SFWA and Independent Writers, Part Four: What Lies Down the Road

2017 Nebula conference swag bags assembled and awaiting distribution.

2017 Nebula conference swag bags assembled and awaiting distribution.

This is the final part of a four part series. In this part, I’ll talk about plans down the road and make some predictions for what SFWA will witness over the next few years. Overall, I think it’s going to be nothing but positives and that SFWA will continue its tradition of helping authors.

The series so far:

  1. Part one describes the organization and its history.
  2. Part two talks about the decision to admit independent and small press published writers.
  3. Part three talks about what happened when the independents were first admitted.

Going forward, I expect more and more indies to enter the organization as it proves that it’s giving them solid value for their membership in the form of:

  • Community
  • Knowledge sharing
  • Publications like the Bulletin and the Singularity
  • Chances attend and sell books at places like Baltimore Bookfest, ALA, and other book-related events
  • Marketing opportunities for themselves such as the Speakers Bureau
  • Promotional opportunities for their work such as the New Release Newsletter
  • Reading material (there’s a lot on those internal forums)
  • The wealth of networking and information available via the SFWA Nebula Conference
  • Existing programs like Griefcom, the Emergency Medical Fund, and the Legal Fund

I also expect the SFWA offerings that attract indies to expand and develop. Here’s some specifics, ranging from those already in the works to some still in the planning stages.

SFWA Storybundling

I want to start by plugging that SFWA Fantasy Storybundle again, because it’s still up, and b) it’s a great example of a program that we’ll continue to expand. Next year we go from two bundles to three altogether — one focused on SF, one on fantasy, and a third on games — and we’re thinking along the lines of a Nebula nominee bundle for 2019 that would provide some financial benefit to being on the ballot, which I think is nifty.

It’s also an example of SFWA writers working together. All of the Storybundle contributors have been coordinating social media and interviews, and it’s definitely going to make it worthwhile to participate, plus raise a little money for the organization in the process.


The Storybundle partnership, as well as the terrific Nebula-based HumbleBundle that ran this year, are examples of good partnerings. Another is the support of Kickstarter, who has sent representatives to our Nebulas and Worldcon to talk with our members about not just the basics of running a Kickstarter but the advanced details that help them finetune such a campaign.

Kobo’s another example, as is ACX and Bookbub. Overall, though, there’s plenty of opportunities, and the sky’s the limit as far as expanding things go.

SFWA Nebula Conference Programming

I’d like the 2018 Nebula conference to be the first where we don’t get complaints about the indie programming, but human beings are human beings and that remains to be seen. There will always be glitches. I do expect it to be even better than last year. And as I said in the previous piece, I believe part of last year was more a question of perception rather than actual lack.

SFWA Stuff in the Works and Coming Soon
Several projects with strong implications for indies are in the works, such as:

SFWA Ed will be SFWA’s online school, offering content that will include plenty aimed at indie publishers, such as book cover design, book marketing basics, and working with social media. This project’s at the point where its coordinator is working with individual contributors and companies on the first wave of content; I expect to see it manifest fully in 2018.

The SFWA First Chapters Project is a budget item I pushed through this year. For those that haven’t worked with nonprofit corporations, one way to earmark some energy for a project is to make sure it’s represented in the budget, and while I had to yank it the previous year, this time I got it through.

Just as buying a book is an expenditure financially, reading that book represents an investment of time for most people. Accordingly, my thought is a compendium of only first chapters, giving the reader a chance to dip into a book and see whether or not they want to make that investment. Available only electronically (perhaps somewhere down the road in print form, who knows?), this would ideally hold first chapters from books by publishers ranging from indie to trad, but it’ll take time to get to that point. Therefore, we’ll start with the group that most needs some boost to their discoverability, and start with the indies.

I would like to stress that this is not open for material yet. If you want to make sure you get e-mailed when the project portal goes live, please e-mail me or comment below in a way that will let me know what your e-mail address is. (If you have been requested to not contact me, please direct that e-mail to office@sfwa.org.)

Still in the Planning Stage
Other items are a little further down the road, like these:

SFWA Mentorship Program is something I expect very soon. I’m looking forward to seeing what SFWA Board member Sarah Pinsker and her committee have put together.

SFWA Review Site with Listings for Editors and Other Publishing Resources is still nascent to the point where it’s a budget item I’ll propose for the 2018-2019 financial year. I’d like to see a portal where SFWA members can review copy & developmental editors, book formatters, cover designers, book publicists, and similar resources in a format modeled after review sites like Yelp or Angie’s List.

We do have a spreadsheet some members have contributed to, but recent issues make me think that we need to rework it in a way that lets people know if an individual has a pattern of bad behavior.

Whither SFWA?

Right now while there are some hybrid authors on the boards, the majority remains traditional. That a major one of the many reasons I’m sorry that we lost Maggie, but she put in a hell of a term and a half, and many efforts simply would not exist without her. So I hope we’ll see not just one but several indie members stepping up and running for the SFWA board in coming years. This is for selfish reasons — I’ve learned so much from our indies so far.

Supporting indie writers has strong implications for diversity, including meaning we can better serve the indie groups that have arisen because of traditional publishing’s obstacles, which can take many forms. I’m finishing up editing a SFWA roundtable podcast about the BlackSpecFic report that references this, along with a blog post about what action items for SFWA I perceive, and hope to have that up Wednesday or Thursday.

What else lies down the road? I don’t know. I love this organization and continue to think it’s worth putting a whole lot of volunteer time into every week, particularly at a time when for many of us, our financial livelihoods are in jeopardy. I get a whole lot of intangibles, including knowing that I’m paying it forward, in exchange for that time.

One great joy of working with creative professionals is the tremendous amount of talent, imagination, whimsy, and overall enthusiasm that they bring to projects. I close with one such example, our SFWA anthem, “Radio SFWA,” created by Henry Lien, in a Nebula conference that exemplified one more reason to join: just how much fun SFWA can be sometimes. I believe every time you hear someone screaming “woooo” in the background, there’s a very good chance it’s me.


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About Cat Rambo

I am a science fiction and fantasy writer and editor. My three collections of short stories are THE SURGEON'S TALE AND OTHER STORIES (with Jeff VanderMeer), EYES LIKE SKY AND COAL AND MOONLIGHT, and NEAR + FAR (forthcoming this September).
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