science fiction writers

I and Mine: The Publishing Dilemma

Brian and I argue a lot overwhat it means to be a writer these days.  With the disintermediation of media, we agree that an author no longer requires a publisher to be a professional, but if we get rid of that standard, what do we have left?

SFWA Standards

The Science Fiction Writers of America standard is deceptively simple:

Established authors with three qualifying short story sales, one qualifying novel sale, or one professionally produced full-length dramatic script (SFWA).

What does that mean?

Qualifying Short Fiction Venues

Short fiction sold to the following markets are considered qualified (list last updated 01/02/10): URLs are given for on-line magazines. Please note the $50 minimum sale requirement as listed above (SFWA).)

Qualifying Novel Venues

Novels sold to the following publishers are considered qualified (SFWA):

Followed by a list of  30 publishers...

Most "professional" organizations require publication through a curated list of publishers to count a writer as professional.  The idea of a professional author as someone who makes money from their work is not even taken into consideration.  I've met quite a few of these "professionals" and their description of the industry is bleak and painful.  It is enough to make someone like me question whether or not I want to be a part of it at all.

Should I play by their rules?

That is the real question isn't it.  What do I get from playing by their rules?

  • Accreditation (they stamp "Industry Approved" on my forehead)
  • Money?  from the stories I've heard, a little.  A very tiny amount.
  • Publicity, the publisher may spend their money to promote my book but that is usually not the case.
  • Bragging rights

Other than that, I cannot see a reason to play their game.

Is it worth it?

That is where the math breaks down for me.  I really don't know.  If you are the lucky lottery winner that becomes a runaway bestseller, yes, but for the rest of us?

I struggle with this question probably a lot more than I should.

Running a business is hard work!

The real, secret advantage of going with a publisher is that they do a portion of the business work for you, but it is only a portion.  You are left with the actual ground work that MUST be done if you are going to have any semblance of success.  But they handle distribution.

Damned if you do, Damned if you don't

There are pros and cons on both sides of the coin, and honestly, I am not sure there is a real answer to that question.

As I work on my new novel, I keep asking myself, is this an in-house project, or is it something to shop around.  The more I think about it, the more I feel like I am asking myself if I want to play the lottery.

If I take the time to shop the story, I might be able to win a chance to win a larger audience and money...  Is is worth the time and money?  I am not sure.  I would like to think it is, but...

What do you think?

Does it matter to you as a reader?  What do you think I should do?