FYI: HWA Opens Doors To Author-Publishers

Apparently, the HWA (Horror Writers’ Association) now allows self-published authors.

Qualifications are:

Self-publishers who have generated $2000 in earnings within two years of initial publication date can qualify for Active (voting) status.  Those who have earned $200 within two years of initial publication date can qualify for Associate status.  More details can be found at http://horror.org/joining-the-hwa/  (please note the criteria have not yet been updated).

That seems inline with what they ask of other authors, mostly.

I’ve already seen a few twitches and paroxysms of people who are I guess afraid the barbarians have crashed the gates — but, y’know, if you’re selling two grand with some self-published work, you’re a professional writer. Y’all is bona fide. One also shouldn’t be too high on the quality of work found inside the HWA — it consists of some amazing authors and books, but I’ve also seen some HWA-author books are are somewhat… below par in terms of quality. This won’t bring down the quality level. Given some of the work I’ve seen done by indie horror authors, I like to think we’ll see better work being done, not worse.

It’s perhaps worth the confession: I used to be a member of the HWA. I wanted to be a member since I decided I wanted to be a (horror) writer, since so many of my writing idols had been associated with it (McCammon, Lansdale, Koontz) and was like, eeeee, that means I’m official, and so I joined having written a lot of RPG horror work. It was nice enough, I guess, but didn’t seem to… do much except kind of inundate me with people trying to get me to read their horror books or vote for them come Stoker time. This was many moons ago, mind you, so I have no idea what the organization is like these days, other than I know some fine people who are in it and think it’s valuable, and some people who have jettisoned themselves from its ranks because reasons X, Y, Z.

Anyway, whatever. Hopefully more writerly organizations will allow author-publishers. Sure, yes, I’m critical of the quality problem sometimes found inside the vaunted halls of self-publishing (I have been known to refer to it as a “shit volcano“), but I think author-publishers moving more into an officially professional capacity is wise. I think it ups the game and offers a new axis of community. And it also drops some of the (ahem cough cough increasingly imaginary) walls that separate author-publishers from traditional-publishers and hopefully helps everyone tell better stories and make better business decisions when doing so.

Blah blah blah, a rising tide lifts all boats. And stuff.

Though again, that assumes the HWA is a healthy writers’ organization, a fact to which I cannot attest. (Are they still cranky there about not allowing in horror-adjacent works like urban fantasy and such? Because that’s a shame, if so.)

SFWA: your turn, next?

37 comments

    • After reading this post, and Nicholas Kaufmann’s opinion, I wrote this on Google Plus. Thought I’d add it here, too.

      I am so tired of the hate being swapped back and forth between traditionally published and self published authors.

      Can’t we agree on some things?

      Here’s my list:

      1. Crappy books get published by either method.
      2. Awesome books get published by either method.
      3. Just because you have been rejected by agents/publishers doesn’t mean you suck.
      4. Just because you have an agent/publisher doesn’t mean you’re awesome.
      5. Writing a decent book is hard work.
      6. Rejection doesn’t automatically ennoble your soul and make you some kind of writing martyr.
      7. Some crappy books make a lot of money.
      8. Some awesome books vanish into obscurity.
      9. Publishing is a venture that makes little logical sense.
      10. No one knows at the outset what will be successful and what will not. Not writers, not agents, not publishers.

      Ultimately, forming into camps and charging at one another with pitchforks and torches will only hurt everyone.

  • Makes sense to me. If you write horror, and make money doing it, you’re a professional horror writer. Might as well associate with other horror writers.

    It also sets a reasonable goal for self-published authors. If you make two grand, then at least one semi-respected organization will acknowledge your existence. It’s good for motivation and the ego, if nothing else.

  • I’m not sure what to think. I’m self-pubbed and financially qualify for the associate membership — ($300 in a year! WOW! Haven’t broke even on the cover yet) — but I don’t think I qualify subject wise. And even if I did, I’m not positive I’d want to join. I’ve heard that it’s really not that big a deal.

      • I just didn’t really think it was worth the dues. I didn’t get much out of it when I was part of one. And that was before the whole indie thing exploded.

      • I didn’t think it was worth the dues back before the indie author explosion. I was shelling out $90 a year and all I got was hassled for not being in New York (an expensive deal) for Annual Genre Award (TM). Hell, I can find better ways to spend the money that piss off my wife and at least leave me with something more than “I had drinks with Lippman/Scalzi/Nora Roberts.”

        (Actually, I’ve never had drinks with Scalzi. Awkward moments at a couple of signings, but no drinks. We’re both used to it by now.)

  • Chuck – As one of those who wrote the referendum, never mind being a former president of the HWA, I agree with your views. The HWA has always used income as a measure of professionalism, so this is simply saying that income is valid regardless of where it is coming from. If you can sell $2K worth of books to readers, good for you and welcome to being a professional writer. Thanks for the commentary.

    • Sure. I think it’s vital to remember that just because one is self-published does not exclude one from quality, or having suffered rejections, or having gone through the paces.

      Honestly, some of the stuff that got sent to me during my time in HWA was bona fide bad. And that was like, 10 years ago. Meanwhile, I’ve read some really, really good indie-pubbed horror stuff, soooooo. Fuck it, let ‘em in. Let’s get this show on the road, kick down the artificial walls between one “side” and the other, and all figure out how to tell better stories and get paid better doing it. I have no idea if the HWA is doing that, but the RWA is already in, and one suspects the SFWA will find its way here.

  • Whoo-hoo, let this barbarian in! I’m a hybrid of a traditional human and a barbarian, but my barbarian side has done better than my traditional side, and is what will make me eligible.

    Then again, I don’t trust any club who would have somebody like me for one of its members.

  • I agree with some of what Nick Kaufman says, but not all. I agree with you, Chuck, that self-publishing is a shit volcano. I have a self-published book, and I have a traditionally published book. At the moment, I would not qualify to be a voting member of HWA. I’m not even sure I could be an affiliate or associate, or whatever the heck they call it.

    It’s hard as hell to get an advance these days, particularly from small publishers. Either they are mom and pop, or they cry poverty. Half of them in their submission requirements ask for a marketing plan. Marketing plan? What the fuck is a marketing plan? I write books, I’m not a marketeer. Yeah, I got all the (useless) social media shit, and a website, and a blog, and a bunch of my friends bought the book because I mentioned it on Facebook.

    So, why the uproar? Simple. Self-publishing is not a credential unless you have sold a shit pot full of books. It’s one thing to say you self-published a book (oh, that’s nice), and quite another to say you sold 5,000 copies of it. The people who have reasonable success as self-published authors get picked up by an agent or publisher. Because why? Because it ain’t love that makes the world go round.

    The HWA should scrap the monetary threshold and look instead at the work itself, and at the publisher, and limit membership to people who have a real publisher, or to self-published authors who can write. If the book is well-written, properly (professionally) edited, and has a professionally designed cover, why not let them in?

    The important thing is that to the extent being a member of the HWA is a meaningful credential, it should be kept that way. Then again, if you have previously published traditionally, or have a self-published book that’s sold well, who cares whether your a member of the HWA?

    • Looking at the work itself is the surest way to turning HWA (or any organization, for that matter) into a mutual admiration society rather than any professional organization of any merit. I’m not saying HWA’s austere or shit, but merit is always going to be subjective. You’ll end up with a group of sycophants who prefer a particular flavor of horror to the exclusion of other stylists. A dollar threshold is smart because for a self pubbed writer to get over $2K they need to generate sales, and they have to do it without a publisher’s ad budget or media connections. An author with 2 star or lower ratings on Amazon, or fewer than 5 reviews total, isn’t going to break that threshold. Readers are perfectly capable of judging quality, and rejecting trash.

      Having org members who are traditionally vetted interacting with members who found popularity, and know how to sell themselves, presents an opportunity for both groups that can juice the horror genre, if everyone sees the potential of building off each others’ strengths. HWA, or any writer org, shouldn’t just be a notch on the belt, it should be a booster rocket. SP writers can learn to hone their work with the mentor ship of traditionally published authors, and traditional publishers can get a better handle on the new marketplace from the people succeeding in the digital environment.

    • The people who have reasonable success as self-published authors get picked up by an agent or publisher. Because why? Because it ain’t love that makes the world go round.

      Many of them do. However, more and more of them are reacting to being picked up – or the attempt thereof – much like a cat who knows you’ve just filled the bathtub. This is another meme that just causes friction, and it’s not much truer (and getting less so) than the other ones so ably refuted by the list above. Please stop using it.

    • An individual can certainly tell whether they think a book is “good or not” but there is no universal standard that can be applied to “objectively” determine a books quality universally. Look at any books reviews..some say the characters are well-formed and realistic, other say they were cardboard cutouts – who is right? Who is wrong?

      People who earn money for what they do have crossed the line from hobbyist to “professionals” so a monetary thresholds seems reasonable for these types of organizations. I do find it a bit odd though, that back when I was self-published and earning $45,000 – $55,000 a month I didn’t qualify for membership in SWFA.

  • *Sniggle gork*

    Please. SFWA is too concerned with the conspiracies and bloatware running through the forums these days, right?

    Actually, I can see why they’d want to keep it separate: Prestige. You would be devaluing the “hard work” traditional authors put in by giving out to Harry and Schmarry’s latest self-pubbed Space Hamster Saga.

    I think it is more like the discussion on minimum wage than anything, but then I’m always “interesting” that way.

      • Space Hamsters in Space: The Space-ining is the first one, obviously.

        The second would be Space Hamsters in Space: The Case of the Space Ball

        The third? Probably Space Hamsters in Space: The Curious Case of the Missing Space Chips in 3D!

  • Thank you for the heads up about HWA.

    In regards to SFWA, I have been following the comments of M.C.A. Hogarth, since the beginning of the year. They have gone from defending SFWA and stating that:

    On February 20, 2014:

    “To be honest, I think at this point it’s a practical issue. The organization wants to be useful to people who are making a career out of writing SF/F. They don’t have the number of volunteers necessary to serve the number of people who would join if anyone could. (And no, I don’t really think increasing the membership pool would increase the number of volunteers, having watched this dynamic in other, larger organizations.) So, knowing there’s a limitation to the amount they can reasonably do without paying a staff (which incurs a lot of legal complications), they’re trying to find criteria that help limit the membership to the people they think they can help.

    It’s not a nefarious thing, seriously. Or an elitest thing, though it can be turned into one. It’s a practical thing. You can’t be everything to everyone, so given that, how do you narrow your focus?”

    http://www.thepassivevoice.com/02/2014/is-the-sfwa-losing-its-relevance/#comments

    To July 7, 2014:

    “At this point, I am no longer comfortable encouraging indies or hybrids to join the organization. Maybe at some point in the future, SFWA will be the right organization for all of us. It’s not today, and I don’t see that changing. Despite the efforts of the self-pub committee and the hybrid authors in the organization, and mine.”

    http://www.thepassivevoice.com/07/2014/sfwa-doubling-down/#comments

    As someone who temperament-wise wants to be a self-published author, while also seeking a professional community, it’s disheartening.

  • I posted a response on Nick Kauffman’s thread and immediately got smacked down as “drinking the Kool-Aid”. It seems that anyone who disagrees with his decrees aren’t worthy of a civil reply.

  • I’m on the fence with this. Sure there are advantages. And there is the annual dues, which I could afford from my earnings. The question becomes if membership is going to be something I’m proud of or if it’s going to become a millstone around my neck.

    Here is what I look at, as far as joining a professional organization (and bear in mind, I see myself as a hack writer, though I prefer the term a craft writer). A professional organization denotes to me one that is comprised of people who are, oddly enough, professionals. Not artists. Or, perish forbid, artistes. I write to get paid, not to be seen for art’s sake alone. Nobody cares HOW I get from “It was a dark and lonely night…” to “Tha End, damn it!” and I aim to entertain and addict my readers to my story and my style. Not change their paradigm with my bold and avant garde approach of writing in the second person present tense on the margins only.

    So, yeah, it seems to me that a professional organization would look at the basic criteria of whether a writer is an pro or not by taking the readers’ word for it. If can’t write good, no one would buy my damn books. If I can write well, and have the discipline to market my stuff effectively, go figure. I’m a pro.

    Again, it comes down to value for me. Maybe I’ll give it a shot, and see where I am in a year.

  • I’m really hoping that SFWA will clarify its position. I like the idea of an organization that is working to represent professional SF&F writers, and despite their recent missteps, there are things I appreciate about SFWA, like the medical fund*. I’m not a member – I don’t qualify by their guidelines.

    Despite having 3 published books in the genres they represent, I am currently “only” (in quotes, deliberately–I don’t see anything ‘only’ about it) self published. I’ve sold nearly 6000 books in the past two months alone and earned more than I probably would have had my most recent novel sold traditionally. (At least as per what I’ve read, given the average first time SF novel advance has been reported as $7,500.) Yet, I’m considered a second-class citizen by too many individuals and organizations. Which stymies me, because I’ve never badmouthed anyone working in this crazy industry. It’s hard enough to make a living with one’s art to make the job harder for someone.

    *Hell, I have even donated the proceeds of a short story anthology I co-edited to the SFWA medical fund, despite NOT being a member.

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