an associate, but I primarily joined because that was one of my goals….(sort of like going to college because that’s just what you do after high school)

    The main benefit for me (so far) is that I have access to the Directory and to some interesting information. I don’t spend time listening to the spats, though. I’m one of those ‘can’t we just get along?’ sorts. ;o)

  21. I’m still one sale away from being eligible to become an active member but I don’t know if I’ll sign up when I am.
    First, I’m a student and the membership is a tad stiff for me.
    Second, I’d gladly pay that price if I thought I’d be getting anything out of it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying SFWA doesn’t give its writers anything in exchange, but for someone like me, who doesn’t intend to make their living off writing, it seems as silly to join SFWA as it would be to get an agent to pimp short stories. There simply isn’t any economic incentive, since I don’t think I’ll make major monies writing in the foreseeable future.
    Third, I live in Europe and due to money issues and schedules I’m unlikely to make it to a convention in the US any time soon. I just don’t see what a membership would do for me, if I’m not going to any conventions or doing any networking. From all this you can probably gather that I have a very vague idea of what SFWA does and what it’s for. Maybe that’s part of the problem.
    Fourth. I don’t have time to do anything for the organization and it would be hypocritical to bicker about them not getting anything done if I’m not volunteering my time.
    Last. I don’t think three pro sales make a pro writer. Three pro sales mean you’re an ok writer who may someday amount to something, but I would feel shy about dashing off my application the minute I get my third sale. I don’t feel quite there yet.

  22. I don’t qualify (I don’t think, anyway) because my one pro sale was in an out of country horror anthology. So it’s not on their approved markets list and likely never will be. I’m not completely opposed to joining, but I have heard almost entirely negative or not useful things about SFWA and HWA. I’m not really in a position to take that chance with my money with how stacked my information is.

    And yes, I’ll pass this on. I hope it helps.

  23. I became eligible to be an Associate in 2003 and have been a member ever since. I learned about the pro sale I did make through a SFWA member friend; the anthology was semi-closed, and that SFWA membership was the difference between a sale and no sale.

    I’ve since re-sold the story to a reprint market.

    No organization is ever ideal, but I’ve wanted to be a SFWA member for so long (decades), I’m definitely going to become a life member when I’m eligible.

    That said, there’s reasons why Sara Paretsky decided that MWA wasn’t fulfilling her needs and the needs of other female authors, thus Sisters in Crime got started. Both organizations seem vibrant from the outside.

  24. I’m eligible and a former member, and have let my membership lapse because I don’t think SFWA is an effective organization.

  25. I’m not eligible yet, and if/when I do become eligible, I’m undecided on whether I’ll join. But I’m leaning more toward the “when the time comes, I’ll probably join and see how it works out” side of the fence.

  26. Joined as a starry-eyed neopro when I thought joining SFWA was an accomplishment. (It isn’t. Being read is an accomplishment.)

    Stayed because SFWA does do some good work, because (who knows?) I may need the Grievance Committee some day, and because I don’t want to give the haters the satisfaction of seeing me quit.

  27. Your poll stopped taking answers from me at the gender question. Is that a hint?

    I’m eligible for whatever author membership is, and I was a briefly member of SFWA in 1999 before I resigned during the fumbling of the WotC copyright debacle. I will never rejoin.

  28. Seems like the writing question might be more informative as “How long have you been submitting your writing for publication?” as that’s the real relevant criterion for your experience and standing from a professional viewpoint (i.e., what you know or don’t know re: SFWA).

    I am not yet eligible, but will likely join when I can. I’ve seen alot of negative feedback, but that speaks more to the need for reform to me– I think specfic writers need a centralized professional community and I’m not aware of any alternatives right now. If SFWA sucks, we should work to make it worthwhile. RWA does an awful lot for the romance community, I don’t see why SFWA couldn’t provide similar services.

  29. I am a former officer, and while I believe SFWA does a good job in most respects, I disagree with their membership requirements (too stiff) and was not at all happy how badly the board of directors – including myself – were dragged through the mud during the last election cycle. I have let my membership lapse, though I may rejoin someday.

  30. A few years ago, I would have said YES, of course I’ll join when eligible! And I probably still will, but when that time comes, I plan to look into it carefully before jumping in. I’ve heard both good things and bad about SFWA. I’m not sure yet what exactly they could do for me.

  31. I was an active member for a couple of years but let my membership lapse this year. I enjoyed serving on the Norton jury, but in my opinion the organization is not professional, doesn’t represent my interests, and has a terribly negative culture, as reflected in its Lounge.

  32. I’m not yet eligible, but I’m currently ambivalent on whether I’ll join when I reach that stage. It seems like the SFWA has a number of good resources for writers, and I want to have a strong professional organization in the field. However, recent and current leadership seems resistant to change, especially the increasing role being played by digital communications technology/techno-culture in the field.

    I want SFWA to be a helpful organization that writers are proud to be a part of, but several recent actions and opinions displayed by SFWA leaders have made me skeptical (e.g. Scribd and DMCA, as well as the Techno-scab incident) have made me wonder if it is actually fulfilling that role. I may wait for reforms before considering joining the organization

  33. I belong to SFWA as an associate. I qualify for active, but haven’t yet upgraded, because I don’t feel motivated to send in the paperwork. I’m sure I will later, when elections come around.

    I don’t participateo n hte message boards, and I’m unhappy with a lot of the organizations public presence. I will probably hang around for another couple years, and then assess whether it’s worth it for me to continue.

  34. I’m eligible but not a member. There’s a balancing act in my mind; on the one side is all the good stuff SFWA does (GriefCom, EMF, etc), and on the other side is the cost and the conduct of the organization. At the moment, public blunders, stories of cat-fighting, general apathy, and my reservations about the code of conduct outweigh my investment in the good SFWA can do. I freely admit I don’t have the kind of energy that would be needed for me to do the “join and change it from the inside” thing, which is what I think it needs; therefore I save my money and stay out.

  35. Not only am I an Active Member, but I have a LIFETIME membership.

    I tend to view SFWA more in the abstract, than to get embroiled in its day to day politics. I’ve met some great people through SFWA, and while I might have met them anyway, I doubt I’d have done so so soon in my career.

  36. Not eligible. Don’t plan to join when I am.

    I was initially put off by the vitriol in the discussion groups, even the spill-over to was bad. But I was even more disgusted by behavior I saw in a SFWA suite.

    I’m suppose it’s a decent organization, but at least the old guard tolerates (or even encourages) stuff I can’t get along with. My conscience wouldn’t let me pay to further it.

  37. I’ve been a member of SFWA since 1997, when I sold my first adult fantasy novel (before that I wrote fantasy-themed YA, and never thought of belonging to any writers’ groups).

    I joined SFWA at the same time I joined the Authors’ Guild, and for the same reason: it was an organization for professional book writers, and joining seemed like an appropriate thing to do at that stage of my career. I remain a member of SFWA, as I remain a member of the Authors’ Guild, because I feel it’s an organization that does good work, and helps me keep informed about what’s going on in the publishing industry. (SFWA also enables me to do volunteer work that I feel is of great value–but even without this, I’d remain a member.)

    Reading through the comments here, there are many nods to the “good” things SFWA does, but for many people these don’t seem to outweigh the negative perception of SFWA’s “conduct”. This makes me think of the Europeans I’ve met who treat the United States as a monolithic entity in which all Americans are assumed to hold the same right-wing attitudes and can thus be blamed for the election of George Bush. Pointing out the existence of Democrats doesn’t change their minds. I think it’s very much the same with SFWA. The behavior identified as negative–specifically, the feuding and the flamewars–is engaged in by a tiny fraction of members and volunteers; yeah, it’s obnoxious, and unfortunately has been highly visible lately, but it doesn’t represent SFWA as a whole any more than Republicans represent the USA as a whole. Besides, this kind of volatility seems to be a characteristic of the SF/fantasy community in general. No one should be surprised that a professional organization of SF/fantasy writers reflects it to some degree.

    And not for nothin’, but it seems to me that in the past couple of contretemps, people who aren’t part of SFWA have behaved quite as badly as people who are.

  38. Even if I be eligible at some upcomin’ date, I be undecided about whether or not t’ spend me doubloons t’ join, ‘specially bein’ a poor writer and college student and all. But I’ve been hearin’ rumors long afore this latest fiasco which gets me t’ thinkin’ that me time and effort (not t’mention me doubloons) would be better spent creatin’ professional relationships outside of this organization, though another bit o’ me sides with me other mateys here that say I be wantin’ to join fer a bit just t’ see how the place be run.

  39. Nothing to say about SWFA, too new at writing to have any opinion or eligibility question – ha!

    But, laughing really really hard at the pirate talk in the comments. If only I had me some dubloons. Arrr the scallywags! Prepare to be boarded!

    Snort, snicker. Thanks for the laugh. Best of luck with the info-gathering.

  40. I’ve joined and my membership has been useful both as a credential and for the webpage. My membership has however been really virtual, beyond two articles in Bulletin I haven’t really done much through the SFWA. I plan to get to some cons and meet people and get to know and hopefully be known. Like one other person said, I want to be a pro and this is the pro organization for my discipline. I would like to see it do more for newer writers and perhaps recognize more markets for Active. I have about 40 pubs, 1 small movie and 2 Bulletin pubs that rather bizaarly don’t count as professional pubs. It does seem that if you are not writing for Analog you’re nobody.

  41. I’m eligible for associate, but I haven’t made it a priority to become an associate member right now. I will eventually join. I don’t make very much money from my writing, and my husband’s losing his job, and I’m just waiting for sunnier days.

    I have to admit the recent bad press didn’t make me eager to join soon either.

  42. I’m eligible for Associate and have been for a couple of years. Don’t plan to join. When I’m qualified for Active I doubt I’ll join then too.

    At the moment, SFWA is an embarassment. If it shows signs of reforming then I’ll consider joining in the future, but I suspect true reform will take years and commitment from the very kind of people SFWA seems hell-bent on excluding or offending. And yes, I should put my money where my mouth is and work to bring about that reform, if I care so much. The thing is — I *don’t* care anymore. Hopefully one day that will change.

  43. When I was younger, SFWA membership was a goal. Now, I hesitate. I don’t know if things have just changed over the past decade or so, or if now I hear more of the politics. It makes me wonder if SFWA is worth it.

  44. I joined up as soon as I sold my third story, because that’s what you do. But I let my membership lapse about a year and a half later. I don’t see much need for a professional writer’s organization in my life. If I were a professional writer I might see the need, but I have no intention of making my living at writing. It’s just a hobby that pays.

    If I did want a professional organization in my corner, SFWA in its current form might not be the right one.

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