What I’m looking for from SFWA

SFWA has asked M.C.A. Hogarth to head up the new self-publishing committee. Hogarth posted about this and asks:

So here’s my question for those of you who self-publish, either entirely or as a hybrid author: what services would you look for in a professional organization? What would make you say, “Wow, that’s worth $90 a year, sign me up?”

I applaud SFWA’s move. And the many good things SFWA has done in the past. However, as an indie and SFWA member, here’s what would interest me: Business.

That’s with a big B.

That means . . .

Distribution into brick and mortar venues. So indie authors can get on the Ingram’s catalog. Big whoop. The retailer still has to order. If SFWA was able to facilitate the sales function in some way, that alone would be worth it.

One idea is a SFWA catalog of vetted work. I don’t know how you’d vet. Maybe some certain sales and revenue level. And revenue would have to be part of it. Brick and Mortar isn’t going to be interested in stocking the person who “sold” 50,000 units but only made $300 because 99% of them were free downloads.

You might also consider the back lists of authors with work that was once published that has been brought back indie style. So a catalog of that includes new stuff and a section for the back list. Quality and popular indie work.

BTW, this catalog would ALSO go to libraries.

Education in cover design AND art direction. Maybe adding this to an awards category chosen NOT by the general membership but art pros.

The Nebulas recognize author’s who sell. But what about recognizing those who are author-publishers, what about recognizing and celebrating quality and achievement in the key elements of publishing?

Education in Marketing that has actually been tested and shows positive ROI. Not a bunch of articles about bookmarks and conventions. Real ROI.

Interior formatting. Principles. Awards.

News. What’s new on the indie front. New markets etc.

Selling foreign rights as an indie with and without an agent.

What about an award like RWA’s Golden Heart, but for indie books? Or make indies more inclusive in the Nebulas.

A vendor forum where folks who provide services to indie authors (editors, artists, etc) can be listed and rated, GoodReads style, but only by SFWA members.

And two things I have submitted to SFWA before as a trad pub author.

Education and discussion of contracts and contract terms. What’s current. What’s alarming. I get more off of Kris Rusch’s blog than the professional organization I belong to. I should be giving my $90 bucks to Kris. What the heck?

Education and discussion of current contract rates. Same as above. For a professional organization to not have data on current rates for novels is a real head-scratcher.

How is it that Tobias Buckell can run a survey, but it never occurs to SFWA to survey and publish annual numbers?

How is it that Brenda Hiatt, the romance writer who does an annual “Show Me The Money” and “Indie Earnings” report, provides more info on Tor advances than SFWA? Romance writers are better organized than any writing group on the planet, but do they need to spank us in our own house?

These last two are no-brainers.

This is a trade organization. These types of things would be a HUGE help.

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5 Responses to What I’m looking for from SFWA

  1. Jared Adams says:

    If SFWA was able to facilitate the sales function in some way, that alone would be worth it.

    They need peer-review! Your $90 membership allows you to submit to a peer-review panel of 3 members. Works receive the stamp or don’t. This could help sell work in or out of stores.

    SFWA could make a blog specifically for those works which passed the peer-review process, and appearing on that blog would be a stamp of quality. If SFWA did it, it would have more weight than if a nobody reviewer took up that role.

    Stamp of quality–that makes me think. They need a little stamp that you can put on your cover (digital or physical).

    I guess this opens up a huge can of worms regarding taste, but it seems like they could mitigate some of that with a careful rubric.

  2. John Brown says:

    That would indeed be a can of worms 🙂 On the other hand, sales numbers and revenue are pretty inambiguous; furthermore, they are appealing to businesses wanting to make better bets on what to stock on their shelves.

    On the other hand, if they did do a Golden Heart like award for indie published books, that would highlight work that peers thought merited attention. Do it annually. Or regionally.

    But a catalog of proven sellers and award-winners should tempt the retailers. And if they show a profit, then the retailers will gladly come back for more.

    Brick and mortar relies on a publisher name, their marketing plans for the book, the author reputation, and pre-release reviews (PW, Booklist, etc.) With BookScan they are able to add more accurate author sales history.

    I’m okay if making an offer to them requires me to first sell to a certain level. Right now, you can sell tens of thousands of copies as an indie and still run into a wall with brick and mortar because it’s just not feasible to get your work in front of those who purchase.

    The beauty of indie is that I can get the book out there and let it find an audience without prejudice and pre-formed ideas about what sells. When the sales begin to prove out, what I need is help getting the value proposition that book presents in front of those in other distribution venues.

  3. James says:

    Something tells me this will get boiled down to bi-monthly emails about how to be a REAL published author. Sorry, but I don’t have much faith in SFWA.

  4. M. Wolfe says:

    SFWA would also be a good place to begin book content rating, as you have discussed in a previous post. I think that the rating movement will have to be started in the indie market.

  5. John Brown says:

    Someone should come up with a standard that others can adopt. Kind of like XML Dita or other standards in the software business. Like games. There are a great number of indie authors who would rate their books. I wonder . . . this is something to look into. All it takes is a few authors adopting a standard. Hum.